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Adkisson, 52, the university’s deputy chancellor for agriculture, has advised more than 20 countries on pest control.
Gilstrap, 37, an associate professor of entomology, had studied the Medfly in Central America.
Once the Medfly has infested an area, can it ever be entirely eliminated?
Gilstrap: Yes, depending on quick detection and response.
It’s a control technique and must be combined with other methods. Adkisson: The principle is that the female will mate only once, so by releasing thousands of males sterilized by radiation you increase the odds that the female will mate and produce no eggs.
It works well when the fly population is very, very low.
You both sound as if you consider pesticides a panacea. We advocate what is called integrated pest management, in which pesticides are a second line of defense. They are not like our familiar wasps, but tiny things about the size of gnats.
Face to face, I personally explained the urgency of the situation. In California, however, the affected areas have not been the farms but the suburban residential counties south of San Francisco. And it breaks down in about three days to harmless biodegradable materials. People, however, have in their livers a powerful enzyme that renders it harmless.The fast-reproducing Medfly, which spoils produce by laying its eggs in the crops, might have been eradicated last year had aerial spraying been undertaken with the pesticide Malathion.Instead, bowing to pressure from environmentalists, California Gov.Jerry Brown chose to rely on less provocative measures, including ground spraying and releasing sterile male flies to cut down on offspring.But this summer, following a massive new Medfly infestation, Agriculture Secretary John Block threatened to quarantine all susceptible California fruit, and Brown finally agreed to aerial spraying. Adkisson and Frank Gilstrap of Texas A&M University are critical of the yearlong delay.