California residents campaign to stop aerial pesticide spraying (Stop the Spray), 2007-2008


1. Have the state investigate the health complaints of Central Coast residents after the sprayings,
2. Stop the aerial sprays used in the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) Eradication Program in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.

Time period

September, 2007 to 19 June, 2008


United States

Location City/State/Province

Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, California
Jump to case narrative


Not known


California Alliance to Stop the Spray
Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment (HOPE)
People Against Chemical Trespass
Santa Cruz City Council

External allies

Monterey Bay Central Labor Council
Rainforest Action Network
Sierra Club
Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers AFT Local 2030
Santa Cruz Women's League for Peace and Justice

Involvement of social elites

Ed Porter, Santa Cruz City Council Member,
Tony Madrigal, Santa Cruz City Council Member


United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

None known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Concerned Central Coast residents
city council members

Groups in 1st Segment

StoptheSpray.ORG (I) Ed Porter
Tony Madrigal

Groups in 2nd Segment

Santa Cruz City Council

Groups in 4th Segment

Santa Cruz Women's League for Peace and Justice
Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers
Monterey Bay Central Labor Council
People Against Chemical Trespass
California Alliance to Stop the Spray
Sierra Club
Rainforest Action Network

Segment Length

Approximately 9 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The organizations that put pressure on the county and state to halt the aerial spraying in urban areas were victorious in their efforts, however they were unable to get the state to agree to stop spraying in rural locations.

The Stop the Spray campaign raised a great deal of awareness in Santa Cruz and across the state, and thousands of California citizens pressured the CDFA to discontinue the spraying.

Database Narrative

In Fall 2007, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to spray an experimental pheromone-based pesticide over counties on the Central Coast of California.  In doing so, the USDA aimed to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), a pest deemed highly destructive by the USDA.  In order to conduct the test sprays, the USDA added $90 million to the CDFA budget. 

Yet while the USDA and CDFA claimed that LBAM, an Australian moth, was new to California and would cause a great deal of damage, scientists from the University of California-Davis and Santa Cruz showed that the moth had been living in the Central Coast for several years, if not longer, and had not yet caused any harm to plants or forests.

Still, the CDFA went ahead with the LBAM eradication program.  Monterey County underwent spraying between September and October. In the weeks following the spray many residents reported health problems, ranging from respiratory inflammations to skin rashes.  Those concerned with the ingredients of the pesticide being sprayed, CheckMate LBAM-F, were dismayed to find that the company Suterra Inc. would not release the ingredients of its product on the basis of trade secrets.

Frightened by the CDFA’s threat to spray Monterey County for another two years, and Santa Cruz County in November, local residents formed the “Stop the Spray” campaign which was supported by both newly formed citizen groups and long-standing environmental activist groups. They called on Governor Schwarzenegger and CDFA Secretary of Agriculture Kawamura to investigate the health complaints of those whose land had been sprayed and to put an end to the LBAM Eradication Program.

One such group, Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment (HOPE), formed in 1998 and led many other campaigns around the greater Monterey Bay before committing itself to the Stop the Spray campaign.  In August 2007, before the spraying began, HOPE prepared a 14-point litigation strategy to preeminently stop the spray.  On September 24, the group filed a lawsuit against the CDFA, asking that they stop using aerial pesticide spraying and instead opt for non-spraying and non-toxic alternatives. 

Between the filing of the lawsuit and mid-November, residents in Santa Cruz and Monterey held weekly town hall meetings and other gatherings to support one another in filing lawsuits against the state.  Many residents saw the spraying as a breach of their human rights and some individuals were forced to move because of negative reactions to the pesticides. After these meetings, citizen groups began posting fliers warning the public about the spray and calling on Santa Cruz and Monterey residents to contact their representatives and ask them to stop the spray.

On October 3, protestors gathered at a meeting between elected officials and Kawamura in Santa Cruz.  While intended just for elected officials, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported the meeting as a public hearing and soon over 100 individuals converged on the event, asking Kawamura to stop the spray.  Concerned Santa Cruz County parents spoke to the media about possibly removing their children from school in order to send a message to the state to stop the spray.  They explained that fewer students meant fewer dollars for the Government to use on toxic pesticides. 

A week later, on October 9, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to either file an injunction in Santa Cruz County Superior Court or join HOPE’s lawsuit in Monterey County after nearly 24 residents gave testimonies asking that the Council stop the spraying.  Ultimately, the Council decided to fight the state in the Superior Court.

Two days later, on October 11, Judge Robert O’Farrell of the Monterey County Superior Court temporarily granted HOPE a restraining order against the CDFA, preventing them from spraying in Monterey County until a hearing on the pesticide's safety record could be held.  However, on October 20 the judge removed the restraining order after the state said they would keep tabs on health complaints. The CDFA scheduled to resume spraying in Monterey on October 25.

On October 26, residents of Santa Cruz gathered at the City’s town clock to protest the spraying scheduled to occur in Santa Cruz in November.  At the rally, protestors held signs saying, “Is this democracy?” and “We don’t want your bio-spray!”

However, despite these protests and the Santa Cruz City Council’s lawsuit against the state, CDFA still sprayed in Santa Cruz on November 7.  Like in Monterey, Santa Cruz residents also reported health problems after the sprayings.

The following month, on December 4, Stop the Spray protestors walked in the Santa Cruz Holiday Downtown Parade, handing out over 800 magnets, bumper stickers, and fact sheets on the sprayings. Local musicians wrote an anti-aerial spray song and performed it to a crowd downtown.

On January 12, 2008, 100 locals attended the City Council Meeting at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History that Senator Joe Simitian and Assemblyman John Laird also attended. Though the residents were not invited to the council meeting, they were allowed to attend as members of the public.  While there, the residents explained their concerns, discussed health issues, and demanded that the state officials do something to stop the spray. 

On February 21, Bob Dowell from the CDFA held an information meeting for residents to comment on the forthcoming LBAM environmental report and discuss the November sprayings.  Over 100 residents attended the event, many making comments and some holding signs that read “No Spray No Way.”

The following month, on March 1, Monterey protestors held a “No Spray Rally” out front of the high visibility TED event where Al Gore was speaking.  Activists used this opportunity to gain media exposure, giving interviews, and holding signs that read, “Mr. Gore Help Us!” and “Human Health First!”

On March 10, protestors marched on Sacramento, calling the state government to end the threat of expanding the spraying to the San Francisco Bay Area.

On April 24, Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick ruled that the spraying be halted until the state conducted an environmental review. 

On May 8, Judge O’Farrell heard HOPE’s case and on May 12 ruled that LBAM did not pose a threat to the county and ordered the halt of aerial spraying until the state completed and released an Environmental Impact Report.

On May 31, protestors marched across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to protest the proposed sprayings in the Bay Area.  Nearly 1,000 people attended and many held signs saying, “Stop the Spray!  Support Non-toxic alternatives!”

Though the CDFA planned an appeal of the Judge O’Farell’s decision, they ultimately waived it and state officials announced the discontinuation of aerial spraying over residential neighborhoods on June 19.

While the goals of the Stop the Spray campaign were essentially met in June of 2008, after the state agreed not to spray in urban centers, some organizations continued to put pressure on the CDFA not to spray in rural and agricultural areas as well. 

CDFA released its final Environmental Impact Report in February 2010 that recommended no aerial spraying “at this time.”  In March of the same year CDFA announced that they were shifting away from an eradication program and towards a control program, employing ground sprays, twist ties, and sterile moth releases as a means of controlling the LBAM population.  Activists continued to protest these control methods.


Burke, Garance. "Judge Suspends Program Aimed at Curbing Moth's Spread in Monterey." 11 Oct. 2007. Web. < suspends program aimed at curbing moth's spread in Monterey.html>.

"Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) Eradication in California." Stop the Spray. 2008. Web. <>.

Ragan, Tom. "LOCAL: Crowd Voices Concern over Spraying." Santa Cruz Sentinel. 3 Oct. 2007. Web. < voices concern over spraying.html>.

Seals, Brian. "Residents Deluge State with Apple Moth Spray Criticism - February 22nd,2008 by BRIAN SEALS." Santa Cruz Sentinel. 22 Feb. 2008. Web. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Kylin Navarro, 19/11/2010