Wednesday, February 20, 2008


(See update at end. See futher update.) Computer programmer Tim Lambert has taken to damning DDT by linking various anti-malaria organizations and their efforts to big tobacco funding. Lambert's argument goes something like this: because anti-malaria organizations (Africa Fighting Malaria, for example) have received funding from tobacco companies (starting in the late 1990s), everything they say about DDT and the fight against malaria is wrong.

Economist John Quiggin takes this notion one step further:
Since it doesn't seem to have been mentioned so far, can I point out that the DDT ban myth was invented by tobacco lobbyists (Steven Milloy and Roger Bate) with the objective, among other things, of putting pressure on WHO to stop its antismoking activities. The IPA, which is putting on the current exercise, was long active in tobacco lobbying. Those who bandy about accusations of complicity in murder ought to take a look in the mirror.
The DDT ban is not a myth and certainly wasn't started by tobacco company-paid henchmen. Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug recognized back in the 1970s that a US DDT ban would lead to a de facto worldwide banning of the useful chemical:
Reason: Does the European ban on biotechnology encourage elites in developing countries to say, "Well, if it's not good enough for Europeans, it's not good enough for my people"?

Borlaug: Of course. This is a negative effect. We always have this. Take the case of DDT. When it was banned here in the U.S. and the European countries, I testified about the value of DDT for malaria control, especially throughout Africa and in many parts of Asia. The point I made in my testimony as a witness for the USDA was that if you ban DDT here in the U.S., where you don't have these problems, then OK, you've got other insecticides for agriculture, but when you ban it here and then exert pressures on heads of government in Africa and Asia, that's another matter. They've got serious human and animal diseases, and DDT is important. Of course, they did ban DDT, and the danger is that they will do the same thing with biotech now.
An editorial in the Pasadena Star-News from April 24, 1974 puts it like this:
Ruckelshaus issued the ban on DDT in the first place against the recommendations of EPA's own hearing examiner. The examiner found "DDT is extremely low in acute toxicity to man. DDT is not a safety hazard to man when used as directed.

"The uses of DDT under the registration involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife. The adverse effect on beneficial animals from the use of DDT ... is not unreasonable on balance with its benefits ... There is a present need for the continued use of DDT for the essential uses defined in this case."

Because these findings were overridden, a million-plus acres of American forest have been killed or seriously damaged, and even more calamitous results may ensue in other nations. The incidence of malaria deaths has risen enormously in Ceylon and Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug fears the effects of the of the so-called "green revolution" spurred by his researches, will be reversed.

These worries are echoed by scientists of the World Health Organization, who credit DDT with saving five million lives during the first few years of use.
Tim Lambert and John Quiggin are not reliable sources of information concerning DDT's use in the fight against malaria; if you read their blogs you will be dumbed-down. But if you're a lefty wanting your prejudices confirmed, you won't go wrong reading their agenda-driven garbage.

Update: Jeez, give Lambert and Quiggin the facts and straight away they're talking about discussion-limiting killfiles. By the way, Lambert's the only blogger I know who actually brags about bouncing links, excluding commenters and altering comments. What an ambassador for science.

Update II: John Quiggin uses his massive knowledge base, even more massive intellect, awesome research skills and mastery of logic to formulate a devastating rebuttal to my contention that the DDT ban is real and certainly wasn't invented by tobacco-paid activists:
It's kind of sad that to deny the facts about the tobacco-generated DDT myth, JF Beck has to go to Cato, house think tank for the tobacco lobby, and (at the time) home of Steve Milloy.

The interviewer Ronald Bailey has mostly (not entirely) avoided tobacco denialism, but has otherwise been wrong on just about every environmental issue, though he recently recanted on global warming.
Well, it's totally sad that Quiggers doesn't have the balls to attack Nobel laureate Borlaug's views head on, instead attacking him for daring to be interviewed by Reason's Ron Bailey. Anyway, Quigger's snark is meant to divert attention away from the facts: the DDT ban is no myth and tobacco activists couldn't have invented it when Borlaug was already talking about it in the 1970s.


Anonymous the_real_jeffs said...

Lambert and Quiggin are not reliable sources of anything, period.

11:52 PM  
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8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lambert is a smart guy but is driven by hatred of conservatives. And it shows.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Ed Darrell said...

Pasadena Star 1974! Such current information!

Note Hans Erren's post above. From it we learn that fighting malaria is difficult because the human medicines taste bad, a problem that cannot be cured with DDT, and a hole in DDT-using programs since it leaves a pool of malaria-infected humans, usually; and note that he says Tasmania lifted its "ban." Imagine that -- they followed Rachel Carson's guidelines.

8:17 PM  

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