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Suterra Issues Cease and Desist Letter to Indybay regarding "Secret" Ingredient in CheckMate Pesticide

by imcista
Suterra LLC, a manufacturer of "biorational" pest control products based in Bend, Oregon, has issued a cease and desist letter to Indybay demanding that information about a "secret" ingredient in the CheckMate OLR-F mating disruption pheromone be removed from the site.
Suterra LLC, a manufacturer of "biorational" pest control products based in Bend, Oregon, has issued a cease and desist letter to Indybay demanding that information about a "secret" ingredient in the CheckMate OLR-F mating disruption pheromone be removed from the site. On September 28th, the Santa Cruz Sentinel published the key ingredients of CheckMate OLR-F, information inadvertently provided to the Sentinel by the United States Environmental Protetion Agency (EPA). The Sentinel was immediately contacted by a lawyer for Suterra and they removed the ingredients from their website.

HOPE (Helping Our Peninsula's Environment), a Monterey County non-profit environmental organization started a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). They filed supplemental papers with the Court on October 9th, including mention of the formerly secret "inert" ingredient in the Checkmate pesticide. Also on October 9th, at the Santa Cruz City Council meeting, the City of Santa Cruz voted (4-3) to either join HOPE’s lawsuit or file a separate action to stop spraying planned in Santa Cruz County, including residential areas, to take place November 4th - 9th. On October 10th, Monterey County Judge Robert O'Farrell issued a temporary restraining order of aerial pheromone spraying in Monterey County for Light Brown Apple Moth. After the judge's ruling, the CDFA suspended the Light Brown Apple Moth pheromone application on the Monterey Peninsula "until further notice." The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider the issue on October 16th.

The identity of this isocyanate compound can now be found in court records and local newspapers, including the Monterey County Herald and the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which has re-published the information since the Judge's ruling.

Aerial spraying took place in Monterey County on four nights, September 9th - 12th. According to safety data on the Suterra website, inhalation of CheckMate OLR-F is "not a likely route of exposure", however if exposure occurs, "remove victim to fresh air... Get medical attention." The website for the National Institutes of Health state, "Isocyanates are irritating to the skin and the mucous membranes, the skin conditions ranging from localized itching to more or less widespread eczema. Eye affections are less common and, although lacrimation is often found, conjunctivitis is rare. The commonest and most serious troubles, however, are those affecting the respiratory systems." HOPE states that there is a remarkable overlap with the symptoms and illnesses reported by 110 Monterey County residents and the symptoms known to be caused by the isocyanate.

see related: Petition: Stop the Spray! | Pro LBAM Spray Next Political moves | LBAM the stuff they will unleash on us. | Talk of the Bay: Steve Scholl Buckwald on Aerial Spraying in Santa Cruz | Suterra's Legal Moves | Light Brown Apple Moth Summary | Organic Farmers (CCOF) Approves LBAM Spray | HOPE files Court papers including mention of Polymethylene polyphenyl isocyanate | FRSC: Apple Moth Spraying in Santa Cruz interview with David Dilworth | HOPE Sues CDFA to Halt Aerial Spraying of Pesticide on Peninsula Cities | "Aerial Applications of CheckMate®OLR-F Are Necessary in Your Area"

more resources and organizations: Helping Our Peninsula's Environment (HOPE) News |
§Hi - Correction suggestion
by David Dilworth via email
IndyMedia (Santa Cruz)


David Dilworth here, Executive Director of Helping Our Peninsula's Environment.

Thank you for covering the Aerial Spraying of our communities with an untested pesticide.

Please allow me to suggest a small correction.

Your headline says "Suterra Issues Cease and Desist Order to Indybay regarding "Secret" Pesticide Ingredient."

While I am not a lawyer, I am pretty clear about a few points of law.

Legally speaking Suterra has no authority to issue a "Cease and Desist Order." Only a Judge can issue a Cease and Desist "Order."

I believe Suterra can only send a threatening letter demanding "Cease and Desist" which you can comply with or ignore.

Apparently they sent the same letter to Coast Weekly (Monterey County Weekly) who fought it yesterday in an LA Court and got it put on hold until December.

I've attached an article about trade secret law and free speech. I believe you get to publish - without ever reaching the idea of free speech because they lost their trade secret accidentally.

It is my belief that Suterra's saber rattling is worthless as they have lost any trade secret protection for the ingredients that have been published.

Trees Rock!
-David Dilworth, Executive Director
Helping Our Peninsula's Environment
Carmel, California,
831 624-6500

Founded in 1998, and known for helping with hundreds of environmental and democracy successes, H.O.P.E. is an IRS 501(c)3 non-profit, tax deductible, public interest group protecting our Monterey Peninsula's natural land, air, and water ecosystems and public participation in government, using science, law, education, news alerts and advocacy.

* HOPE has achieved more environmental and democracy successes than all other Monterey County non-profits combined.

* HOPE participates in more governmental meetings than any other Monterey County group.

* HOPE's website shows up as Number 1 in many Google Searches and is Monterey County's largest democracy and environmental website with more than 350 pages.


I think that I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast.

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.

A tree that may in Summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair.

Upon whose bosom snow has lain,
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

-Joyce Kilmer
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Comments (Hide Comments)
by pub
Is it true that the Insecticide, fungicide, rodenticide Act requires that chemical composition be kept confidential and unpublished?

It is sort of funny that they are called Su(e)terra.
This is an ongoing problem - the chemical industry has lobbied long and hard to prevent the public from knowing what goes into their products. In comparison, all food, supplement and drug products are required to list all ingredients, and in some cases the exact percentages (mostly for drugs) of each specific component.

The chemical industry claims that the danger of their products are hyped up by 'radical environmentalists', but if that's so why do they refuse to make the contents of their various formulations, from cleaning products to pesticides, available? Why do they fight and lobby so hard to prevent laws requiring full disclosure from being passed? They claim that full disclosure would allow competitors to mimic their products - but full disclosure doesn't seem to hurt the food and drug industry, does it?

For more on this, see Bill Moyer's excellent PBS report: Then ask yourself this: why isn't getting a blood/fat scan of xenobiotic chemicals part of a normal personal checkup? Wouldn't it be a good idea if people got annual tests for mercury, lead, organochlorines, organophosphates, petroleum residues, etc. content?

This issue just reveals that there is a serious need for full disclosure for all chemical products that are sold in the U.S. Such rules have already been put in place in the U.S. Contact the Pesticide Action Network and your national and state representatives and demand that they introduce such legislation!
by via
(Oct 15) The Pesticide manufacturer, Suterra, asks the Judge to hide ("seal") all court papers including those describing the names of their pesticides’ ingredients and their toxicity to humans, even though the ingredient names have been printed by Santa Cruz Sentinel, Monterey County Weekly and Monterey County Herald.
by zawelope
Suterra served the same letter to indie-alt Monterey County Weekly, which has been reporting extensively on the LBAM issue. The Weekly re-printed two of the ingredients anyway. One is linked to asthma-like conditions. The other is toxic to aquatic organisms.

Now Suterra is suing the Weekly for damages. Suterra's attempts to force the Weekly and the Santa Cruz Sentinel to "cease and desist" publishing the inerts failed on Tuesday, when an LA County Superior Court Judge ruled against Suterra. The next day, a Monterey County Superior Court Judge rejected Suterra's request to seal all court papers that identify the inerts.

Like Moths To Flame
Despite safety assurances, controversy swirls around pheromone spray.
Oct 11, 2007
By Kera Abraham

Who knew that a hungry little moth could cause so much drama? The latest chapter in the debate over the state’s plan to control the pest involves the health of the marine sanctuary, the safety of little-known chemicals, and a request for a court order to halt the spraying.

For the second time in just over a month, planes are poised to spray a synthetic pheromone product over 60 miles of the Monterey Peninsula from Marina to Pacific Grove. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has initiated the aerial spraying program to combat the invasive light brown apple moth, which has been detected in 11 California counties. Officials fear the pest could cause widespread agricultural damage.

But some locals worry about the impacts the pheromone product could have on residents and wildlife – particularly in the protected Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). While state officials maintain that the product will not enter sanctuary waters, MBNMS officials disagree.

The USDA’s environmental assessment states that products like Check Mate can be moderately toxic to marine invertebrates at higher concentrations than the application rate being used locally. CDFA officials counter that the spray is applied in quantities nearly too small to detect, much less poison marine life.

For the first round of spraying, Sept. 9-13, MBNMS staff did not require the CDFA to obtain a pollution discharge permit, based on the state agency’s claim that the spray would not reach sanctuary waters.

Still, sanctuary staff placed monitoring devices along the shoreline. A certified lab analysis found small quantities of urea, indicating that the pheromone product had reached the water. Sanctuary officials reversed their earlier decision and concluded that the CDFA would need a permit to continue spraying.

“It looked like some level of the discharge did occur,” says Deirdre Hall, the sanctuary’s resource protection specialist.

CDFA, however, disagrees. Agency staff placed cards along the shoreline before the September spraying, and lab tests have concluded that the pheromone product did not land on them, says CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle. “In the unlikely event the material would reach the ocean, it’s nontoxic to sea life and doesn’t present a risk,” he says.

At MBNMS’s request, UC Davis’ Marine Pollution Studies Laboratory independently tested the toxicity of Check Mate LBAM-F, one of the two pheromone formulas being sprayed on the Peninsula. Lab staff put a small dose of the product (reflecting the aerial application rate) into a beaker of seawater containing larval mussels and monitored their development for 48 hours. “There was no effect on the survival or the development of the organism,” says researcher Bryn Phillips.

Based on the results, MBNMS issued CDFA a discharge permit on Oct. 5.

CDFA officials state repeatedly that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the pheromones are harmful to people or the environment (sexually frustrated LBAM and other “leafroller” moths excepted). But to chagrin of concerned locals, the products being sprayed on the Peninsula contain more than just synthetic pheromones.

The Check Mate OLR-F label states that the product is made up of about 76 percent inert ingredients. Steve Hartmeier, president of product manufacturer Suterra, Inc., says that 73 percent is water. The other 3 percent, he says, comprise an “inert organic microcapsule” that controls the release of the pheromone over a 30-day timeframe.

Suterra has provided the list of inert ingredients to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Pesticide Regulations. The company would not provide the list to the media, asserting that the ingredients were trade secrets. However, on Sept. 28, The Santa Cruz Sentinel published the list of four inert ingredients in Check Mate OLR-F, citing the EPA as a source. Later, the newspaper removed the list from its website. The list does remain publicly available: A photocopy of the story was obtained on Oct. 9 from the Santa Cruz public library.

Two of the chemicals are on the EPA’s list of inert ingredients not believed to adversely affect public health or the environment.

A third disclosed ingredient, tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, is on the EPA’s list of inerts of unknown toxicity. According to the Pesticide Action Network North America, a San Francisco-based public interest organization advancing alternatives to pesticides, the compound is considered “moderately toxic” to insects, “highly toxic” to fish and “very highly” toxic to zooplankton.

CDFA officials maintain that the products are applied in such low doses as to have little to no impact on marine life.

The US government has not established water quality standards for a fourth disclosed inert ingredient, poly-methylene polyphenyl isocyanate. The chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) describes it as a health hazard when ingested, inhaled or exposed to skin – but it does not identify the concentration at which the chemical causes harm. Symptoms of overexposure include breathlessness, coughing, chest discomfort, irritation of the mucous membranes and asthma-like conditions. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adds itchy eyes and irritation of the nose, throat and skin to the list of symptoms.

Whether a result of the first aerial application or not, more than 100 Peninsula residents reported feeling ill after the planes released the synthetic pheromones in September. “The symptoms that [polymethylene polyphenyl isocyanate] causes are remarkably similar to those that people are reporting,” says David Dilworth of Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment (HOPE).

HOPE filed a lawsuit against the state in late September, alleging that aerial spraying injures humans and the environment. State and federal officials maintain that the products are safe and necessary to combat the moth.

On Oct. 5, HOPE requested a temporary restraining order to stop the spraying as the lawsuit moves forward. At press time Dilworth said HOPE would be filing additional evidence to support its= case, including a list of the inert ingredients and a physician’s comments. As of late Tuesday, the Monterey Superior Court judge has not ruled on HOPE’S request. The second spray, however, was rescheduled to begin Oct. 10 (after the Weekly went to press) due to a one-day weather delay.

Last week, the Seaside and Monterey City Councils adopted resolutions opposing the spraying until the CDFA can provide studies showing that the Check Mate products are not harmful. The resolutions also ask the agency to do a better job of communicating with the public.

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