21st Century Science & Technology


Bring Back DDT, and Science With It!

By Marjorie Mazel Hecht

Full text of Editorial from Summer 2002 issue

The 1972 U.S. ban on DDT is responsible for a genocide 10 times larger than that for which we sent Nazis to the gallows at Nuremberg. It is also responsible for a menticide which has already condemned one entire generation to a dark age of anti-science ignorance, and is now infecting a new one.

The lies and hysteria spread to defend the DDT ban are typical of the irrationalist, anti-science wave which has virtually destroyed rational forms of discourse in our society. If you want to save science—and human lives—the fight to bring back DDT, now being championed by that very electable candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., had better be at the top of your agenda.

Sixty million people have died needlessly of malaria, since the imposition of the 1972 ban on DDT, and hundreds of millions more have suffered from this debilitating disease. The majority of those affected are children. Of the 300 to 500 million new cases of malaria each year, 200 to 300 million are children, and malaria now kills one child every 30 seconds. Ninety percent of the reported cases of malaria are in Africa, and 40 percent of the world’s population, inhabitants of tropical countries, are threatened by the increasing incidence of malaria.

The DDT ban does not only affect tropical nations. In the wake of the DDT ban, the United States stopped its mosquito control programs, cutting the budgets for mosquito control and monitoring. Exactly as scientists had warned 25 years ago, we are now facing increases of mosquito-borne killer diseases—West Nile fever and dengue, to name the most prominent.

Christopher Sloan

What DDT Can Do
Malaria is a preventable mosquito-borne disease. It can be controlled by spraying a tiny amount of DDT on the walls of houses twice a year. DDT is cheaper than other pesticides, more effective, and not harmful to human beings or animals.

Even where mosquito populations have developed resistance to DDT, it is more effective (and less problematic) than alternative chemicals. The reason is that mosquitoes are repelled by the DDT on house walls and do not stay around to bite and infect the inhabitants. This effect is known as “excito-repellency,” and has been shown to be a dominant way that DDT controls malaria-bearing mosquitoes, in addition to killing them on contact.1 Studies have demonstrated this for all major species of malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

It costs only $1.44 per year to spray one house with DDT. The more toxic substitutes cost as much as 10 to 20 times more and require more frequent applications, making spraying programs prohibitively expensive. In addition, replacement pesticides have to be applied more frequently and are more toxic.

Banned to Kill People
DDT came into use during World War II, and in a very short time saved more lives and prevented more diseases than any other man-made chemical in history. Millions of troops and civilians, in particular war refugees, were saved from typhus because one DDT dusting killed the body lice that spread that dread disease.

Why was DDT banned, 30 years after its World War II introduction and spectacular success in saving lives? The reason was stated bluntly by Alexander King, founder of the Malthusian Club of Rome, who wrote in a biographical essay in 1990, “My chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.” King was particularly concerned that DDT had dramatically cut the death rates in the developing sector, and thus increased population growth.

As King correctly observed, the incidence of malaria, and its death rates, were vastly reduced by DDT spraying. To take one example: Sri Lanka (Ceylon) had 2.8 million cases of malaria and more than 12,500 deaths in 1946, before the use of DDT. In 1963, after a large-scale spraying campaign, the number of cases fell to 17, and the number of deaths fell to 1. But five years after the stop of spraying, in 1969, the number of deaths had climbed to 113, and the number of cases to 500,000. Today, malaria rates have soared in countries that stopped spraying. In South Africa, the malaria incidence increased by 1,000 percent in the late 1990s.

The Silent Spring Fraud
The campaign to ban DDT got its start with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962. Carson’s popular book was a fraud. She played on people’s emotions, and to do so, she selected and falsified data from scientific studies, as entomologist Dr. J. Gordon Edwards has documented in his analysis of the original scientific studies that Carson cited.2

As a result of the propaganda and lies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency convened scientific hearings and appointed a Hearing Examiner, Edmund Sweeney, to run them. Every major scientific organization in the world supported DDT use, submitted testimony, as did the environmentalist opposition. The hearings went on for seven months, and generated 9,000 pages of testimony. Hearing Examiner Sweeney then ruled that DDT should not be banned, based on the scientific evidence: “DDT is not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic to man [and] these uses of DDT do not have a deleterious effect on fish, birds, wildlife, or estuarine organisms,” Sweeney concluded.

Two months later, without even reading the testimony or attending the hearings, EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus overruled the EPA hearing officer and banned DDT. He later admitted that he made the decision for “political” reasons. “Science, along with economics, has a role to play . .. .. [but] the ultimate decision remains political,” Ruckelshaus said.

The U.S. decision had a rapid effect in the developing sector, where the State Department made U.S. aid contingent on countries not using any pesticide that was banned in the United States. The U.S. Agency for International Development discontinued its support for DDT spraying programs, and instead increased funding for birth control programs.

Other Western nations—Sweden and Norway, for example—also pressured recipient nations to stop the use of DDT. Belize abandoned DDT in 1999, because Mexico, under pressure from the United States and NAFTA, had stopped the manufacture of DDT, which was Belize’s source. Purchases of replacement insecticides would take up nearly 90 percent of Belize’s malaria control budget. Mozambique stopped the use of DDT, “because 80 percent of the country’s health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT,” reported the British Medical Journal (March 11, 2000).

The World Bank and the World Health Organization, meanwhile, responded to the rise in malaria incidence with a well-publicized “Roll Back Malaria” program, begun in 1989, which involves no insect control measures, only bed nets, personnel training, and drug therapies—a prescription for failure.

POPs Convention Is Genocide
In 1995, despite the official documentation of increases in malaria cases and malaria deaths, the United Nations Environment Program began an effort to make the ban on DDT worldwide. UNEP proposed to institute “legally binding” international controls banning what are called “persistent organic pollutants” or POPs, including DDT. Ratification of the POPs Convention, finalized in 2001, is now pending in the U.S. Senate, where it has the support of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, including committee chairman James Jeffords (Ind.-Vt.) and committee member Joe Lieberman (D.-Conn.). President Bush has already endorsed the U.S. signing on to the POPs Convention.

The evidence of DDT’s effectiveness is dramatic. In South America, where malaria is endemic, malaria rates soared in countries that had stopped spraying houses with DDT after 1993: Guyana, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. In Ecuador, however, which increased its use of DDT after 1993, the malaria rate was rapidly reduced by 60 percent.

But DDT spraying is not a magic bullet cure-all. Eliminating mosquito-borne diseases here and around the world requires in-depth public health infrastructure and trained personnel—as were in place in the 1950s and 1960s, when DDT began to rid the world of malaria. And mosquito-borne illness is not the only scourge now threatening us. A growing AIDS pandemic, and the return of tuberculosis and other killer diseases, now also menace growing parts of the world’s population, particularly in those areas where human immune systems are challenged by malnutrition and poorly developed (or nonexistent) water and sanitation systems.

To solve this worsening problem as a whole—a disgrace in face of the scientific achievements the world has made—we must reverse the entire course of the past 30 years’ policymaking and return to a society based on production, scientific progress, and rationality. The onrushing world depression crisis, demands a new FDR-style approach to economic reconstruction in the United States. The recognized spokesman for such a reform of our economic and monetary policies is the very electable candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Lyndon H. LaRouche.

The United States should not ratify the POPs Convention with its phase-out of DDT and other valuable chemicals. On the contrary, this nation should bring back DDT now, under the provisions of existing U.S. law that allow the use of DDT in health emergencies. If the continuing mass murder of millions of people is not an emergency, what is?

Notes _____________________________________

1. A summary of this work can be found in an article by Donald R. Roberts, et al., Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1997), pp. 295-302.

2. J. Gordon Edwards, “The Lies of Rachel Carson,” 21st Century, Summer 1992.

Edwards, a professor emeritus at San Jose State University in California, drank a spoonful of DDT in front of his entomology classes at the beginning of each school year, to make the point that DDT is not harmful to human beings. Now 83, and still fighting for the truth about DDT, Edwards is an avid mountain climber.

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