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University of California
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Sarah Palin gets dinged for comments on fruit fly research

As the 2008 presidential election reaches its crescendo, even ANR experts get into the action. today posted a mocking commentary on what it calls "Sarah Palin's latest swat at science" that included comments from UC Cooperative Extension's Paul Vossen.

In a speech in which Palin ridiculed earmark money, she noted sarcastically that one such allocation was made for "... fruit fly research in Paris, France," Salon writer Kevin Berger reported.

But, of course, there is more to the story. Berger surmised that Palin was referring to money secured by Mike Thompson (D-Napa) for olive fruit fly research.

The olive fruit fly has infested thousands of California olive groves since it was introduced to the state in the 1990s. The USDA will use a portion of the $750,000 award at a USDA research facility in France because Mediterranean countries have dealt with the olive fruit fly for decades, the Salon article says.

For the story, Berger spoke to Vossen, a Marin and Sonoma county farm advisor who is ANR's resident olive oil expert. He said eradicating or controlling olive fruit fly is important to California's significant olive oil industry.

"If each gallon of olive oil sells for $22.50 in the bulk market," Vossen is quoted, "that would be a value of almost $17 million and quite similar to winter pears, kiwi and figs."

In terms of retail sales, Vossen said, the value of the California olive oil industry would be nearly $85 million.

The article was linked to and quoted the UC IPM Pest Note on olive fruit fly, noting that "the olive fruit fly occurs in at least 41 counties in California," and adding that, in other areas of the world where the olive fruit fly has flourished, the pest has wiped out 100 percent of some olive varieties.

"You might imagine that a conservative vice president candidate would be on board with a burgeoning American industry showing signs of beating Europe at its own game," Berger wrote disdainfully in the commentary. "But then you would not be thinking of Palin."

Olive fruit fly.
Olive fruit fly.

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2008 at 9:34 AM


You go, Jeannette! Great summary of this little bru-ha-ha. Love that olive oil, Paul.  
Lyra Halprin

Posted by Sustainable Ag Wonkette on October 27, 2008 at 5:52 PM

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