Oyster Spray Update: The Power Of Protest

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Yesterday, oyster growers from Willapa and Grays Harbor Bays sent a letter to the Washington State Department of Ecology requesting withdrawal of the permit to spray imidacloprid. The reason had nothing to do with potential harmful effects of the neurotoxin on the environment, but rather, the harmful effects of angry customers on the oyster business. In other words, you. To which I would like to add a hearty thank you and job-well-done. It was your phone calls and e-mails that stopped the spraying.

Victory, yes. But it should be a cautious one: The industrial oyster farms will still be spraying oyster beds with Imazamox, a powerful herbicide, to kill both native and non-native eelgrass, which just happen to be critical habitat for juvenile salmon. And they will still need to do something to kill the native burrowing shrimp. Imidacloprid was supposed to be the “safe” alternative to Carbaryl, which they used for years. But now there is word that Carbaryl may be on the table again, and if not that, rest assured, they will come up with another pesticide. Agent Orange? Sarin? Asbestos?

Maia Bellon, the Director of Ecology, said in the paper today, “One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment.” My question is, after a completely non-transparent approval of Imidacloprid, and years of approving Imazamox and Carbaryl…does anyone believe her?

Perhaps the best news to come of this whole spraying issue is that now we all know quite a bit more about the oyster business. The dirty secrets have been revealed, and the myth of the big, eco-friendly shellfish farm has exploded. I think more than a few of us will think twice before buying oysters raised under industrial growing conditions. We will also turn our support to the small growers who are committed to more responsible and natural growing techniques. They are out there.

The task of knowing what to eat grows more difficult by the day. But this proves, yet again, that the more we know, the better (and healthier) we eat. And when we say we won’t eat irresponsibly raised food, we force companies to change. That’s power.

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