How the battle over pesticides led to scientific skepticism

Bate’s strategy takes themes from the scientific debate about DDT and turns them into a Western-led public health cautionary tale. Malaria rates are increasing globally, particularly in Africa, and decades of epidemiological research on DDT have failed to produce conclusive evidence of harm to health, he writes. Evidence for a link between DDT and cancer, in particular, is weak. It is time to amplify the idea that environmentalists’ baseless defamation of DDT has put millions of poor, young children at risk of deadly infections, he said. According to Bate, DDT is more than just another example of “small science”. A review of its history will do what some other stories about science, health and the environment can.

“You can’t prove DDT is safe, but after 40 years you can’t prove it’s guilty of anything either,” he wrote. However, the DDT is still such a “totem bad guy for the Greens” that if you can solve the ethical dilemma with it, it will pit the environmentally loyal liberals against the bad guys. dedicated to public health, he argued.

It’s a matter of “on which we can divide the opponent and win,” he said.

Tobacco companies seems to have been convinced. Bate collected £50,000 to £150,000 from British American Tobacco and a fee of £10,000 a month from Philip Morris’s European offices. He and his ESEF staff began publishing op-es, books and fact sheets on the benefits of DDT and the harms of the ban. And the argument has gained momentum.

Nicholas Kristof, journalist and popular columnist wrote: “Time to spray DDT. “DDT killed the bald eagle because of its persistence in the environment,” editor Tina Rosenberg wrote in New York Times. “Silent Spring is currently killing African children as it persists in the public mind. ” ABC News reporter John Stossel wondered how other environmentalists had deceived the country. “If they and others can be so wrong about DDT, why should we trust them now?” he say.

Tobacco companies were satisfied. A Philip Morris executive said: “Bate is a very valuable resource. “Bate gives value for money,” said another.

Bate did not act alone. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an advisory organization whose scholars have spent the nineties defending tobacco and denying global warming, has launched a website, , featuring school photos of African children who died of malaria. The CEI site says its partners include a group called the American Council on Health and Science (long dedicated to criticizing chemical bans) and a similar anodyne-sounding organization called is Africa Fighting Malaria.

On its website, AFM describes itself as a “non-profit health advocacy group”. But its chairman of the board is Bate. Its three core employees include a woman named Lorraine Mooney, a close associate of Bate’s who previously ran the ESEF. And its sponsors include foundations and consulting organizations that promote free-market ideals, and Exxon Mobil.

Global POPs The convention was signed in 2001, with an exception for DDT among the persistent chemicals it brings under global regulation. The malaria scientists who had been the most ardent advocates for the exception continued. But for free-market defenders like Bate, the exception only increases the value of DDT’s story. So they continue to spread their DDT story far and wide. People who bought the story when they came across it on the fast-growing internet in the early 2000s took it from there. Before long, websites, blogs, and chat rooms were flooded with people calling Rachel Carson a “paranoid liar,” a “serial killer,” and worse. They say because of the DDT ban her book inspired, she is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. Having been dead for more than 40 years, she and her argument against the DDT have become a powerful symbol for conservatives about the perils of liberalism.

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