Fact-checking in the blogosphere

One of the benefits that ought to arise from the existence of the blogosphere is that of fact-checking. False claims can be refuted quickly, and, we might hope, not repeated thereafter. Sadly it doesn’t seem to work out that way, as the following examples show.

Tim Blair points to yet another repetition of the “plastic turkey” story, this time in Pravda. Not surprisingly he’s frustrated by this.

Meanwhile, the claim that bans on the use of DDT in anti-malaria campaigns have cost millions of lives, has been repeated yet again, by Miranda Devine in the SMH, and Rafe Champion at Catallaxy.

So in the interests of accuracy and bipartisanship, let’s get the facts straight

* In his visit to Iraq in November 2003, Bush did not pose with a plastic turkey, as has been often claimed, but with a decorative, real “show turkey” not intended for eating. The “show turkeyâ€? is a routine part of the presentation for the soldiers eating in the mess hall, so there’s nothing surprising about the fact that Bush posed with one.

* DDT has never been banned in antimalarial use. The main reason for declining use of DDT as an antimalarial has been the development of resistance. Antimalarial uses have received specific exemptions from proposals to phase out DDT, until alternatives are developed. Bans on the use of DDT as an agricultural insecticide, promoted by Rachel Carson and others, have helped to slow the development of resistance, and therefore increased the effectiveness of DDT in antimalarial use ( links on this here

If Tim is willing to make the same points, maybe we’ll get somewhere on this (begins holding breath).

OK, I’m not really holding my breath, and I don’t suppose the SMH is going to apply the Google rule to lazy, sloppy and inaccurate work like Devine’s.

Devine scores just about all the points possible on this one, citing fiction writer Michael Crichton as a scientific authority, misrepresenting the easily checkable position of the WHO, and citing the ludicrous bookburners of Human Events.

More seriously, she recycles an unsourced and obviously fabricated quote imputed to Rachel Carson, that ”

We should seek not to eliminate malarial mosquitoes with pesticides,” wrote Carson, “but to find instead a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves

. It’s easy to find more unsourced versions of this quote at sites like Frontpage

However, a bit more searching reveals this quote (link is to a PDF file) from the end of Silent Spring

Through all these new, imaginative, and creative approaches to the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures there runs a constant theme, the awareness that we are dealing with life – with living populations and all their pressures and counter pressures, their surges and recessions. Only by taking account of such life forces and by cautiously seeking to guide them into channels favorable to ourselves can we hope to achieve a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves

Clearly we’re seeing the usual game of quote fabrication here, with the line about malarial mosquitos inserted into an unobjectionable statement of the desirability of what’s generally called integrated pest management as opposed to indiscriminate use of pesticides. Devine has been too lazy to check her third-hand or fourth-hand sources, and no doubt her editors won’t bother pulling her up.

No surprises here. But I’m a bit disappointed that Rafe Champion hasn’t bothered to correct his erroneous post, or to respond to comments pointing out his errors. Catallaxy generally holds to higher standards than this.

Update As Tim Lambert points out in comments, Devine has actually taken the critical step in the fabrication herself. Her apparent source, Keith Lockitch, doesn’t have quote marks around the first part of the statement, so he is passing it off as a paraphrase (though Carson never said anything about malarial mosquitoes in the relevant passage). Devine seems to be the one who added the quote marks.

Further update Miranda Devine has written to me, indicating that she will correct the spurious Carson quote, and saying that she took the quote from a republication of the Lockitch article in The Age, where it appeared as she quoted it. It’s therefore clear that she was not responsible for fabricating the quote, but merely reproduced it without checking.

Yet further update It was a mistake on my part to draw the conclusion that Miranda Devine was responsible for adding the quote marks, since I should have considered the possibility of an intermediate republication or reproduction of the quote. I apologise for this.

Final update (26/6) Devine’s column in today’s SMH includes the following:

Last week I inadvertently misquoted Rachel Carson by repeating a mistake from The Age of January 29. In an article by Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute, Carson was quoted: “We should seek not to eliminate malarial mosquitoes with pesticides, but to find instead a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves.”
But in Lockitch’s original, published in FrontPage Magazine, the quote was part paraphrase: “We should seek, Carson wrote, not to eliminate malarial mosquitoes with pesticides, but to find instead, ‘a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves’. ” Apologies.

Absolutely final update (27/6)
Tim Lambert points out that Lockitch’s article did not, as claimed by Devine, appear in The Age on January 29 or, as far as can be determined from the public archive[1], any other date in any Fairfax paper. The Factiva database reveals that the piece was in fact published, with the incorrect quotation marks, in a Murdoch paper, the Melbourne Herald-Sun, on January 13, 2005 (access restricted to subscribers). This further error on Devine’s part isn’t particularly important compared to the others noted in the main post above, but it does make this post by Tim Blair look a bit silly.

fn1. I don’t have access to the internal Fairfax library, but it seems unlikely that a piece already reprinted by the Murdoch press would be recycled by a Fairfax paper.

120 thoughts on “Fact-checking in the blogosphere

  1. This from Andrew Sullivan.

    “I guess it’s not crazy to come up with a list of the “ten most harmful books” of the last two centuries. But it’s not a sign of intellectual health. It implies that some ideas are worth suppressing for the harm they might do. To my mind, an argument or a book should be read with as open a mind as possible. Its errors or moral failings are better brought to light by exposure than buried. But some of today’s conservative intellectuals believe otherwise; and this list by “Human Events” contributors is a disturbing one, and a sign of increasing morbidity in conservative intellectual circles. Sure, it’s hard to dispute the evil power of hackish tracts like Mein Kampf or Mao’s Little Red Book. (I’m surprised the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ didn’t make the grade.) But Darwin and Nietzsche, two of the greatest minds in Western civilization, whose works still mesmerize and intrigue smart readers and whose ideas are subject to countless interpretations? And Mill and Keynes and Freud? Please. If I were a young conservative mind, the first thing I’d do is read these Indexed books and make my own mind up. It should be possible to be a conservative with a genuinely liberal approach to intellectual inquiry. And that excludes exclusion of ideas deemed “harmful.”

  2. JF Beck, your source does not give any basis for your claim that DDT use was effectively banned. In fact, it makes repeated references to continued use in many countries.

    Reasons for ceasing use of DDT have varied between countries. In the case of Sri Lanka, cited prominently in the article, the cessation of use in the 1960s (when it was still permitted in the US) was due mainly to resistance. More detail here

    It may be that there are some cases when decisions to stop using DDT were mistaken. But that’s very different from what Devine and others have claimed.

  3. Newspapers don’t apply the usual standards of factual support to op-ed writers. But that surely doesn’t mean they should tolerate the use of facts which are not true?

    A writer should be dumped for that. And the rag should correct the errors of fact. After all, the reputation of the masthead is used to give the “fact” credibility.

    That was the basis of the Chrenkov/WSJ fracas. Maybe Media Watch ought to have a look – and admit the blogosphere alerted them.

  4. JQ, you shouldn’t use “accurate” and “bipartisan” together. Bipartisan either means both parties responding after the fact (like the UK wartime coalition) or getting together before the fact regardless of the merits (like the prewar British National Government, a coalition that just happened to be more right than the alternatives but only by coincidence).

    In modern use, “bipartisan” is nearly tantamount to “stitch up” – see how the Australian Republican Movement wanted to use it as a means of suppressing debate, but luckily were thwarted (by republicans with more integrity, amongst others).

  5. It’s worth observing that columnists on both sides of the political fence have been guilty of some pretty poor practice in this respect, though this obviously bogus quote is worse than anything I can recall seeing.

  6. John,

    I’m puzzled; do you think I’m in error for concealing the turkey’s decorative, not-for-eating nature? If so, please put your mind at rest. In my first post on Turkeygate (before the bird had even gained plastic status) I quoted the Washington Post:

    President Bush’s Baghdad turkey was for looking, not for eating.

    In my second post, also prior to the turkey’s plastication, I described the bird as “ornamental” and highlighted these words from someone of military background:

    the “show turkey” is a routine part of the presentation for the soldiers eating in the mess hall.


  7. As always, you hit the proverbial, biased, ‘good/bad news’ on the head, John

    The difference between the press media which tends to be a duopoly in most cities, bar Brissie, and bloggers seems to be the fact that websites are inclined to be more multipartisan on many issues … There is plenty of evidence though that more bloggers are good guys doing bad things rather than the other way around bad guys doing the right thing. There are supposed to be some perfect journalists and even some bloggers, however, I am still to find them 😉

    Unlike the time Before Blogs; or when blogs first started, fact-checking is now receiving sustained attention in the mainstream press and at websites like factcheck.org

    Some errors can be classified as reckless others are just innocent, or unintentional mistakes … Some people with poles in their eyes will point at specks of other journalists of bloggers. Light is the best disinfectant in any culture …

    i.e. How two incorrectly used punctuation marks can set off a firestorm of discussion and debate. Journalists versus bloggers: the difference is fact checking?;

    Coda;-) Fact-czeching verb and usage

  8. “President Bush’s Baghdad turkey was for looking, not for eating.”

    Pretty much sums up what’s been happening there so far.

    Damn, yer good little tim. You should consider a job with a pop news mag. Hopefully though one not aligned with that pissy rag Newsweek.

  9. It looks like Devine is the one that fabricated the quote. The version at Front Page doesn’t have quote marks around the first part of the statement, so the author is passing it off as a paraphrase. Devine seems to be the one who added the quote marks.

  10. Tim B, I don’t suggest you concealed anything. I reproduced the info from the source you pointed to, which clearly shows, as you say, that the turkey was not plastic. I’ve added a further sentence including your point about the fact that the use of a “show turkey” is standard practice.

  11. I’m confused. When Bush made his Thanksgiving “surprise visit”, how many show turkeys were there?

  12. With regard to claims that DDT was “effectively banned”, Tim Lambert supplies the following useful link: http://www.treated-bednet.com/agro-chemical.htm.

    The company reports selling DDT to the follwing countries for malaria control “in the past several years” : Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand and Myanmar”

    So in addition to the blood libel about environmentalists committing a genocide greater than the Holocaust, we need to add charges off gross incompetence in their execution of the alleged “ban”.

  13. I’ve been seeing references to turkeys pop up on Tim’s and other blogs for ages, but never really knew whether it was said to be real and turned out to be plastic, or plastic and turned out to be real. I just knew there was some private war going on somewhere about a turkey. But you know what? I really really didn’t care. I’d say average Jo and Joanne down my local pub don’t know or care either. But now that I know it was a ‘show turkey’, my life has taken a turn for the better.

    Translation: fact checking is fine. I’m for it. But how do you define a fact? When is a fact deemed to have been ‘checked’. Is it possible much less necessary to fact check every minutae? Do journalists have deadlines? Do bloggers have lives?

  14. while Rafe is blogging under my sanction I’m staying out of this except to say that from my perspective the debate over DDT is descending into complete hair-splittery, but the point that the value of the sort of pro-DDT hysteria promoted by the Rachel Carson haters is somewhat undermined by the resistance issue is an obvious and potent one.

    I certainly think there is more at stake with the DDT issue than the turkey one. frankly i didn’t give a damned re the latter one way or another.

  15. John,

    It’s still not obvious what you’re aiming for here (at least to me). Do you mean for me to repeat your points about Miranda and Rafe so that “maybe we’ll get somewhere on this”? Are you asking me to post an item making identical claims as yours, in order to satisfy some Quiggin truth measure?

    Reply privately via email if you’d prefer.



  16. You have the general idea, Tim. If you want to quibble about DDT, I think it’s pretty clear that the quote Miranda has used is spurious, so you could just point that out if you wanted.

    Or, you could start by correcting the fake quote on your own blog Tim Lambert pointed out.

  17. Hair splitting, Jason? Rafe claimed that the World Bank has “up to date resisted the use of DDT in the control of malaria.” This isn’t true, they’ve been funding its use since 1947 and continue to do so. Refe should correct his post unless he wants to be thought like Tim Blair.

  18. John,

    I’ll get right on to it, just as soon as you mention the Sydney Morning Herald’s front-page misuse of a quote, the ABC’s repetition of a fake quote, Crikey’s refusal to run a bylined piece defending Miranda Devine after publishing three anonymous items attacking her, the Age’s failure to disclose a contributor’s financial connection to the subject on which she wrote, Alan Ramsey’s attempt to avoid shaming Gough Whitlam, a claim in The Age that the US jails dissidents, Phillip Adams’ borrowing habit, Media Watch’s dumb evasiveness, the ABC altering its own transcripts, Kevin Rudd’s inaccurate deputy sheriff statement, Mark Baker’s view that Asia would shun John Howard, Phillip Adams’ Napoleonic stupidity, Michael Gawenda’s clumsy reversal of survey data, Mike Carlton’s faulty research, Alan Ramsey’s bogus quote use, Margo Kingston’s bizarre defence of Paul McGeough …

    That takes us back to March. There are one or two earlier items you might also look at running, but let’s get these up first, shall we?

    Yours in fairness,


  19. Gee Tim, we’d better catch all the accused murderers, or else it wouldn’t be “fair” to put those already in custody on trial.

    Face it Tim. Miranda Devine was caught red-handed falsifying a quote. Let’s be clear about this: Devine’s falsification wasn’t the product of laziness. Neither was it the product of recklessness. No, it arose from a deliberate design to traduce and to assassinate the reputation of a Rachel Carson, a person who can no longer defend herself or her own reputation. If Miranda Devine had any respect for her putative profession as an opinion shaper, she’d resign. But we all know that Miranda Devine will not resign, because the truth means nothing to Miranda Devine. Miranda Devine has no shame.

    And yours is a theadbare rationalization for attempting to divert critical scrutiny away from Miranda Devine and her fellow smearers.

    Are your tactics surprising? Of course not.

  20. Yes John Q. How can little tim be expected to take responsibility for running a fake turkey of a quote on his blog if you won’t take responsibility for factchecking everyone else?

    We’ve all heard of moving the goalposts but I don’t recall seeing the entire playing field shifted with quite such barefaced alacrity before.

  21. Tim,

    How about simply admitting explicitly here that DDT was not banned for malaria control purposes and is still used extensively for this in the developing world with the support of NGOs, donor governments and intenrational agencies?

    We can’t expect others to meet a standard which we fail to meet ourselves.

  22. Tim,

    How about simply admitting explicitly here that DDT was not banned for malaria control purposes and is still used extensively for this in the developing world with the support of NGOs, donor governments and intenrational agencies?

    We can’t expect others to meet a standard which we fail to meet ourselves.

  23. From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

    KAMPALA, 2 Feb 2005 (IRIN) – The European Union has cautioned Uganda against the use of an organic pollutant to control malaria, commonly known as DDT, warning that its use could pose dire consequences for exports to the European market.

    The EU continues to try to enforce, in this case through threat, the DDT ban.

    As noted by an obviously brainwashed Ugandan MP:

    “DDT was outlawed 50 years ago – it seems we are being taken back to the dark ages.”

    Those much closer to the problem than we are perceive the ban.

    Broaden your horizons boys.

  24. Quite the ideological warrior aren’t you Tim? You must be very proud that your longwinded list of fakes, above, includes none perpetrated by your comrades at arms in the awful blog wars of our time. A terrific moral victory for you or proof of your one-eyedness, we’ll be the judge then will we?

  25. Let’s see, the following counties have exemptions to use DDT as listed in Annex B of the Stockholm Convention: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, Venezuala, Yemen, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. It is more than a little inaccurate to call this a ban.

    The EU is perfectly entitled to caution Uganda about making sure that DDT does not contaminate its exports to the EU. If DDT is used according to the WHO’s guidelines this should not be a problem, but there is always a danger that some will be stolen and misused on crops.

  26. Tim B. I’m agreeable to your suggestion. I already mentioned above that misuse of quotes is practised on both sides of the ideological fences.

    So, I’ll post pointing out the bogus nature of the James Watt quote, and the SMH’s misrepresentation of Howard’s irony, and you can refute the Wurster and Carson misquotes. Agreed ?

  27. You are so wrong Tim L. Beck has just cited an irrefutable source. A single Ugandan MP.

    I look forward to Beckie boy acknowledging the same unrebuttable truthsaying powers of other MPs around the world – like say Gorgeous George Galloway?

    Incidentally, speaking as somone who was really close to the problem, I grew up in a third world mossie-plagued and dengue and malaria-infested (I’ve had both and dengue is much worse by far) country at a time when DDT was being phased out because blokes in overalls and masks pumping clouds of stuff around the grounds of resort hotels freaked the tourists out. Classic market forces at work.

    Since you ask, their tourism industry is doing just fine now, and malaria and dengue cases have fallen by 90% thanks to a cocktail of measures from public education campaigns to intelligent landscaping which dramatically reduced mossie breeding grounds, and none of which involved DDT.

  28. Yes Nobby, you should give the Ugandans some advice on intelligent landscaping. I’m sure their ornamental garden pools are breeding lots of mozzies.

    Numerous experts blame pressure from environmentalists for the effective banning of DDT and the consequent resurgence of malaria. The Malaria Foundation International clearly sees it that way. But, you guys know better. Good on ya.

  29. Beck claims that the Malaria Foundation International says that DDT has been banned. But this is what they say in big red letters right at the top of their page on DDT:


    Funny how Beck didn’t notice this.

  30. Funny how Lambert hasn’t noticed that a de facto ban is not the same as a de jure ban. The MFI was one of the prime movers behind the campaign to prevent the de jure banning of DDT – thus the notice of of their successful campaign.

    If Lambert takes the time to read around at MFI he will find references to the de facto ban – as in Roberts et al in Lambert’s beloved Lancet. I assume MFI has posted links to these sources because it is in basic agreement with their contents.

    Nice try fact-check-boy.

  31. Frankis writes:

    You must be very proud that your longwinded list of fakes, above, includes none perpetrated by your comrades at arms in the awful blog wars of our time.

    Longwinded? Hey, that’s only a few months’ worth. As for not targeting my comrades, I figure that John, Tim Dunlop, and other lefty bloggers can take care of errors from the right. And John writes:

    I’ll post pointing out the bogus nature of the James Watt quote, and the SMH’s misrepresentation of Howard’s irony, and you can refute the Wurster and Carson misquotes.

    The Wurster quote is already corrected. Re the Carson quote, let’s shoot for a correction in the SMH itself, and link to it when it appears. (I’ll get back to you, Professor, on the bogus quotes I’d prefer you to address. Possibly I’ll find some in the Fin Review.) John also writes:

    this obviously bogus quote is worse than anything I can recall seeing.

    Worse than anything? Please. Half the quote is genuine; half seems to be a wrongly-attributed paraphrasing. Is this worse than presenting quotes as from a radio interview when they were in fact lifted from old newspaper columns? Worse than twisting a whole sequence of quotes?

    Incidentally, I’m still confused over why I was mentioned here in the first place, seeing as I didn’t make the assertions on DDT that John challenges. John’s stance — “If Tim is willing to make the same points, maybe we’ll get somewhere on this (begins holding breath)” — is a little rich; he’s ignored hundreds of leftoid errors, and in fact defended one of the left’s prime quote-offenders. It’s a bit late to begin posing as Mr Bipartisan.

    Still, good for him to finally notice the plastic turkey lie. It’s only taken 18 months and dozens of repetitions. I’ll happily follow John’s example when next I’m fact-checking the right.

  32. Still gallantly fightin’ yer corner little tim. Good on ya mate. And you put the Wurster quote in context. Kudos there.

    “Incidentally, I’m still confused over why I was mentioned here in the first place,”

    It’s bit late to be playing disingenuous now. If you’d raised that point at the start, well yes. But not now when you feel, seem, and look cornered.

  33. I won’t concede the turkey, dammit, just because Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff Writer say so. It was plastic.

  34. It’s good to see you have corrected the Wurster quote, Tim.

    I criticised Philip Adams on the issue of misquotation here.

  35. Tim, playing the medieval angel, persists in attempting to weigh the gravity of sins:

    “[Miranda Devine’s falsifications] [w]orse than anything? Please. Half the quote is genuine; half seems to be a wrongly-attributed paraphrasing. Is this worse than presenting quotes as from a radio interview when they were in fact lifted from old newspaper columns? Worse than twisting a whole sequence of quotes?”

    Tim accurately describes the nature of Miranda Devine’s lie. But, Tim busts himself attempting to minimise the gravity of Devine’s offence. Tim pretends that he can’t understand the fuss, that he doesn’t get it.

    But really Tim does get it. Look at Tim’s use of the weasel word “wrongly”.

    Now, what can “wrongly” mean?

    1. Mistakenly, inadvertently.

    2. Recklessly heedlessly.

    3. Immorally, criminally, with malice aforethought.

    Tim wants the world to think Option 1. He’s probably willing to cop a plea and live with Option 2.

    But Tim, you really do know, don’t you? It’s Option 3. The fact is that Miranda Devine moved those quotation marks deliberately, knowingly and with malice aforethought.

    Did Miranda Devine wrestle with her conscience before she did it? Possibly not, given her form as an habitual character assassin. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt on that question.

    Did Miranda Devine give any evidence of remorse after having been caught deliberately falsifying the record? We all know the answer to that question.

  36. I thought that the gratuitous attack on Tim B because of Miranda Devine was a bit odd, but didn’t say so because it seemed at the time obvious. Clearly not.

    Find it both interesting and informative that this site’s correspondents and others will dissect and attack the Tim Blair site but won’t lower themselves to front there.

    The fact checking re Wurster is not one of those great moments in truthful reporting. It seems that when Yannacone is quoted on Wurster it should always be accompanied by the disclaimer from Wurster. After all that is the proof that it is not true, plus the fact that he said Yannacone is a weird person. So he said, but he said, but he said and so on?

    The problem with pointing out the MLF’s statement that their efforts to stop a total ban in 2007 driven by the environmentalists was successful, is that they mounted their campaign because they believed that many would die if the ban was implemented. Thus if it has been achieved in part them from the MLF’s stance some will have died because of such actions. The evidence that the use of DDT has been curtailed is there. So if one thinks that the MLF put up a reputable and scientific case (rather than being a junk-science mob) and hence are worthy of notice then it has to be assumed that there have been deaths due to the restriction in the use of DDT.

    As one of the Nobel laureates who supported the MLF was Peter Doherty, (signed open letter) JQ could do a fact check when he joins him in Adelaide in July and enlighten us all. Or would Peter Doherty now be one of the bad guys and hence both into junk-science and a misrepresenter of facts.

  37. Ros, people don’t front at Tim Blair’s site because disagreement with Blair gets you banned from commenting there.

    MFI clearly and unequivocally state that their campaign against a DDT ban was succesful. If there were some other restrictions on DDT that they felt were costing lives, then they would have said so.

  38. Also from the MFI DDT page:


    In other words, the MFI is NOT calling for widespread use of DDT or arguing for its use outside homes, rather is arguing that there should be a temporary continuation of spraying within houses (and presumably of the use of DDT-sprayed netting) in those areas where immunity has not yet developed and where alternatives are not feasible.

    Which based on the MFI’s own words is exactly what they got.

  39. From the same page:

    The future public health uses of DDT are safeguarded by a “DDT exemption” written into the treaty. That exemption:

    (1) restricts DDT use and production to disease vector control only (not agriculture);
    (2) requires countries using DDT to follow WHO guidelines for disease vector control;
    (3) requires countries to notify WHO if they use DDT;
    (4) requires rich countries to pay the “agreed incremental costs” of more expensive alternatives to DDT (this is located elsewhere in the treaty); and
    (5) encourages rich countries to support research and development of alternatives to DDT;

    and having said this, what the treaty does NOT require is equally important:

    (1) it does NOT require a country to notify WHO before it sprays DDT, so in an epidemic a country may spray first and report to WHO later;
    (2) it does NOT require a country to obtain WHO’s approval at any time;
    (3) it does NOT require poor countries to bear the added cost of alternatives to DDT;
    (4) it does NOT set a deadline by which countries must stop using or producing DDT; and
    (5) it does NOT restrict DDT use to malaria control, but allows for controlling any vector-borne disease.

    The outcome of the treaty is arguably better than the status quo going into the negotiations over two years ago. For the first time, there is now an insecticide which is restricted to vector control only, meaning that the selection of resistant mosquitoes will be slower than before.


  40. Dr Attaran goes on to say
    “Also, there is a clear procedure that endemic countries may follow to use DDT, and having done so, they have the RIGHT at international law to use DDT, without pressure from the developed countries or international institutions who have in the past threatened them against doing so. “

    Dr. Amir Attaran, who was Director, International Health Research, Harvard University – Centre for International Development and is a former WHO expert on malaria (was advisor to the WHO Action plan for the reduction of reliance on DDT in disease vector control,) who used to support the environmentalists’ call for using alternatives to DDT. And is now associate professor of both law and international population health at the University of Ottawa, associate fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, and author of Delivering Essential Medicines: The Way Forward (Chatham House, 2004 He is also a board member Africa Fighting Malaria
    And AFM’s view is clear
    “The WHO has not been immune to such pressure. Indeed its practices and positions have strengthened this political, life threatening agenda
    More specifically, we object to WHO exerting political and financial pressure to force malaria endemic countries to reduce or not begin use of DDT for malaria control�

    And here lies the problem with the World Bank

    “We do support the guidelines of WHO and the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants, urging countries to move towards the use of alternatives, and where according to those provisions, where it is absolutely essential and that’s about the only option they have. Then on an exceptional basis only, countries may elect to use DDT, but it’s under very stringent conditions that have to be agreed to by WHO, and again, it’s part of array of interventions.â€?
    Dr Adeyi, Press briefing World Bank Global Plan of Action 25 April 2005-06-22

    Greenpeace is accused, WWF, Sierra Club Pesticide Action Network, Norwegian Development Agency, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Swedish Aid Agency, and USAID.
    And CORE is really happy. (2003)
    “Placards carried by CORE demonstrators will read: Africans want better lives, Stop the eco manslaughter, DDT saves African lives, and Well-fed Greens – Starving Africans… Greenpeace is part of an international network of socialist, anti-development organizations located in all the capitals of the developed world and most developing nations,� said Niger Innis, National Spokesperson for CORE. “To serve its own ideological agenda, it wants to keep the Third World permanently mired in Third World poverty, disease and death. So far it has succeeded. We are here to tell these radicals that we aren’t going to stand for this anymore. And neither are the poor people of Africa, Asia and Latin America.�

    Is it possible that some of those who complain are not junk-scientist RWDBs and at are at least partly right in arguing that there is a de-facto ban on DDT for malaria prevention. And that MLF might now suspect that the opposition has succeeded in finding another way to skin the cat.

  41. Damn it, the internet keeps eating my posts.

    On the evidence advanced in this thread – including specifically the company that sells DDT to a bunch of developing countries for malaria control – claims of a de facto ban strike me as simply unsupportable.

    Without re-reading the thread, I certainly don’t remember any use of terms like RWDB to describe the supporters of the ban claim.

    Any abuse that did go in that direction seems to me to be rather outweighed by regular claims that environmentalists are mass-murderers.

    As for Doctor Attaran, while he has substantial scientific credentials he has also taken positions (such as opposing the production of generic anti-HIV drugs in South Africa) which would appear to place him on the extreme right,

  42. This back and forth is fun:

    Just as the pressures on developing countries to stop using DDT are diverse and multi-layered (discussed below), the arguments for and against DDT are diverse and multi-layered (see Taverne 1999). Some environmentalists argue that there are effective alternative insecticides and DDT is no longer needed. This argument ignores hopes of environmental groups to even stop the use of potential DDT alternatives, e.g., organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides (Congressional Research Service Report, 1993 and World Wildlife Fund, 1998). As warned by the American Crop Protection Association in 1998 (Kenworth 1999), “..sooner or later, virtually all pesticides and pesticide uses will be jeopardised.” Additionally, the environmentalist argument does not account for prohibitive costs of the alternative insecticides. The more naïve even argue that integrated vector management should replace use of all insecticides for malaria control (World Wildlife Fund, 1998). Unfortunately there are no cost-effective, broadly applicable methods of environmental management for malaria control. So, in reality, promoting the application of these methods is like promoting the use of a malaria vaccine when there is no vaccine. Some DDT opponents propose that predictions of increased disease are expected and are consistent with the unrealistic predictions that accompanied actions to eliminate other toxic substances, e.g., freon, Alar, chlordane, and use of DDT in agriculture. However, as shown in Figure 2, we do not need to wait for global elimination of DDT in order to know the end result. DDT elimination has been underway since the late 1970s and we know with certainty that numbers of malaria cases spiral out of control when endemic countries stop spraying internal house walls. In a recent US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Risk Assessment Forum Project (Crisp et al 1998), it was determined that “in a risk assessment paradigm for human health, relevant and adequate epidemiological studies and case reports for the agent(s) are preferable.” Well, in the case of DDT and malaria control, the studies and case reports have been performed. Most endemic countries have experimented with alternatives to DDT and countries generally increase use of alternative insecticides when DDT is banned. Despite their use of alternative insecticides, rapidly increasing malaria is the legacy of DDT elimination. Increased malaria is probably due to some combination of factors, e.g., countries not being able to afford to spray a sufficient number of houses with more expensive insecticides and/or alternative insecticides not being as effective or not lasting long enough to bring about adequate levels of control.

    Without doubt, the insecticide and pharmaceutical industries have received direct benefits from DDT elimination. The former industry has benefited because countries purchased more expensive insecticides and the latter benefited from selling more drugs to treat an ever-increasing number of malaria cases. Regardless of benefits that accrue to these industries, the wealthy multinational environmental groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR); International Pesticide Action Network (PAN); International Organisation of Consumer Unions (IOCU); and the Environmental Liaison Center (ELC), who influence foreign policies of industrialised countries and UN organisations are the primary proponents for global DDT elimination (World Wildlife Fund, 1998 and Pan American Health Organisation, 1993). Additionally, United Nations organisations such as UNEP, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are full participants in this environmental agenda.

    See at: http://www.malaria.org/tren.html

  43. RWDB not acceptable? Don’t know it well enough to know why not. Will use extreme right in future.

    Ian you cut and pasted from Dr Attaran and JQ had implied he was reputable in an earlier post. Recognised that Bates had been dismissed (obviously an ideologue and is employed by an institution notorious for academic fraud and dishonesty)so avoided mentioning him. Made the point that Attaren was in AFM so couldn’t be accused of misrepresenting.

    Have read the many discussions re the relative price of chemicals for indoor residual house spraying, sourcewatch not necessarily right.

    ExxonMobil financially supports RMB, does that make it a front for oil company?

    Maybe Attaran had some problems with generic but also (2003)
    “The initiative is the first concrete manifestation of a Harvard University proposal recommending that drug patent-holders award voluntary licenses to generic manufacturers who agree to manufacture medicines for people in developing countries.
    The initiative, co-authored by Amir Attaran, research fellow at Harvard University and Michael Friedman, vice-president of Pharmacia, would still give pharmaceutical companies the right to patent protections in countries that do not meet the low-income criteria or have lower HIV/AIDS rates.�

  44. To sum up, as I said right at the beginning, there has never been a global ban on the anti-malarial use of DDT, mainly in the form of hut spraying. Widespread spraying of DDT has been abandoned, mainly because the development of resistance made it ineffective, and no-one serious is advocating resumption of this practice.

    There is general agreement that where possible, DDT should be phased out and replaced by less damaging alternatives, the sticking point being the fact that these are more expensive. Within this general agreement, there has been dispute over target dates, protocols and similar.

    Would any reader of Devine’s and similar pieces have drawn these conclusions?

  45. John,
    I don’t agree with your summing up – you seem to be about rewriting history. The bottomline is that groups like Greenpeace and WWF have run campaigns against chemical use generally and in agriculture more specifically. The general idea that ‘chemicals’ are bad was a component of the recent WWF ‘Save the Reef’ Campaign launched in 2001.
    Australian farmers currently risk losing access to the herbicide diuron (an important component of a minimum tillage system) as a result of this type of dumb campaigning.
    Issues of resistance can be managed, but haven’t been much a part of the debate – the driver has been a general aversion/hatred of all chemicals including DDT. Rachel Carson was a part of the push to move the debate from one of science and logic to one driven exclusively by emotion.

  46. Jennifer,

    Nothing that you say has any bearing on the fact that Devine’s claims are, at the very most, an extreme overstatement of the facts.

    As it happens, I agree that there is excessive concern about many chemicals. Which is wholely irrelevant to false claims of millions dead because of a (nonexistent) ban on DDT use for malaria control.

  47. Jennifer Marohasy wrote an opinion piece advocating the use of DDT against malaria in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. The fact is, that it would be useless since the mosquitoes are resistant to DDT. And yes, resistance can be managed — the way you do that is to switch to an insecticde that will kill the mosquitoes.

    Since the proposal to ban DDT was defeated in 2000, what has been driving the debate has been a general aversion/hatred of Rachel Carson (she’s worse than Hitler according to some). These people don’t care about what the best way to fight malaria is, they just want to spray DDT.

  48. Tim, I think you should conclude your sentence with “…they just want to bash environmentalists.”

  49. DDT is no “magic bullet”, it’s just one tool in the anti-malaria toolkit.

    Even if some mosquitos are resistant, DDT’s ability to deter them entering sprayed houses makes it a useful tool, or so claim some of the experts.

  50. So the conclusion is that DDT was never banned? Or if it was, it was only in certain countries? And, regardless of whether it was banned or not, the dangers of DDT were overstated by environmentalists, as noted by the late Julian Simon in his book The Ultimate Resource 2? Although, it’s funny the conventional wisdom is apparently a myth. Even Simon wrote (albeit around 1996) in his book of how “DDT was banned”.

    What has been agreed to here, if anything?

  51. IIRC, Simon was referring to the ban on the use of DDT as an agricultural pesticide, which, as I pointed out at the start, prolonged its useful life as an antimalarial agent.

    One of the most disgraceful things about the rightwing campaign on DDT is that they attack the ban on the agricultural use of DDT which resulted in part from Silent Spring while invoking malaria as a justification. Devine’s column (which I note no one in this lengthy thread has defended) is a typical example.

  52. Fascinating thread, and generally civil all round.

    At least the mis-quote has been tracked back to the source. I am unsurprised that it came from the Age. While not good under the previous editor, the decline in that paper’s quality has been remarkable since Jaspan too over.

    I assume that the oddly strident comment that “… Devine has actually taken the critical step in the fabrication herself.” is now withdrawn?


  53. You’re a small, small man, Quiggan.

    What kind of apology is “So it looks as though this bogus quote evolved, rather than being consciously fabricated” after your baby-fisted tirade?

    Admit that she pulled the quote from a (supposedly) reputable source, with no malicious intent whatsoever, and that you and your blog-buddies jumped on an imaginary bandwagon yet again.

    I look forward to reading nothing further from you on the subject. Now resume your half-assed sleuth work, Detective Dimwit!

  54. The misquoting of Rachel Carson is trivial. The real problem with Devine’s article is the DDT-Ban lie, which she has not, apparently, retracted.

    I leave it to others to draw their own conclusions about the competence of the fact-checking that went into Devine’s article.

  55. Nabakov, I’m curious. In the past you have claimed to be both a powerful, high-level politician (http://dailyflute.com/?comments_popup=559) and a successful professional writer/author (http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/surfdomarchives/002517.php).

    Would you please evidence these claims by identifying the party you work for, the position you occupy, and the literary works that you must have had published in order to make the grand boast of being “someone who makes serious money from putting words together”.

    If you can’t provide evidence, I guess that means you’re just a bit of a phoney, and we’ll all be able to lend your views the credibility they really deserve.

  56. While I have no personal qualms about using my real name on the internet, I feel it’s a bit rich for someone who goes by the name “MJ” to demand that others unmask themselves.

  57. I’ve been travelling and had technical problems updating the blog. So the version of the correction that ran today was a first draft, and the subsequent edit, which now appears, is what I intended to write.

  58. Quiggin and Lambert, you made savage mistakes, so do the right thing and apologise you bums.

  59. I believe the law of libel measures the harm done to someone’s reputation, and assesses that in terms of the reputation there was to lose in the first place. Bearing that in mind, and the public reputation of journalists – deserved or undeserved – there is really very little to be concerned about. Journalists are almost as low in public esteem as politicians.

  60. I note that Slats et al continue to beleive it is perfectly acceptable for a professional journalist to falsely claim that a nonexistent DDT ban is killing millions and to reprint without checking an egregious misquote from a readily available primary source.

    when Devine apologises for calling Greenpeace, the WHO and the World Bank mass-murderers maybe then other apologies can be considered.

  61. The issues regarding Greenpeace, WHO and World Bank are debatable. That Devine deliberately fabricated quotations is a lie and should be withdrawn with an apology. Just because this is a lefty’s site you can’t expect to fly only with rhetoric.

  62. The suggestion that Devine was responsible for the fabricated quote has been withdrawn. The fact remains that it was a shameless misrepresentation of Carson’s actual statement, quoted in full above. Perhaps you’d like to apply your ethical standards to this one, Slatts.

  63. The turkey story reminds of thr myth of Bill Clinton’s haircut. In 1993 there was a story put about by rightwingers that Bill Clintomhad held up air traffic by having his hair cut in Air Force 1 on the runway of Los Angeles airport.

    It was a total fabrication, repudiated immediately by the air traffic authorities, but is repeated by right wingers to this day.

  64. It depends, Rog, on what you think the definition of is, is.

    And besides, Clinton was tried by the Senate and found not guilty.

  65. Had Clinton had been tried in a court of law, with witnesses and evidence presented, things may have been quite different. It was an impeachment ‘trial’ judging his ability to hold office of President as judged by his political peers.

    It was a 50:50 vote on obstruction of justice and 45:55 for perjury, which failed to reach the required 67 for impeachment to proceed.

    That’s how it is.

  66. Here’s a good description of the ban::

    In her 297 pages,Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions.

    DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ”Silent Spring” is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use. ”The significant issue is whether or not it can be used even in ways that are probably not causing environmental, animal or human damage when there is a general feeling by the public and environmental community that this is a nasty product,” said David Brandling-Bennett, the former deputy director of P.A.H.O. Anne Peterson, the Usaid official, explained that part of the reason her agency doesn’t finance DDT is that doing so would require a battle for public opinion. ”You’d have to explain to everybody why this is really O.K. and safe every time you do it,” she said — so you go with the alternative that everyone is
    comfortable with.

    See at: http://rwdb.blogspot.com/2005/06/silent-spring-killing-rampage.html

  67. This part from my latest post is perhaps relevant:

    … no article by Lockitch was published in the Age or any other Fairfax paper on January 29 or any other date. Nor has the quote appeared in any article in any Fairfax paper other than Devine’s. …

  68. Tim,

    FrontPage is a right-wing American web-site of dubious repute.

    One wonders what the copyright holders of the FrontPage article think of Devine’s wholesale appropriation of their work.

    Obviously some property rights are more equal than others.

  69. How appropriate. Miranda Devine attempts to exculpate her mis-citation with … wait for it … A MIS-CITATION!

  70. The claims Beck recycles are refuted by quotes from Silent Spring provided by Tim Lambert on his blog in which Carson quite specifically recognises the value of DDT for malaria control, supports such use and argues for an elimination of DDT from agricultural use BECAUSE IT THREATENED TO REDUCE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DDT AS AN ANTI-MALARIA AGENT.

    Of course in order to discover that one would have to actually read what Carson wrote rather than pasting holus-bolus from wildly inaccurate internet sites.

  71. Note that the article cited by JF Beck correctly says that the primary reason for the decline of DDT was the rise of resistance.

    DDT was falling out of favor even before the 1962 publication of ”Silent Spring,” … DDT had not been sold as a way to control malaria but to eradicate it, so the world would never have to think about malaria again. But eradication failed — it is now considered biologically impossible — and because DDT had not lived up to its billing, disillusion set in. At the same time, DDT’s indiscriminate use was provoking the development of resistance among mosquitoes, and many countries were shifting to decentralized health systems, which meant they were no longer able to organize nationwide house spraying.

    Undoubtedly, there have been instances where misguided opposition to DDT led to its abandonment in situations where it would have been useful. Equally, there have been many cases where overenthusiastic use of DDT did more long-run harm than good. None of this justifies the kind of hyperbolic claims made by promoters of the DDT blood libel.

  72. JF Beck. The quotes you’ve assembled are old stuff as far as I’m concerned. I have to wonder whether you’ve followed the debate at all, or just jumped in to support your side in the topic du jour

    Search the site on DDT and you’ll see that these issues have been discussed at length, for years, including most of your sources
    here for example. As far as I can see, none of the anti-environmentalist contributors to the current round have added anything that wasn’t dealt with comprehensively years ago.

  73. We should also remember that Devine’s oreiginal claim (actually FrontPage’s claim) was that the DDT ban caused “millions” of deaths.

    Currently around 2.5 million people per year die of malaria. To arrive at the 50 million figure used by soem of the hatemongers of the right you have to assume that ALL malaria deaths on the entire planet could have been prevented but for the alleged “ban”.

    So, for example, not only do you have to ignore the issue of DDT resistance (and also the countries such as India where most transmission occurs outside the home making house-spraying of limited use) you also have to ignore other factors such as the civil war in Sri Lanka, the effective collapse of government in Uganda in the 80’s and Congo in the 90’s and incompetence and corruption in countries such as Zimbabwe had no effect.

  74. http://mosquito.who.int/cmc_upload/0/000/015/372/RBMInfosheet_1.htm

    “Ninety per cent of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa south of the Sahara mostly among young children. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. ”
    One fatality every 30 seconds translates to around 1,000,000 fatalities per year.

    I wonder how Rosenberg gets from 1,000,000 total malaria fatalities in African children per year to “millions” of deaths attributable to the (non-)ban.

    It’s also instructive to look at the accompanying map which shows that malaria is endemic across large parts of Brazil, Columbia and south and East Asia including all or most of India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    The non-African countries in which malaria is endemic have a population 3-4 times that of all of sub-saharan Africa yet they have only 1/10 as many fatalities from malaria.

    Seeing as the same international conventions affect those countries and they deal with the same NGOs, it seems reasonable to assume that the difference is fatality rates from malaria is attributable to some other factor.

    In this context, its also worth noting that several of the alleged examples of countries which have reduced malaria through the widespread use of DDT (Swaziland and Mozamabique are two examples cited in the Wikipedia article on DDT) are in Africa. So, African coutnries use DDT more extensively and yet still have higher malaria fatality rates.

  75. I thinl we’ve finally hammered this one into the ground, at least until next time.

  76. Part of the confusion maybe put down to ~300 million cases pa globally with more than 1 million deaths, ~90% being in Africa. WHO attribute the high African rate to a more virulent strain spread by a more efficent mosquito.

    Its not simply a matter of how many deaths there are to malaria, there can lasting effects on those who survive malaria – children can have brain damage and mothers can have secondary ailments eg of perinatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anaemia. Severe anaemia leads to blood transfusions which can lead to HIV.

    WHO estimates on the economic impact of Malaria in some African countries as -1.3% of growth pa which would have a cumulative effect.

    “Costs to individuals and their families include: purchase of drugs for treating malaria at home; expenses for travel to, and treatment at, dispensaries and clinics; lost days of work; absence from school; expenses for preventive measures; expenses for burial in case of deaths.

    Costs to governments include: maintenance of health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets; lost days of work with resulting loss of income; and lost opportunities for joint economic ventures and tourism.”(ref CDC)

  77. JQ wrote: “JF Beck. The quotes you’ve assembled are old stuff as far as I’m concerned. I have to wonder whether you’ve followed the debate at all, or just jumped in to support your side in the topic du jour.”

    This isn’t the first time you’ve caught yourself out by accusing me of ignorance on a topic. On 28 April you posted the following comment at Jennifer Marohasy’s blog: “JFB, moving a post doesn’t break links or delete existing comments and it doesn’t ‘remove the existing post’. Your other points have been answered above. I suggest you take the time to learn a bit about how blogs work before engaging in further debate on this topic.” In fact, since moving to WordPress, the updating method you were then using did in fact break links, as noted in comments by Tim Lambert: “I linked to JQ’s April 21 2004 posting when he posted it. That link still works. The post was not deleted. Since then has switched to wordpress which includes the data in the permalink, so changing the date breaks links.â€? You have so far refused to correct your original, incorrect, assertion.

    I have indeed followed the DDT debate, whereas you apparently have not. If you had keep up to speed you would be aware that I wrote the following on 20 May: “Such anti-DDT pressure was even more intense in the lead up to the implementation of the ill-fated total DDT ban. So great was the pressure not to use DTT back then that in his Lancet article, Roberts et al specifically refer to a ban and even use the heading, Consequences of the ban.�

    Following the rejection of the de jure DDT ban, the de facto ban, which is neither total nor totally effective, slowly eroded. That doesn’t mean that the ban has been lifted: on the contrary, environmentalists still seek to force non-use of DDT. Fortunately, an increasing number of observers have figured out what’s really going on and have openly challenged the anti-DDT camp.

    For my most recent post I purposely posted excerpts from a range of sources, many of which are indeed old, but relevant nonetheless. Each excerpt contains a bolded portion relating specifically to pressure applied in furtherance of the de facto ban. Just so there’s no doubt as to the meaning of ban, I posted the following at Deltoid: “One of the meanings of ban according to the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘Practical denunciation, prohibition, or outlawry, not formally pronounced, as that of society or public opinion.’� This perfectly describes the de facto DDT ban.

    By the way, when are you going to correct the incorrect assertion made at Jennifer Marohasy’s?

  78. JF Beck, the dispute we had referred to a post shifted when I was using MT, which doesn’t break links, and to your suggestion that in moving the post to a more prominent position, I was trying to break critical links to that post. It’s true that this is a problem with WordPress, and I’m happy to correct this trivial error here. I’ve also avoided redating posts under WordPress for this reason. Can we move on now?

    As regards your semantic exercises, I guess DDT is banned in the same sense in which Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, evolution is only a theory, many climate scientists dispute the theory of global warming etc etc.

  79. […] Bueno, por ahorrarle un poco de trabajo a mi estimado Defensor del Lector y teniendo en cuenta que hace tiempo que lo escribí, me toca aplicarme un severo auto-correctivo. En realidad hay muchos compañeros liberales que se ruborizarán (o deberían) al leer esto. En este blog, yo he dicho cosas como ésta. Es de todos sabido que soy un tipo de sangre caliente, con cierta querencia por los calificativos… ehm… floridos. Pero la retórica de ese artículo está varios pueblos por encima de lo recomendable. Sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que partí de supuestos FALSOS. Que me pasé de listo, vamos. Que por no contrastar en las fuentes originales una de esas informaciones que se leen por todas partes contribuí a sostener una mentira. A través de uno de mis alimentos cerebrales favoritos, Marginal Revolution, he sabido que las propuestas de eliminación DDT incluyen cláusulas que permiten su uso (y de hecho se sigue usando) para la lucha anti-malaria. En fin, leamos: How many people died of malaria because of a ban on DDT? First, there has been no such ban. While some aid agencies and NGOs have discouraged DDT spraying, the reality is less brutal than polemics sometimes suggest. Tim Lambert has an overview of the evidence. Here is a good follow-up post called Eritrea cuts malaria rates by switching away from DDT. El artículo de Tim Lambert enlaza a John Quiggin, que explica: DDT has never been banned in antimalarial use. The main reason for declining use of DDT as an antimalarial has been the development of resistance. Antimalarial uses have received specific exemptions from proposals to phase out DDT, until alternatives are developed. Bans on the use of DDT as an agricultural insecticide, promoted by Rachel Carson and others, have helped to slow the development of resistance, and therefore increased the effectiveness of DDT in antimalarial use (links on this here). Tim Lambert lamentaba: Attempts to get some of those responsible for spreading the false claims about environmentalists and DDT to correct them have proved largely unsuccessful. No habla por mi. En fin, mis disculpas, públicas. Y mi bochorno también. ¿Alguien se apunta? Autor: Golan el 08 Jul 2005 a las 11:02 [0] bla bla bla… (0 views) |  permalink […]

  80. I continue to be disappointed, JQ, at your odd refusal to also unknowledge that Green activism pressurised countries to stop using DDT with tragic results.
    To you its as if the leadup to the Joburg whingding never occurred.

    Yes, the 2000 Joburg conference did not succed in a formal absolute ban on DDT (despite a massive effort to do so), but active efforts to reduce and discourage its use continued after Joburg, and an epidemic of deaths did in fact result.

    At least the BBC recently keeps these facts on the record:


    “South Africa had stopped using DDT in 1996. Until then the total number of malaria cases was below 10,000 and there were seldom more than 30 deaths per year.

    But in 2000, the country saw malaria cases skyrocket to 65,000 and 458 people were killed.”

    JQ has extreme trouble frankly acknowledging the harm done to the victims of malaria. Isn’t that morally more important than pedantic quibbles over political right versus left bun fights, and legalistic splitting of hairs over exactness of quotations from Rachel Carson, who was rather shoddy herself with careful use of evidence.

    (Dont force me to go to the bookshelf for the exact page numbers of Rubin’s The Green Crusade, and to the library for the late great Edith Efron’s The Apocalyptics for chapter and verse)

    There’s this great big gaping whole of discussion in JQs version of history that omits mention of the strenuous efforts to ban DDT.
    Finally, South Africa’s doing things right today 9see BBC), but with no thanks to the Green movement.

  81. D, Tim Lambert has addressed these issues in more detail, showing that this summary of the situation in South Africa is highly misleading. Note the heavy reliance on pro-DDT lobby group Africa Fighting Malaria. The bodies that actually do the work on malaria have a much more balanced view, with DDT playing a much more minor role that AFM would suggest, let alone the hysterical statements made by those on the right who’ve recycled the AFM line

    Coming back to my position, I agree that the position taken by some Green groups in the leadup to Joburg 2000 was mistaken, and have said so previously. But since (AFAIK) these groups themselves had already changed their position well before I got involved in this debate, I fail to see to what point it is you are trying to make.

  82. I’ m glad to see that you realise the position on DDT taken by the Green groups prior to Joburg is morally wrong, but dont expect me to believe that after Joburg the zealots suddenly made a 180 turn and became converts to proactive and responsible use of DDT, as the evidence is otherwise.

    I’d suggest you go back and re-read Attaran’s papers before you dismiss DDT as a minor anti-malaria tool in Africa. The BBC URL I posted also shows convincingly that its a significant tool.

    Your reference to “hysterical statements” by journalists and lobbyists is interesting. You seem to be saying that no issue should be considered to have any merit if someone somewhere has made an over the top claim about it.

    To me, thats just a clumsy red herring to distract attention from one very serious issue where the Green have made grave moral errors. The fact that they continue to make grave moral errors that harm the poor, and continually avoid thinking about these harmful consequences is justification enough for my comments.

    As far as your remark about bodies actually working on malaria, the ones I know arn’t impressed with your argument. Besides that, in print, medical people arnt going to rock the boat too much.

  83. PS But I agree, quite likely the commentaters you call as hyping things up are probably exaggerating a bit (not necessarlity intentionally), but gosh, what does that mean about other exaggerations; should we dismiss global warming because some people exaggerate it…

  84. As it happens, d, Tim Lambert has two more excellent posts up on this topic, one on the role of agricultural spraying in the development of resistance and one demolishing yet another restatement of the absurd right-wing line on this topic. I’d suggest that you follow up there.

    The role of DDT in an optimal program is one on which reasonable people can disagree. Attaran and Roberts are at one end of a spectrum of opinion on this: I take their opinion seriously, but I don’t regard it as authorative. Bate & Tren are another matter. They are no more qualified than I am (Tren in fact is an environmental economist like me) and are partisan hacks. Yet most of the DDT stories rely on them.

    Coming back to my own views, I see no need to condemn those who advocated a faster phaseout of DDT in the leadup to Joburg as immoral. It was perfectly reasonable to suggest (as they did) that DDT could be replaced by safer alternatives – after all it has been replaced in developed countries and we don’t have malaria. The problem was that the alternatives cost money and, as it turned out, no-one was willing to pay.

    If anyone insisted that, even in the absence of alternatives, DDT should not be used, I condemn them. But I haven’t seen any evidence that any group took this position.

  85. Its good to see Tim has posted details of a solid review on DTT. It is a bit out of date and could nicely be continued to include the story of how continued development of integrated pest management has occured in the cotton industry, with dramatic improvements in pesticide management world wide using biotechnology, especially these last two years.

    Ill see if I can find a few extra good links, and maybe ferrit out some left-wing loonyness to balance out the right wing stuff you seem to hve a penchant for.

  86. Why doesn’t the Green Left just come clean? They keep insisting there was no ‘ban’ on the use of DDT. How come the government of South Africa didn’t know there was no “ban”. See the documents from the North West Provincial Government and also the health department of the central government.

    “Poisons which are still used illegally are organophosphates such as Fenitrothion, Diazinon; organochlorines such as gamma-BHC, Dieldrin (banned), DDT (banned) and Aldrin Arsenic compounds (banned). Large quantities of these illegal chemicals are still stored on farms, in government stores and at co-ops and pose a real threat to the environment, especially as in many cases they are still being used.”


    “There was action on all three counts in 2001/2. This included:
    · Changing the insecticide used for spraying inside houses in malaria endemic areas. DDT was reintroduced as a consequence of a specific relaxation on the ban on its use. ”


  87. Sinclair, this looks like a list of banned agricultural chemicals to me. Go and read Tim’s post on this topic.

    In general, I am stunned by the unwillingness of the right to give up when they are proved wrong. Sinclair and others have gone from claiming millions of deaths due to the 1972 US ban (the exact opposite of the truth, as Tim points out) to quibbling over the details of policy in South Africa for a few years in the late 1990s. It’s weapons of mass destruction all over again.

    But I’m willing to compromise here. If d and Sinclair will agree that agricultural (mis)use of DDT has been the main factor in destroying its usefulness as an antimalarial agent (as pointed otu by Rachel Carson), I’ll agree there have been occasions when opportunities to use it in antimalarial campaigns have been missed because of its bad reputation.

  88. When will the anti-environment blood libel propagators realise that articles describing DDT bneing used tend to rather undercut their claims that DDT is banned?

    Go down to the local chemist and try to buy a course of penicillin without a prescription. I guess the greens must have banned that too as part of their genocidal rampage.

  89. The government reports I have read do not suggest DDT became ineffective. They suggest the relacements became ineffective quite quickly. But anyway, I’m happy to concede that less DDT is needed to control malaria than the indiscriminate wide spraying that actually occured. There are two important points here. First, the government of South Africa should have a better idea of what is banned or not banned in that country. Second, I think this episode highlights the limits of our knowledge. A policy was intriduced before the full effects could be understood, at a very high human cost. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, but we should admit they were made.

  90. “But anyway, I’m happy to concede that less DDT is needed to control malaria than the indiscriminate wide spraying that actually occured.’

    You’re missing the point Sinclair. The indiscriminate spraying was not to control malaria but as an agricultural pesticide – it was this use that was banned in the US in 1972.

    Anyway, I suggest you take this one up over at Tim Lambert’s. He has the patience to deal with this kind of thing.

  91. Q
    First, the madness of industrial scale use of DDT and problems of insect resistance from wide scale use goes without saying.

    It’s the mind set of the anti-DDT zealots and where it comes from that the issue.
    The stance that major Green groups have on DDT is deeply flawed, has caused harm, is based on ignorance of factual evidence, and is part of a dangerous utopian mind set which dismisses real problems. This is a mind set that started with Rachel Carson, is an outcome of Green advocacy, and carries over to other injustices such as Greenpeace’s attempts to block Golden Rice.

    This loony mindset (you would perhaps call it left-wing: I think that’s a gratuitous insult to genuine responsible caring left-wingers) only this morning was documented by one more press item:

    UN world food day – Asians call for ban on GE rice
    October 14, 2005

    containing yet again with the immortally shallow lines

    4. GE rice cannot be a solution to hunger since the causes of hunger are the lack of access to productive resources to produce food, or lack of income to buy food. Therefore GE cannot be an answer”.

    This illogical simplistic view is merely one symptom of the poor intellectual accountability and lack of concern for real world consequences that come from the mind set created by Rachel Carson – eg repeated misuse of evidence and selective quotation – and the way issues like DDT are communicated using propaganda by Green activists. Propaganda to, say eliminate all synthetic chlorine compounds, when in nature there are thousands of them and indeed, chlorinated phenols, play key roles in natural cycling of leaf litter by fungi.

    It’s the mind set that’s the problem, not just the particular DDT or the GE food issues. From your lack of ability to even start to analyze how DDT propaganda has interfered and delayed appropriate use of DDT as well explained by Attaran et al, or to concede that limited DDT availability by de facto bans and NGO institutional policies has been a problem both before and after Joburg, you have provided no evidence against my proposition.
    In my humble opinion, by your repeated high priority to defense of the reputations of Green groups against alleged exaggerations of their critics, and repeated and consistent denigration contrary opinion as “right wing� instead of dispassionate analysis of their errors , and the issue of whether the attempts to demonize DDT have caused harm, you are in fact adding to the problem by delaying sensitivity to the hazards of a utopian view point.
    Utopia has done harm before in France, Russia, and China and will do harm again until Utopian visionaries become more attentive to the limitations of their visions.
    Since the groups which are the target of my remarks constantly demonize those they disagree with, your attempts to focus only on alleged exaggerations of their protagonists (eg “right-wing� etc….) really carry little weight until you show the same care on the other side of the debate, which you clearly do not.
    These are the propositions I have
    1. Toxicology of DDT is exaggerated: there is no persuasive evidence that it causes cancer.
    2. Rachel Carson’s book is over the top exaggeration and in part based of misquotation and selective use of evidence. (eg the 1949 Letter to the editor of JAMA.; Citation of Macfarlane Burnet 1958) and scientific fallacy (“The balance of nature concept�.)
    3. The caveats and lessons posed by Rachel Carson’s errors, and the progress in toxicology since Carson (illustrated by Attaran and by Bruce Ames’s work) are ignored by millions of Green activists and the public in general.
    4. The anti- DDT stance of NGOs before and after Joburg has delayed and stymied interventions like that reported in the BBC link. For example Scandinavian AID agencies can deny AID to counties that manufacture DDT. Proactive but limited use of DDT would have saved lives the the 1990s African epidemics. 1980s scientific literature as quoted by Tim Lambert is besides the point.
    5. Similar mentality shows up in analogous pressure by Green NGOs to stop other activities they don’t like, and demonizing reputable science that undermines their power (eg Bruce Ames, Anthony Trewavas)
    6. This mind set causes real harm. Eg Just this last week another rejection of food aid in Africa in a time of famine.
    7. African countries reject GM food aid
    October 14, 2005
    CropBiotech Update
    Zimbabwe and Zambia have rejected genetically modified food donations intended to avert drought-induced food shortages. Wisdom Mdzungairi reports for Harare that participants to an international conference on genetic engineering and sustainable agriculture in Lusaka, Zambia commended the countries’ decision to mill some of the donated food instead.
    Dr. Luke Mumba, chairman of the Biosafety Council of Zambia and research of the University of Zambia, commented that while there was respect for the two countries’ decision, there was need to adopt safe biotechnological advances, and that the use of GM technology could contribute to the complex problems of alleviating poverty and malnutrition. Meanwhile, Zambian Minister of Science and Technology Judith Kapijimpanga said the problem of food insecurity in Africa was a result of complex issues that required an integrated approach for sustainability.
    See the article in http://allafrica.com/stories/200510110710.html
    8. Despite clear and direct harm caused by this mind set, but there is almost no self criticism or self-awareness of this harm within the Green movements. When the issue is raised it is dismissed without attention to the nub of the issue (eg this blog)
    9. In this context, honest self appraisal of policy errors on DDT would be a healthy start to better future policy formulation in other areas (eg GM, Gobal warming.

  92. Q
    I do not agree that agricultural use of DDT “has destroyed ” the value of it as an anti- malarial intervention. In almost every post I have made on this I have repeated acknowledged the problems created by massive overuse, which was indeed lunacy, well documented by Tim Lambert, mainly to forestall mis-respresentation by you of my position. I did this in my last post before finding your most recent challenge.
    As my critera for argument is whether I am telling the truth,or follwing clear logic, I care little for the exaggerations of others who follow a similar clain, and even less for political labels. In truth I think they are signals of week logic.

    You keep on suggestion people re-read your citations.
    Why dont you yourself reread Attaran, Roberts and the BBC post and remind yourself that DDT is useful for house spraying because the insect DONT LIKE ITS SMELL and stay away from the inside of the house . Paradoxically, It’s even possible they dont like its smell because of evolutionary selection caused by massive over use, but in any case it retains at least some utility in in spite of the problem of resistance

  93. “You’re missing the point Sinclair. The indiscriminate spraying was not to control malaria but as an agricultural pesticide – it was this use that was banned in the US in 1972.”

    Whether of not Sinclair is missing your point Q remains too be seen. However you are missing the point about rsurgence of DDT problems in Africa.

    As to whether all DDT dissenters should tarred with the blood libel slur, this descent into the gutter does rather prove my point. Slurs are a signal of a weak case from the utterer of the slur.

  94. “As it happens, d, Tim Lambert has two more excellent posts up on this topic, one on the role of agricultural spraying in the development of resistance and one demolishing yet another restatement of the absurd right-wing line on this topic. I’d suggest that you follow up there.”

    Theres only one link here Q, and no comment on”absurd right-wing line’s”

  95. “Slurs are a signal of a weak case from the utterer of the slur.”

    The initial slur here is the claim that DDT is banned and that this has led to millions od deaths.

    This claim is still being repeated in the mainstream media on a regular basis.

  96. “irst, the madness of industrial scale use of DDT and problems of insect resistance from wide scale use goes without saying.”

    Unfortunately not. Most of the anti-DDT libel literature focuses on the 1972 ban of just such uses.

    “Theres only one link here Q, and no comment onâ€?absurd right-wing line’sâ€?”

    Here’s a recent instance at Tim Lambert’s. I’m not going to link all of his posts though. Go there, read them, and argue it out with Tim if you want to.

  97. Yes, now that I find them, Tim Lamberts other Posts are quite relevant, and yes there’s some clear over the top hype about DDT.

    I can understand why Green lobbyists feel threatened by this, but at least it serves to show how their own Green hype campaigns seem to those who are victims their adverse consequences.

    The whole anti-DDT hype issue is rather similar to standard Greenpeace and Paul Erhlich level treatment of environmental issues: its a bit of pot calling the kettle black.
    For over the top hype what can what were those memorable quotes from Paul Erhlich – death of the oceans in 1985. Mass famines? Even Silent Spring? All of that hype was apparently justified

    I’ d be more impressed if I also saw real honest efforts of the Greens getting their own house in order.

  98. d, this is an issue to take up with Tim.

    Similarly, as regards Ehrlich, a search of my site produces only one reference

    “He [Jevons] was wrong, as were a series of subsequent prophets of resource exhaustion, most notably Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome in the 1970s. ”

    If you want to comment specifically on my posts, feel free. But I don’t feel obligated to defend or condemn every action or statement ever made by someone assocaited with the Green movement, or every post by another blogger.

  99. “2. Rachel Carson’s book is over the top exaggeration …”

    Including the section where she specifically endorses the use of DDT for malaria control?

Comments are closed.