Medfly discovery threatens Florida agriculture

The Mediterranean fruit fly, aka medfly, infests about 250 types of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Florida agriculture authorities say they've found 57 Mediterranean fruit flies. The invasive species threatens the state's $100 billion a year agriculture industry. From WLRN in Miami, Kenny Malone has more.


Kenny Malone: Medflies reproduce dangerously fast, they can fly unnervingly long distances, and worst of all, they don't seem to care what type of produce they ruin. There are over 250 different vegetables, fruits, and nuts that medflies can lay their eggs into and infest with maggots. A watermelon is not one of them.

Jesse Goldfinger: It's a good sounding watermelon, too.

Melons are one of the only open-air displays at Jesse Goldfinger's formerly open-air market. Last month, a handful of medflies turned up in residential Palm Beach County. The Florida Department of Agriculture and the USDA swarmed in. And established an 80 square mile quarantine zone.

Charles Gonzalez is a regulator with the Medfly response team:

Charles Gonzalez: It's imperative that we can contain the fly within the quarantine boundaries.

For Jesse Goldfinger, that meant shelling out more than $1,000 to have his outdoor market screened in.

This is the first Medfly outbreak in Florida since 1998 when a few thousand flies near Tampa Bay resulted in a $32 million eradication process. Authorities say a swift response could cap this effort at $5 million.

From Delray Beach, Fla., I'm Kenny Malone for Marketplace.

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