As the worm turns
Mr. Hahn's company, California Vermiculture, is an operation that bags and sells worm droppings. Known in the industry as worm castings, the product is called Worm Gold. It is an organic, non-toxic registered fertilizer that makes plants healthier and stronger. It also helps them create an enzyme (chitinase) that repels insects and other pests.
The state agency began investigating Hahn in 2004 after reading a front-page newspaper article about his success in treating the pine beetles that were ravaging trees in the San Bernardino Mountains. He promoted his product as having pest repellant qualities, but never as a pesticide since it only repelled bugs instead of killing them. Veda Federighi, the external affairs director at DPR, said that the EPA defines pesticide as anything that prevents, destroys, repels or mitigates pests. Talk about mission creep.
Had Mr. Hahn succumbed to her orders, he would have had to register Worm Gold with the federal and state governments and was told that could take between 7 and 10 years and cost as much as $3 million. Since he did not do that and was not sufficiently cowed, the DPR fined Hahn $100,000.
The good guys in this scenario are the folks at Pacific Legal Foundation, a watchdog organization that champions limited government, free enterprise and property rights.