The Fly That Quarantined California and Pitted Environmentalists Against Farmers

In the summer of 1981, the Mediterranean fruit fly spread through California’s Santa Clara Valley, infesting backyard fruit trees and threatening the state’s $14 billion agricultural industry.

But it would take more than conventional tools to defeat this bug. A massive ground eradication program failed to stop the Medfly, and a plan to spray pesticides from the air sparked angry protests and led Governor Jerry Brown into a dramatic showdown with the Reagan administration.

Today, California continues to fight the Medfly. But the tactics have changed – and so have the politics.

For teachers
  • Producer: Joshua Fisher
  • Editor: Anne Alvergue