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USDA approves release of moth to fight toxic weed

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Hawaii agriculture officials have won approval to introduce a moth to fight a fast-spreading weed toxic to cattle. 

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s office said in a statement Wednesday the state won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

Fireweed or Madagascar ragwort has no natural predator in Hawaii. Inouye says the plant could double its land area in 10 years if left unchecked. 

Inouye says it’s already too widespread for officials to feasibly and economically fight with chemical sprays. 

The plant is native to Madagascar. It’s not known when it was introduced to Hawaii, but it showed up in Hawaii island pastures in the 1980s. It’s also widespread on Maui.

Inouye says he hopes the moth will help ensure Hawaii’s cattle industry will continue to thrive. 

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