Stewart Brand Gets Fact-Checked

One of my favorite new blogs (for me) is Ecological Sociology. Its current post on Stewart Brand’s hypocrisy hits all the right notes. (Monbiot is all over this.) Long story short: In Brand’s book, Whole Earth Discipline, he evidently writes (I haven’t seen the passage myself yet):

…In an excess of zeal that [Rachel] Carson did not live to moderate, DDT was banned worldwide, and malaria took off in Africa. Quoted in a 2007 National Geographic article, Robert Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health said: “The ban on DDT may have killed 20m children.’

As Gary at Ecological Society notes:

It turns out that the 2001 Stockholm Convention which regulates DDT use worldwide a) doesn’t ban DDT and b) explicitly allows use to control disease vectors (read kill the mosquitoes that carry malaria). Monbriot’s blog traces a hilarious series of ineffective attempts to contact Brand and get him to address the issue …. sort of a text version of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me. Brand even suggests that Monbriot’s argument isn’t with Brand but with Gwadz (who Brand quotes)!

Gary goes on to write:

Personally, I want science journalism that holds itself to higher standards than the ideological hacks that dominate political blogs and unthinkingly repeat whatever quote they can find that justifies their position.

Me too, but since when is Stewart Brand a science journalist?

42 Responses to “Stewart Brand Gets Fact-Checked”

  1. Dean says:

    Yeah, all this hype about the 1972 ban killing millions is ideological puff. I saw an annual listing of DDT usage, and it declined hugely in the early 1960’s, well before the ban. This was partly because of immunity and partly because of success (unfortunately short-lived in some places).
     
    Otoh, mosquito immunity has now declined and DDT does work very well, so I wouldn’t support a global ban – which in any case countries like India (which manufactures and uses it) would never sign.
     
    One other thing to clear up. DDT is in fact not very toxic to humans and probably birds as well. But leave it out there in the environment and it degrades to DDE. You’ve seen that famous shot of some guy eating DDT? I assure you he wouldn’t do so well if he ate DDE. Neither did the birds. It is the breakdown products of DDT that are so harmful to wildlife.

  2. “Personally, I want science journalism that holds itself to higher standards than the ideological hacks that dominate political blogs and unthinkingly repeat whatever quote they can find that justifies their position.”
     
    Amen, brother.
     
    If you can now accept that this also applies to mainstream journalism as well as to partisans we will be making some real progress. It is no better to just unthinkingly repeat whatever mutually contradictory pairs of quotes you can come up to demonstrate that “reputable scientists disagree”, nor should you be prey to excessive enthusiasm for ill-thought-out opinions in the middle.
     
    If one sage believes the world is round and another believes the world is flat, it does no service to find someone who will claim that it partakes of both shapes, or that while it is round we ought to act as if it were flat since that is more familiar.
     
    That’s not a higher standard.
     
    The higher standard is to seek out which position is actually supported by the evidence. It is not an easy task, but it is the one you are assigned. Otherwise you’re not helping much.
     
    PS Brand has done some great stuff in his time. How Buildings Learn is a masterpiece. I read his recent book at the bookstore; it’s the sort of lightweight thing that it makes more sense to pay the barrista than to buy the whole thing. It says a couple of non-obvious things at great length and plays loose with the facts to support them. I agree with the disappointed assessment.
     

  3. Tim Lambert says:

    I emailed Gwadz for an explanation and he told me that the US banned the production of DDT in 1972 so malarial countries couldn’t buy DDT any more.  Only problem with this theory is that the US didn’t ban the production of DDT in 1972 and continued to to export it.

  4. Roddy Campbell says:

    Tim – I went to the EPA website, and found this:
    DDT Ban Takes Effect
    [EPA press release – December 31, 1972]
    The general use of the pesticide DDT will no longer be legal in the United States after today, ending nearly three decades of application during which time the once-popular chemical was used to control insect pests on crop and forest lands, around homes and gardens, and for industrial and commercial purposes.
    An end to the continued domestic usage of the pesticide was decreed on June 14, 1972, when William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued an order finally cancelling nearly all remaining Federal registrations of DDT products. Public health, quarantine, and a few minor crop uses were excepted, as well as export of the material.”
    Source: http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.htm
    So you are correct that export was not banned, althoughuse in the USA was.  I suppose the question is what effect this had on exports, and what effect the US domestic ban had on other countries’ usage.
    “Ruckelshaus said he was convinced that the continued massive use of DDT posed unacceptable risks to the environment and potential harm to human health.”
    The US certainly took steps to say it was unacceptably dangerous as a pesticide, and banned it, which does chime, no?
     
     

  5. JeffN says:

    I hope some of you followed the link in this post to Monbiot, as I did, an saw that the comments clearly disproved Monbiot’s claim – with links to government and Greenpeace web pages. The short answer- there really was a green movement to ban DDT globally, it really did have a global effect, it really did result in more deaths from malaria, it really was an example of the green movement getting it wrong, it really is now a case of trying to deny the painful truth, it really does serve as an example of why it is difficult to trust the word of a green movement that revels in half-truths and attack.
    Brand seems to think might be an impediment to the green movement’s long-term success.

  6. toto says:

    Roddy: Yes, but it appears that the ban only applied to “non-health purposes”:
    http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/DDTFRpages.pdf

    This documents also lists several registrations of DDT-based products and exemptions for health reasons (apparently, mostly disease vector control) after 1972

    I’m not sure what effect it had on actual production, exports, or worldwide availability Maybe Tim has stats.

  7. Tim Lambert says:

    JeffN, comments repeating false things do not make them true.
    I have a post on some of the history

    “So the people with significant responsibility for the resurgence in malaria were the chemical companies that stymied efforts to reduce the agricultural use of pesticides. And it was chemical companies that helped set up the astroturf junkscience site that has attempted to blame Rachel Carson for causing the resurgence. Nice. It’s like a hit-and-run driver who, instead of admitting responsibility for the accident, frames the person who tried to prevent the accident. “

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    DDT isn’t highly acutely toxic to humans, and it’s not a powerful carcinogen, though all evidence shows it’s probably at least weakly carcinogenic.

    That’s no problem — DDT was banned in the U.S. because it kills beneficial wildlife, it can’t be controlled in the wild, and ultimately it hammers entire ecosystems.

    It does the same thing overseas.

    Rachel Carson was 100% correct in every science citation she offered in Silent Spring.  No citation or claim she made in that book has ever been contested by research published in any peer-reviewed journal.

    Listen to Lambert.  DDT use is no panacea against malaria, and never has been.  Malaria deaths were at about 4 million a year at the peak of DDT use, in 1959 and 1960.  Malaria deaths were at about 3 million a year when Carson published.  WHO had to stop its malaria eradication campaign in 1965 (formally in 1969), because abuse of DDT by agricultural interests had bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.  Malaria deaths fell to about 2 million annually by the time the U.S. stopped domestic agricultural use, in 1972 (export not only continued, but was increased; production of DDT in the U.S. continued until the last dirty manufacturer fled the country in 1984, when the Superfund attached cleanup liability to them; at least a half-dozen DDT manufacturing sites now consume our tax dollars as Superfund cleanup sites).

    Today, largely but not completely without DDT, <a href=”http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/annals-of-ddt-880000-died-from-malaria-in-2008/”>malaria death rates are the lowest they’ve been in human history, under 900,000 a year</a>.

    Ironically, and tellingly, malaria continues to be a problem in many nations that continued DDT use, <a href=”http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/malaria-deaths-in-india-under-reported-bad-news-for-pro-ddt-partisans/”>including India today</a>, where more DDT is made and used than in the rest of the world combined.

    Rachel Carson warned us malaria would not be controlled quickly if DDT were abused.  She was right.
    And Steward Brand is wrong.

    Give a look to <a href=”http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/naomi_oreskes_on_merchants_of.php”>Naomi Oreskes’ book, Merchants of Doubt, </a>and the chapter on DDT.  Give a look to<a href=”http://soniashah.com/books/the-fever/”> Sonia Shah’s book on malaria, The Fever</a>.  Stick to the facts.

  9. JeffN says:

    Tim Lambert:
    Is The Lancet one of those evil industry propagandists?
    http://www.malaria.org/ddtlancet.html
    A choice selection (published in the year 2000):
    “Although many factors contribute to increasing malaria, the strongest correlation is with decreasing numbers of houses sprayed with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).1,7,8 Recognition of this link and the start of negotiations by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for global elimination of DDT9 has fuelled an intense debate.10 The position of many scientists concerned about increasing malaria was described in an open letter10 that was subsequently signed by over 380 scientists, including three Nobel laureates in medicine, representing 57 countries. The letter supports continued use of DDT and residual spraying of houses for malaria control. ”

    Just so we’re all on the same page- we’re supposed to believe that these guys are all lying just because it is incomprehensible to suggest that Greenpeace or any other green movement could possibly have exaggerated an environmental concern without contemplating the consequences?

  10. Barry Woods says:

    George Monbiot – Hilarious?

    I have several other words for him, that I will keep to myself…

    He has a Denairs Hall of shame…(actually 2)

    The green movement has no shame or honour..

    George’s view of David Bellamy -in the Guardain Deniars Hall of shame,  he calls him a Tv Presenter.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2009/mar/09/climate-change-deniers-monbiot-cards?picture=344343776
    David Bellamy
    TV presenter
    David Bellamy has claimed that global warming is “poppycock”, that “the global warmers are telling lies ““ carbon dioxide is not the driver”. He maintains that “since I said I didn’t believe human beings caused global warming I’ve not been allowed to make a TV programme.” This is odd because he stopped making TV programmes in 1994. He was making public statements in support of mainstream climate science until at least 2000. But the conspiracy extends even further. “Have you noticed there is a wind turbine on Teletubbies?”, he asked in the Daily Express. “That’s subliminal advertising, isn’t it?”

    My view of David Bellamy, when Richard Black BBC, also called him a TV presenter.  I let rip a bit (comment 242 an extract)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2010/09/something_new_and_not_altogeth.html

    Richard listed a few men ““ Like “TV PRESENTER David Bellamy””¦..

    Why NOT list Dr David Bellamy’s scientific qualifications ““

    DR David Bellamy, OBE
    (they give out OBE’s to denairs? he should be stripped of it, right away, surely, sorry sarcasm)

    “””””””””””””””””“
    Professor David J. Bellamy OBE. BSc., PhD., Hon:- FLS,. FIBiol., DSc., DUniv., FIBiol., FCIWEM Hon (born 1933) is an English professor, botanist, author, broadcaster and environmental campaigner.

    He attended Sutton County Grammar School, Sutton, Chelsea College of Science and Technology and Bedford College, all in London.

    He was brought up as a strict Baptist.

    Bellamy and his wife Rosemary, whom he maried when he was 19, have five children ““ four are adopted.

    He originally trained as a botanist at Durham University, where he later held the post of senior lecturer in botany until 1982. He is still their Honorary Preofessor for Adult and Continuing Education.

    He first came to public prominence as an envoironmental consultant at the time of the Torrey Canyon disaster.

    In 1983, he was JAILED for blockading the Franklin River in protest at a proposed dam.

    He has been the writer and presenter of some 400 television programmes on Botany, Ecology and Environment.”
    “”””

    Dr David Bellamy was campaigning and being JAILED for the environment and conservation, whilst Richard Black (and George Monbiot)werevery young. He was campaigning, whilst there WAS a Big business vested interest against, environmentalism..

    But because of his views of AGW and man made global warming, George Monbiot (Guardian), has him in a deniars Hall of Shame. The BBC’s Richard Black refer to his as a “˜TV Presenter’.

    All his environmental/conservation acheivments ignored/forgotten, unlauded, because he will not submit to the “˜consensus’

    Whether Dr Bellamy is right or wrong on AGW, (he may not come across as well in hostile debates with George Monbiot, he perhaps was far too polite), that is moot, the point is the “˜consensus’ demands that deniars are “˜anti-science’.

    Even to the point where DR Judith Curry is now being dismissed by the usual pundits as “˜failing’ as a scientist”¦..

    Roger Harrabin had his Al Gore moment: (3 years ago)

    “And after the interview he [Al Gore] and his assistant stood over me shouting that my questions had been scurrilous, and implying that I was some sort of CLIMATE SCEPTIC TRAITOR.

    Jo Nova, mentions another scientists experience at the hands of Al Gore:

    “Hello, Richard, yes, exactly, and you are catching up fast on the world in 1990. Around then, an intolerant culture was established that scorned anyone who so much as asked difficult questions. Some eminent scientists were sacked. Al Gores staffers attacked Fred Singer so viperously, that he took them to court and won. But what message did that send to the world’s scientists? You can speak your doubts on the hypothesis of man-made-catastrophe, but be prepared to spend thousands on lawyers, risk your job, and lose your friends. Singer won the battle, but Al won that war.”
    At the time Al Gore was a US Senator ““ and became Vice -President of the USA in 1993″¦.. A powerful message to scientist was sent.

    Yet Roger Harrabin a while back, asked sceptical bloggers for a list of sceptical scientists. Well, perhaps they were still keeping there heads down.

    Maybe Richard should give Jo Nova a call and ‘investigate’ whether “˜warmists’ have behaved like this for a long time.”

    ————————————–

    EVEN if David Bellamy was wrong about CAGW, the green party, environmenatlism conservationism would not exist in the UK in its current form or have been so succesful, were it not for a few individual like David Bellamy, decades a go.

    —————–

    The bizarre thing is I was defending Richard Black and Roger Harrabin, at the same time as a result of the BBC article. As Romm had attacked them and the BBC in his blog and comments (maple leaf included) and I  had a very nice email from Richard Black thanking me for it, as I sent him my deleted comments in defense of the BBC, which were reproduced in his next blog comments, that were just moderated away at Climate Progress…

    George Monbiot has in my opinion, nohonour and no shame…

    On that note, I may join Tom Fuller for a while, it has been an experience.

    I will spare you the poetry 😉

  11. PDA says:

    the position of many scientists concerned about increasing malaria was described in an open letter[10] that was subsequently signed by over 380 scientists, including three Nobel laureates in medicine, representing 57 countries. The letter supports continued use of DDT and residual spraying of houses for malaria control. “
     
    So do the Stockholm Convention signatories and Greenpeace. C’mon, that dog just won’t hunt.

  12. Keith Kloor says:

    Barry, your long-winded off-topic comments are in a league of their own.

    I’ve asked you before to stop recycling all your other blog campaigns and unrelated posts here. You have a mission of your own, that’s apparent by these type of comments.

  13. Barry Woods says:

    I’m gone

  14. Ed Darrell says:

    “Continued use of DDT” while a good alternative is found.  WHO has, since 2006, concluded a perfect analog to DDT “but safe, instead” will not be found, and so has reiterated its continuing recommendation that DDT be phased out.
    JeffN said:
    [begin quote]<blockquote>A choice selection (published in the year 2000) [from Lancet?]:

    “Although many factors contribute to increasing malaria, the strongest correlation is with decreasing numbers of houses sprayed with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).1,7,8 Recognition of this link and the start of negotiations by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for global elimination of DDT9 has fuelled an intense debate.10 The position of many scientists concerned about increasing malaria was described in an open letter10 that was subsequently signed by over 380 scientists, including three Nobel laureates in medicine, representing 57 countries. The letter supports continued use of DDT and residual spraying of houses for malaria control. “

    Just so we’re all on the same page- we’re supposed to believe that these guys are all lying just because it is incomprehensible to suggest that Greenpeace or any other green movement could possibly have exaggerated an environmental concern without contemplating the consequences?</blockquote>[end quote]
    Those guys don’t say Greenpeace is wrong, nor do they say DDT is safe, or essential — they merely urge that it not be banned completely from use.
    In 1970, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences took a look at needs for great chemistry work for the next few decades.  They said DDT was one of the most important, lifesaving chemicals ever developed.  They made a typo, suggesting DDT had saved a half-billion lives (maybe 30 million — hard to say) — but even with the much inflated lives-saved figure, NAS went on to say the harms of DDT outweigh its benefits, and it must be phased out.
    Recommending DDT use in tightly controlled programs of indoor residual spraying is not contrary to calling for DDT use to be ended.  Ironically, Environmental Defense, the first organization in the world to sue to stop DDT use anywhere, had to plead with the Bush Administration to allow USAID money to be spent for DDT for IRS use in Africa.
    When environmental groups plead with the anti-environmentalists for DDT to fight malaria, we have the clear illustration that it is not environmentalists blocking solutions to malaria’s spread.
    Rachel Carson warned that, unless abuse of DDT were stopped quickly, DDT would not be an effective tool for fighting for human health.  She was right.  She was also right that DDT is harmful to birds and other wildlife, when abused.  WHO had to stop their program to eradicate malaria from the world when abuse of DDT bred DDT-resistant mosquitoes.
    We might have failed in eradicating malaria after 1965 even had DDT not been compromised.  But we’ll never know.  We do know Rachel Carson was right then.  There is no science to say she is wrong now.
    Why all this resistance to listening to scientists and science?

  15. Hank Roberts says:

    http://laelaps.wordpress.com/2007/06/18/something-stinks-over-at-national-geographic/

    nailed that Gwodz quote, explicitly, in June 2007 shortly after it first came out.

    His blog gives a thorough compilation of quotes and links to good sources including other science writers.

    Does anyone know where Finkel got the quote from?

  16. Hank Roberts says:

    pssst, KK, you write

    > Gary at Ecological Society notes:

    Ecological Society Notes is a whole different …. oh, wait, that’s a typo, innit?

  17. JohnB says:

    To be honest, and after wading through the comments at Moniots, the whole thing strikes me as nit picking.

    Did Greenpeace call for a “ban”? No. Did they want DDT to be “phased out” or “substituted” immediately? Yes. Did Greenpeace want the DDT factories closed? Yes. There is no practical difference between the positions, but everybody is hung up on the word “ban”. In Australia we would call that a “Claytons” ban. It’s the ban you have when you’re not having a ban.

    I add that the political realities are being totally ignored. Once the US banned the use of DDT, it became politically impossible for any aid agency to use it in the Third World. It would have been walking into the minefield of “How dare you use a product that has been banned in your own nation?”

    I also note that in the DDT argument the environmental orgs make much of the problems caused by overuse and incorrect use of DDT. (These health problems are very real and I don’t dispute that.) What is interesting is what isn’t said by the enviro orgs. I have yet to read one of their reports where they advocate better education for the farmers concerning the correct use of pesticides.

    Education and the continued correct use of pesticides does not appear to be an acceptable option.

    I’m still trying to understand the logical thought process that declares DDT to be “ineffective” as a pesticide due to “resistance” yet holds that DDT impregnates mosquito nets are “effective” in vector control. Even if that were true, it only stops the mosquito from spreading the disease while people sleep and nets have no effect for the majority of the day.

  18. PDA says:

    I have yet to read one of their reports where they advocate better education for the farmers concerning the correct use of pesticides.
     
    Maybe if you’d bothered to look for it, you’d have found something
    “Information campaigns involving rice farmers have shown success in DDT use reduction.” – Pesticide Action Network
     

  19. Hank Roberts says:

    Aha.
    https://membracid.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/more-ddt-hijinks-from-people-who-should-know-better/
    found using
    site:membracid.wordpress.com/ +DDT  +”National Geographic”
    —excerpt follows–hotlinks in the original —-
    “… Ed at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub caught someone blindly repeating the “Rachel Carson is the antichrist” dogma that’s making the rounds. Check out his post.
    Here’s some interesting background on the overly positive National Geographic DDT coverage that I didn’t know: Michael Finkel, the author of the malaria piece, was fired from the New York Times for inventing details in his stories ….”

  20. JeffN says:

    Ed Darrell, I sincerely respect your views but I think we partly agree. You wrote:
    “In 1970, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences took a look at needs for great chemistry work for the next few decades. ”
    The Lancet piece I quoted was written in the year 2000, when it was apparent that the anti-DDT zeal from the environmental movement had gone too far. I don’t doubt that the movement “pleaded with George Bush” (nice of them to suggest this was Bush’s fault) to correct their mistake once it became undeniable . But as you see in the original post here and at Monbiot’s blog, the movement continues to deny any complicity in this tragedy. That is false and does affect the credibility of the movement.

  21. PDA says:

    Way back in 1962, when there was no “environmental movement,” Rachel Carson argued in Silent Spring that:

    No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse. The world has heard much of the triumphant war against disease through the control of insect vectors of infection, but it has heard little of the other side of the story””the defeats, the short-lived triumphs that now strongly support the alarming view that the insect enemy has been made actually stronger by our efforts. Even worse, we may have destroyed our very means of fighting. (p. 266)

    She noted that “Malaria programmes are threatened by resistance among mosquitoes” (p. 267) and emphasized the advice given by the director of Holland’s Plant Protection Service: “Practical advice should be ‘Spray as little as you possibly can’ rather than ‘Spray to the limit of your capacity'”¦Pressure on the pest population should always be as slight as possible.” (p. 275)
     
    So the ‘original environmentalist’ said the same thing a half-century ago that mainstream environmentalists said when Stockholm was being negotiated, and have been saying ever since: where other methods are ineffective, DDT can and should be used carefully to limit insect-borne disease. And this is the same thing the physicians quoted by the Lancet said.
    These things are easy to fact-check. The fact that people fail to do so before making their claims is telling.

  22. keith kloor says:

    JohnB and PDA are both right, but at the same time this story is more complex than the current Monbiot vs Brand battle suggests.
    For example, see this 2005 Nicholas Kristof op-ed.

  23. JeffN says:

    Keith, kudos for noting that the call to “attack Brand!” is misleading at best, but writing it off as “more complex” is part of the problem here.
    Credibility is critical. Going into personal attack mode – complete with historical distortions and “blame industry” rhetoric – over a rational and true criticism of the green movement affects credibility.
    It’s actually not complex- there is a rational concern that the green movement exaggerates its claims, ignores the consequences of it’s policy demands, and publicly and dishonestly attacks anyone who  criticizes either their claims or their policies.
    A green movement unwilling to face and police this actual problem – even doubling down on it as in this case – is one that will be increasingly less effective.
     

  24. Keith Kloor says:

    Tim, was this wrong from that Kristof column: “So why do the U.N. and donor agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, generally avoid financing DDT programs? The main obstacle seems to be bureaucratic caution and inertia.”

  25. Keith Kloor says:

    BTW, just so people don’t get confused, Tim and I are referring to different Kristof op-ed columns.

  26. Steven Sullivan says:

    Transparency: I work in a parasitology department of a major university medical school, and have some experience with malaria research and researchers.
     
    I do wish people would at least visit PubMed and access the reviews listed therein on DDT and malaria, some of which are free to the public.  You’ll see that the situation is indeed more complex than the blogs are making it out to be.  For example, the long term health effects of indoor  DDT spraying is absolutely something that needs more research.  It’s not ‘settled science’.
     
    You could also do worse than to pick up a copy of Bob Desowitz’ ‘The Malaria Capers’ , an amusing inside look at malaria control efforts over the decades.  Amazon has it for 12 bucks.
     
     
    Robert Gwadz , when he emailed someone referring to the effect of  DDT being ‘banned’ in ’72, probably  meant is that the ban for non-health use had follow-on global bureaucratic effects, not all of them rational, which is absolutely true.
     
    Just as we defer to actual climate scientists when they are talking about their field of specialization, perhaps we should realize that Dr.  Gwadz has been in the malaria biz for longer than you guys;   don’t you think he might know a bit more about its history than you?
     
    I do wish people would at least visit PubMed and access the reviews listed therein on DDT and malaria, some of which are free to the public.  You’ll see that the situation is indeed more complex than the blogs are making it out to be.
     
     
     

  27. Steven Sullivan says:

    (last ‘graf on my last post can be snipped)

  28. PDA says:

    Tim, was this wrong from that Kristof column: “So why do the U.N. and donor agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, generally avoid financing DDT programs? The main obstacle seems to be bureaucratic caution and inertia.”
    Yes, it was.

  29. Tim Lambert says:

    Exact quote from Gwadz:


    DDT use (and production) was banned in the US in 1972. As the major producer of high quality DDT, and primary supporter of international malaria control programs. Little DDT was used therafter.
    Since the US didn’t ban the production of DDT in 1972 it would seem that Gwadz doesn’t know more about the history of DDT and malaria than I do.  Here some extracts from sources I consulted on the history

  30. Orson says:

    Shoddy Kloor.
    Well, living in Boulder for many many years, and having had many friends work under and with Yulsman, what else does this environmental scientist expect? Exactly what’s on display here for all to see.

  31. Keith Kloor says:

    Orson, Could you explain the reason for your agitation? Or absent that, how about starting with “exactly what’s on display here for all to see?”

  32. Steven Sullivan says:

    Tim, do you find it implausible to credit Gwadz with speaking in shorthand for a more complex situation when he used the word ‘ban’?  I’m not saying this is necessarily wise to do — and I think his 20 millions killed claim (which he at least couches properly in the word ‘may’) is simply way over the top  —  but he did touch on the fact of political aspects to the history of DDT and malaria intervention.
     
    Your sources are fine — two are on our lab’s shelf here —  but are you aware that PubMed has an archive of free viewable/downloadable  scientific journal articles,  including  primary literature  and reviews?  This is relevant because your most recent ref was from 2001, which is when the Pine River statement was brand new.
     
    If you’re interested in exploring that, start here and try ‘malaria AND ddt AND review’ in the search box:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  33. Ed Darrell says:

    <blockquote>”Once the US banned the use of DDT, it became politically impossible for any aid agency to use it in the Third World.”</blockquote>
     
    Complete balderdash.  DDT production continued apace in the U.S., all for export, for at least a dozen years.  In the absence of any aid agency actually acting against DDT, potential DDT-abusers now suggest some sort of whisper campaign that had the effect of law.
     
    Look:  Idi Amin did not refuse to use DDT in Uganda out of deference to Rachel Carson, nor out of respect for unnamed and otherwise invisible environmentalist-tilting aid agencies who secretly urged him not to use DDT.  That’s what the anti-Carsonistas are claiming, in effect.
    There has never been a shortage of DDT.  Today, any nation that wishes to use DDT need only send a letter to WHO saying “We’re using DDT.”  DDT has been freely available, and cheap, since 1960, to any nation who wishes to have it.
    Maybe, just maybe, Africans and Asians are not so stupid as the pro-DDT people make them out to be, and they didn’t use DDT willy-nilly because it wouldn’t work, or there were better solutions available.
    That would be a rational view, wouldn’t it?

  34. Ed Darrell says:

    “But as you see in the original post here and at Monbiot’s blog, the movement continues to deny any complicity in this tragedy. That is false and does affect the credibility of the movement.”
     
    What “tragedy?”  Malaria infections and malaria deaths have been trending down constantly since 1960, when DDT use started to wane.  Today malaria deaths are at the lowest levels in human history.
     
    Briefly, there was a blip upward when chlorquine-based pharmaceuticals stopped working against malaria parasites, and new pharmaceuticals to treat the disease in humans had to be found.
     
    But there is no uptick in malaria due to a lack of DDT anywhere in the world, nor has there been.  Instead, malaria deaths continue to fall.
     
    So, are you referring to the tragedy of false claims from people trying to get in the way of malaria fighters?  That clearly is not the fault of the environmental movement.

  35. JohnB says:

    @34 Ed Darrell. Balderdash? Balderdash? Harumph I say Sir, Harumph. 🙂

    Ed seriously, what would the headlines have been for an aid agancy advocating the use of DDT? I’m talking here about Western agencies being crucified in the media of their home nation, not UN depts. “Aid Agency uses banned chemicals!” would be a start. The MSM loves a good sh*tfight and this would be a beaut. It would be a political disaster in their home nation.

    What Idi Amin thought doesn’t matter, what would be reported in the home MSM about those charities does.

    @18 PDA. I suggest that next time you try to let Google do your thinking for you, you actually read what you are linking to. The problem with using Google in this way is that you are trying to overwhelm your opponent with sheer numbers and you are making two assumptions
    1. That the links will actually back up what you are saying
    2. That the other person won’t actually read them to find out. 

    Note my actual statement; “I have yet to read one of their reports where they advocate better education for the farmers concerning the correct use of pesticides.”
     
    The Google page has 10 links on it.

    The first is to the .pdf from PAN Germany, which you give as the second link in your post. Even then your quote is out of context and does not refute my point. The reduction of use comes from different agricultural methods and not from education about the correct use of pesticides.

    In fact, nowhere in the entire report is there mention of educating farmers in the correct use of pesticides, only on changing the farming methods to phase out pesticides.

    The second link is to a piece from “Environmental Defence” extolling the virtues of their campaign for the banning of DDT and their hope that it is banned worldwide. What do they say about the poorer nations?
    “Due to its relative low price compared to alternative pesticides, DDT use is still prevalent in some developing countries. Special efforts on the part of the developed world should be made either to produce low-cost alternatives and to assist poorer countries in purchasing higher priced alternatives are urgently needed.”

    Nothing about education in this one either.

    Third link. To the Wiki article on pesticides in general.  Again nothing from environmental orgs about the need for education in poorer nations.

    Fourth link. A rather good op-ed piece in the “Morning Sun”, but nothing from an enviro group about education.

    Fifth link. A page at the snopes forums about DDT. A couple of interesting points brought up and worth the read, but nothing from an enviro group about education. (Although the thread does speak of the need to educate American farmers)

    Sixth link. An interview with Norman Borlaug. Well worth the read, but will have the anti GM crop crew frothing at the mouth, along with most environmentalists. I like this comment particularly;
    “These extremists who are living in great affluence…are saying that poor people shouldn’t have roads. I would like to see them not just go out in the bush backpacking for a week but be forced to spend the rest of their lives out there and have their children raised out there. Let’s see whether they’d have the same point of view then.”

    But sadly for PDA, no call from an enviro group for better education on the correct use of pesticides.

    Seventh link. Oh dear, reason TV. Quote from the link;
    “From Rachel Carson in the 1960s to contemporary critics, DDT has been the object of what Roberts, a professor of tropical public health at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, calls “scare campaigns” that link DDT to “theoretical harms to wildlife and human life that simply don’t exist.”

    But a call from an enviro group for education? No.

    Eighth link. Again this WHO page is well worth the read. It’s a pretty good wrap up on malaria, including the problems being faced in Africa. Agricultural use of DDT is outlined as a contributor to increased resistance amoung other things.

    But again, there is no mention of enviro groups calling for better education in the correct use of pesticides.

    Ninth link. This article from “worldchanging” is a beaut. Really. http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/011134.html
    Possibly one of the best I’ve read on the different methods to combat the spread of malaria. I urge everyone reading this thread to read this article.

    But unfortunately for PDAs case, there is not one word about any enviro group calling for better education on the correct use of pesticides.

    Tenth link, lucky last. Surely there is something here to back up PDAs contention? Again, no. It is an article on South Africas war against malaria and how (from the authors perspective) “Green” groups are frustrating attempts to control the disease.

    So yes, PDA I do look. I looked at and read, in full, every link on the first page of your little Google schtick and there was not one word anywhere, by any enviro group about improving the education of farmers on the correct use of pesticides.

    How many pages of guff do you expect me to wade through to find something that might back you up? I’ve spent some hours reading all this, which I dare say you didn’t.

    If you can show that enviro groups have advocated better education for farmers in the correct use of pesticides then provide some links, but the first page of your Google trick didn’t provide even one example.

    So far you have proved my case, not yours.

  36. PDA says:

    nowhere in the entire report is there mention of educating farmers in the correct use of pesticides, only on changing the farming methods to phase out pesticides.
     
    You’re serious? You’re serious? You read the report, you acknowledge that there was an education campaign by an environmental group that was successful in reducing DDT use, and you’re still asserting in the face of that evidence that “there was not one word anywhere, by any enviro group about improving the education of farmers on the correct use of pesticides?Your dogged attachment to your argument is impressive.
     
    You said that you “have yet to read one of their reports where they advocate better education for the farmers concerning the correct use of pesticides.” I gave you the link to the report that showed not only advocacy but an actual program that educated farmers. I showed the Google search, that took thirty seconds, as an illustration of how easy it was to disprove your point. I was not arguing that every link on the page disproved your point.
     
    A few more seconds searching yielded results like an educational video produced by the EJF in the Khmer language about the misuse of pesticides and potential impact on human health for nationwide distribution in Cambodia, an education program done by IRRI in the Mekong Delta and a program funded by the Global Greengrants Fund to promote pesticide education in India.
     
    This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. My point was, and remains, that if you really are curious about efforts made by environmental groups to educate farmers on the correct use of pesticides, that information is out there, easily available. If, on the other hand, you are uninterested in changing your views based on evidence, we needn’t waste any more of each other’s time.

  37. JohnB says:

    You read the report, you acknowledge that there was an education campaign by an environmental group that was successful in reducing DDT use, and you’re still asserting in the face of that evidence that “there was not one word anywhere, by any enviro group about improving the education of farmers on the correct use of pesticides?”
    I wasn’t aware that the governments of Vietnam and Sri Lanka were environmental groups. When exactly did that happen? The point was that these were government programs that governments did off their own bat, not at the behest of an enviro group. See the difference?
    None of the links on the page disproved my point. I even went to the trouble of listing the blasted things one by one.
    To take your next three.
    The video from the EJF is about the misuse of pesticides and their potential impact. Since the video itself isn’t linked to, perhaps you can answer a simple question about the video. Does the video make the point “Pesticides get misused and have harmful effects and therefore pesticides are bad” or is it “Pesticides can be harmful if misused, so make sure you use them correctly”?
    The second link. As far as I can tell from reading their “About” pages or their affiliations, neither CGIAR or IRRI are environmental groups. They are agricultural industry research groups. Are you that short of enviro groups advocating education that you have to claim the activities of industry groups instead?
    The third link is interesting as it shows what I see to be the problem. Three grants are mentioned. The first resulted in the report of the toxic use of the pesticides. Note what is said about the report team;
    The team’s primary goal in drafting the report was to build public support for improving local pesticide education and developing national pesticide policies.
    Excellent.
    The second grant was used to;
    “build awareness of the symptoms of pesticide exposure and to teach health care workers about treating pesticide-related illnesses.”
    This is generally known as “shutting the gate after the horse has bolted” and does nothing to address the cause of the problem, the misuse of pesticides.
    The third grant was used to;
    publish 12 issues of an electronic newsletter dealing with pesticide use, labor issues and human rights.

    I refer you to paragraph 4 of the article where it states;
    “Low literacy among farm workers means that they are rarely able to read package warnings,”
    If they can’t read the bloody warning labels, of what possible use is a newsletter? If the farm workers can’t read, you bring them in or have people go out and talk to them. Educate them about how to use the pesticides properly. Seriously, if you are out to reduce the misuse of pesticides which is going to reduce that misuse more.  A newsletter on human rights or someone going out and training the farm workers?
    To a degree I think we are talking past each other. It strikes me that your position is that any scheme, program or whatever that reduces chemical use is good, and I’m not arguing against that. I see an education program that changes farming methods and leads to a reduction of pesticide use as different from an education program that keeps the farming methods and educates in the correct use of pesticides, thereby reducing pesticide use. I see the enviro groups as advocating the first option and not the second.
    Let me try to explain where I’m coming from.
    The enviro groups would like as many chemicals as possible phased out, and frankly I don’t have much of a problem with that. Where it goes wrong is that if you are using disease caused by pesticide misuse as a poster child for your campaign to eliminate pesticides, then people using them safely actually works against you.
    If people are educated and use the chemicals safely and without long term health effects then you lose your poster child and the impetus of your campaign. Since it is immediately obvious that if chemicals can be used safely and without long term effects, why phase them out?
    In a way it’s a “Catch 22”. While wanting to reduce damage to the ecosystem and thereby improve conditions the enviro groups virtually have to sacrifice some people. If you want the chemicals gone you have to say “Chemicals are bad and have long terms health effects”, you can’t go in with “Chemicals are bad and have long term health issues, but if you use them this way they are quite safe.”

    Consequently you will find enviro groups lauding anything that reduces pesticide use, even if they had nothing to do with the program. However you won’t find them advocating or promoting education on the safe use of pesticides as this directly contradicts the “Pesticides are unsafe and dangerous” message which is the basis of the campaign.

    Do you see what I’m getting at?

    You know there was a court case over that Indian report? A chemical company tried to shut up the green activists claiming defamation. Fortunately the greens won, but I’d like to quote from their press release found here;http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Association%20of%20Pesticide%20Manufacturing%20Companies.doc

    We, as the members of the fact-finding team and others associated with this report, humbly declare our commitment to the following:
    ·      Bring to the attention of the people, farmers and policy makers in the country and the world about increasing hazards of pesticides to farmers and growing scientific evidence about the hazards of these chemicals and the grassroots level use of pesticides.
    ·      Work for rational/ethical policies of use and distribution of pesticides with an unequivocal emphasis to phase out toxic substances and chemicals used in their manufacture.
    ·      Declare our commitment to non-chemical method of agricultural production. Help prevent harassment of public-spirited individuals and activists fighting for similar causes.
    Aside from working for “rational and ethical policies”, which might include education and might not, they don’t appear interested in education, do they? There is a world of difference between wanting pesticides used safely and wanting them gone.

  38. JohnB says:

    A few points about the “Killing Fields” report itself.
    http://www.toxicslink.org/docs/06266_The_Killing_Fiealds_Warangal%20report_2002.pdf

    Frankly I don’t follow the logic based on the facts of the report.

    1. Farmers aren’t using protective equipment.
    2. The “standard” mix is 50ml of pesticide to 16 litres of water when the recommended mix is 15-25 grams per 100 litres. (Annexure VIII) Which means it’s being used in about 15 times the required strength.
    3. The relevent government officer says that the health problems are caused by overuse and lack of protective equipment.

    Putting these together it strikes me that the first recommendation of the report would be;
    Educating farmers in the correct use of the pesticides and the wearing of protective equipment.

    But their first recommendation is;
    “Priorities to ensure prevention of further causalities 
    Initiation of education and counselling programs for farmers and farm labourers in the Warangal District on organic agriculture”

    I note that the report makes a fair bit of the suicides and sometimes dire financial straights the farmers are in due to cost of pesticides without similarly acknowledging that better education wold reduce the usage and subsequently the cost by possibly 15 times.

    I note also that the first quote in the sidebar of the report is an extract from “Silent Spring”.

    Having said all the above, the report also shows that appalling response by the Indian govt to the problems. A number of villages commented that the govt agents only came and educated on correct techniques after deaths had occurred. Being reactionary rather than proactive in this is a definite failure on their part.

  39. Ed Darrell says:

    <blockquote>Ed seriously, what would the headlines have been for an aid agancy advocating the use of DDT?</blockquote>
     
    No reaction at all.  That was the official policy of the U.S. government — see Ruckelshaus’s order on DDT at EPA.  See any number of trade groups.
    In fact we know that production of DDT continued at a great clip for at least a dozen more years in the U.S.
    If you claim there was some horrible backlash against the export of DDT for profit, I’d like to see your documentation.  That’s not what history shows, nor the Superfund records.

  40. Ed Darrell says:

    JohnB said:  [quote]What Idi Amin thought doesn’t matter, what would be reported in the home MSM about those charities does.[/endquote]
     
    Oh, yeah, it does matter.   For your claim to be true, it must be that Idi Amin refused to use DDT because of his concern that Rachel Carson was right.
     
    That’s silly, of course.  But so is the rest of your undocumented, completely uncorroborated claims.

  41. JohnB says:

    ED, while I realise that many US citizens are deeply wedded to their black/white two value logic, I’d like to introduce you to another colour.

    Likewise your disbelief in backroom pressure is touching in its naivety, but I suggest getting some practical experience in how politics really works.

    Some practice in reading comprehension perhaps would also not go astray as you seem incapable of understanding the meaning of plainly written sentences. Read what I wrote.

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