Sunday, July 13, 2008


Malaria continues to kill many hundreds of thousands of Africans every year despite the supposed best efforts of the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development. According to the CDC in 2000 malaria killed an estimated 742,000 African children under the age of five. Like young children, pregnant women are also especially vulnerable. It is tragic that so many Africans die of a disease that is both treatable and preventable.

Now I'm no malaria expert and don't claim to know exactly what steps individual African countries should take to bring malaria under control; such decisions are best made by governments in consultation with experts. So long as an anti-malaria program produces results I really couldn't care less if it relies on drug treatment, bed nets, indoor residual spraying (with DDT, malathion, Icon or others), some combination of the above, integrated vector management or whatever.

The Ugandan government, supported by technical and financial support from USAID, evaluated the situation and decided to implement an indoor residual spraying program using DDT as the most cost effective way to control malaria. The program was in trouble almost immediately:
Marck van Esch, manager of Bo Weevil, an exporter of organic cotton, told The EastAfrican that the spraying has been improperly done, and the chemical will inevitably spill over into the environment, and consequently into organic produce.

"We have visual evidence from Oyam and Apac districts already with our lawyers. It shows the spray on the walls and roofs of the grass-thatched mud houses, as well as on farm-tools, bicycles and the produce as well, in the same room. Under such conditions, we shall definitely have contaminated produce," Mr Esch said.

He said the investment in the area is worth about $4 million, with some 27,000 farmer households focused on production of value-added cotton, sesame and dried chilli. "We now cannot take produce from Oyam and Apac for the next season, because we know it is contaminated. We have started to invest in Ethiopia, because the investment climate in Uganda is a great disappointment," Mr Esch added.
Thus all cotton from areas where DDT was sprayed inside homes is assumed to be contaminated and cannot be sold at an organic premium. According to BoWeevil Ugandan cotton is certified organic by Ecocert International applying European regulation for organic agriculture (2092/91), which states in part:
The inspection body or authority must make a full physical inspection, at least once a year, of all operators. The inspection body or authority may take samples for testing of products not authorised under this Regulation or for checking production techniques not in conformity with this Regulation. Samples may also be taken and analysed for detecting possible contamination by unauthorised products. However, such analysis must be carried out where the use of unauthorised products is suspected. An inspection report must be drawn up after each visit, countersigned by the responsible person of the unit or his representative.
So it seems that Ecocert is obliged to visit the individual farmers to test their cotton for DDT contamination. Even if Ecocert isn't contractually obliged to test for possible contamination at the producer level BoWeevil isn't doing the right thing in refusing to buy any of the cotton because some of it is "known" to be contaminated. It really is important to find out if the cotton is contaminated and, if so, how it became contaminated so the government knows if it's made a mess of the spraying program.

Tim Lambert has posted on this without doing any research, his only concern being that my earlier post on this subject made him look foolish – Glenn Reynolds and I maybe scored a few points off him. He is wrong – shock! horror! – in assuming:
So if there were DDT residues in the cotton, it was because DDT was illegally diverted to agricultural use.
No, if the cotton is contaminated, it's because it came into contact with DDT when it was stored indoor areas sprayed with DDT.

Lambert also claims the EU enthusiastically supports DDT use in Africa conveniently ignoring the following:
The head of the Economic, Trade and Social sectors desk at the EU delegation to Uganda, Tom Vens told The EastAfrican that the EU had warned the government against the use of DDT, which scientists claim, can cause cancer among humans if ingested.

"We have advised the government that they are taking a risk if they go ahead with this DDT use, he said. "We, however, leave it to the government, of course, to decide. But nothing will happen, at least on the official side, if they decide to use DDT in strict compliance with the Stockholm Convention," he said.

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.

The EU official, however, said that they would have no control over the consumer organisations in Europe which could pressure supermarkets to stop selling agricultural products from Uganda.
Sure, go ahead and use DDT but don't be surprised if consumers boycott your products.

Best of all, Lambert seeks support in linking to idiotic nonsense from Ed "water is carcinogenic" Darrell.


Anonymous J F Beck said...

Warehouses? At least some Ugandan farmers are storing, at least temporarily, their produce in their homes. That's supposedly where the cotton was contaminated.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Ed Darrell said...

Where is there any claim that the cotton is stored in homes? Even BoWeevil's guy is claiming overuse -- where is there any indication of contamination from indoor residual spraying?

8:29 PM  
Anonymous J F Beck said...

"We have visual evidence from Oyam and Apac districts already with our lawyers. It shows the spray on the walls and roofs of the grass-thatched mud houses, as well as on farm-tools, bicycles and the produce as well, in the same room. Under such conditions, we shall definitely have contaminated produce," Mr Esch said.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Ed Darrell said...

Then move the cotton, don't spray it.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Ed Darrell said...

Indoor residual spraying is supposed to be done about twice a year, in the places where people sleep.

Cotton? Have you ever seen cotton bales? It's unlikely that it would be stored in anyone's hut.

But suppose it is: If the spraying was done three months ago, the possibility of contamination is close to zero. The only way cotton bales get contaminated is if the bales are sprayed in place, in the hut. That ruins the cotton's organic labeling? Maybe. But it ruins the effectiveness of the IRS, against malaria, too.

van Esch said bicycles and equipment were sprayed.

Why not just stick to the rules? Unless you have evidence that Greenpeace is forcing these farmers to spray their crops with DDT, there's no reason to blame environmentalists, and clearly, Beck's previous calls to increase DDT spraying are counterproductive.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed thinks they store in the underground garage where the farmers park their Mercs.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous rog said...

Quoting other blogs is a desperate move.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Ed Snack said...

No Ed, you're the one not letting the facts get in the way of your ranting. Accuracy was never your strong suit though, was it.

5:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home