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State Officials Set Up Quarantine Zone in El Cajon


The discovery of Mediterranean fruit flies have prompted agriculture officials to put a 107-square-mile quarantine zone around El Cajon. The California Department of Food and Agriculture says keeping fruit and vegetables contained within the zone is critical to preventing the spread of the pest. KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

The Medfly is one of many bugs that can destroy fruits and vegetables - and cripple California's agriculture industry.

State officials say a permanent infestation would result in annual losses reaching $1.8 billion.

Steve Lyle with the department of food and agriculture says the Medfly is the latest pest to threaten state crops.

Lyle: With the ease of international travel and international shipping comes an increased risk of introduction of invasive species. It is a busy year in San Diego County and again it's indicative of the challenge that our department faces every day trying to protect the environment and the food supply from invasive species.

Eric Larson is the Executive Director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

He says the Medfly can damage more than 260 types of fruits and vegetables.

It lays its eggs in the ripening fruit. Then the eggs hatch and the larvae of the bug consume the interior of the fruit. And so it's completely unmarketable - it absolutely destroys the fruit. So you just can't let it spread because if it gets out there into the larger ag community you'll have growers that can't take their fruit to market.

Larson says there's one avocado grower in the quarantine area taking steps to prevent an infestation.  

He says the grower is using bait to prove there are no Medflies.

To contain the infestation, state officials say people moving through the quarantine zone should not remove fruits and vegetables from the area.

Residents are also urged to dispose of excess fruits and vegetables by double-bagging them and placing the bags in the garbage.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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