Our friend Rudolf Kipp at the German Science Skeptical site here has a shocking report on a callous Der Spiegel piece that appeared yesterday. I’ve translated Rudolf’s report in English with his permission.
by Rudolf Kipp
Children are dying in Africa – just so that German organic food shops can keep their store shelves well-stocked. This is what author Laura Koch writes in Der Spiegel Online in a story titled “How the Malaria Wonder-Weapon Drives Farmers Into Poverty”.
In the Spiegel report’s introduction, the author writes:
Malaria transmitted by mosquitoes kills hundreds of people in Uganda daily – that’s why the government there uses the insecticide DDT. But the use of the pesticide has grave consequences for people living out in the countryside: Suppliers of organic foods are no longer able to sell their products, and now they are threatened by abject poverty.”
These introductory words alone bring up 2 fundamental questions. Firstly: Is the planting of organic foods the only possibility that Ugandan farmers have in providing for their livelihoods? Secondly: Since hundreds of people can be saved from death by DDT daily, how many Ugandans are we willing to sacrifice in order to allow a few farmers to produce crops that meet the directives of some European and US-American organic food associations? Just one note on the side: Half of the malaria-caused deaths are small children.
The eco-movement’s downfall
Within enlightened circles, the ban of DDT pushed by environmental groups and government bodies since the early 1960s has become known as the eco-movement’s downfall. Already in the early 1970s it was clear that the horror stories connected to the use of DDT were scientifically unfounded. Nonetheless, efforts were made to ban the substance globally. Eventually bans were enacted through various instruments involving political and economic pressure.
One can rightly criticize the massive agricultural use of DDT that took place in the 1960s. From this time it was possible to detect traces in the fat tissue of animals in the Arctic and Antarctic. But these times are long gone. Substitute substances have been found for use in agriculture and are much more effective, and they break down and dissipate much more quickly.
Wonder weapon DDT
When combating the anopheles mosquito, the main transmitter of malaria, the case is different though. Here DDT remains by far the most effective and the most economical weapon against the disease. And only very small amounts are needed compared to the amounts used for crop protection. Here it is already enough to spray the walls of homes located in risk areas with a trace amount of DDT only twice a year. Mosquitoes that remain on the wall die promptly.
Of course there also exist alternatives to DDT when combating malaria. But none are as effective, and, what is particularly crucial in the impoverished countries of Africa, none is as cost-effective. Mosquito nets, which are always propagated by aid organisations and environmental groups, function poorly and only when one sleeps under one. Anyone who goes outside during twilight hours still gets exposed to the lethal infection. Carbamates are also as effective as DDT, but are 4 to 6 times more expensive and must be sprayed many times more often. Organo-phosphates cannot be sprayed inside homes and apartments because of their hazard. And the often-mentioned wonder weapon of synthetic pyrethroide against malaria has been shown to be considerably less effective.
Let’s emphasize yet one more time: When using DDT for combating malaria, the substance is no longer sprayed over large land areas. Rather, it is used in small amounts in a targeted manner. In all countries that have used DDT, the number of of people falling ill or dying from malaria has decreased significantly. Many countries that have bent to the will of aid organisations and governments of western countries have once again experienced explosions in the number of those who have fallen ill or died.
Taking all this into account, it is especially reprehensible to call for a ban of DDT just so that western countries can eat organic food that does not contain DDT also in the ultra-trace amounts. Sadly in our prosperity some among us are obviously prepared to accept the otherwise avoidable death of millions of people – all in the name of protecting ourselves from an extremely hypothetical risk. That is eco-imperialism in its purest and worst form.