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Monday, April 18, 2005


We used DDT to eliminate malaria in the United States. Now environmental activists can afford to rail against pesticide use in Africa, while they enjoy all the comforts that our high-tech, malaria-free society bestows upon them. Meanwhile, 2 million Africans die every year from this dreaded disease. Over 200 million get so sick each year they can't work, go to school, care for their families or tend their fields for weeks or months on end. Millions are so weakened from malaria that they succumb to AIDS and other serial killers that stalk these impoverished lands.

Why? Because Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, Sierra Club, World Health Organization, and even the US Agency for International Development do all they can to prevent this miracle pesticide's use. Instead, they promote drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets. Hollywood elites and big donor groups like the Ford, Pew, MacArthur and Schumann foundations support these callous groups with tens of millions of dollars a year.

Drugs and bed nets help. But they are expensive, hard to get and often don't work. They mean hundreds of thousands of children and parents die every year who would live, if their countries could also use DDT -- spraying it in tiny quantities on the inside walls of homes, just once or twice a year, to repel, incapacitate and exterminate mosquitoes.

Fifi Kobusingye ran into one of these activists in the Kampala, Uganda airport this past November. "You don't have malaria," she told the woman, "because you used DDT." The woman replied, "But we lost our birds" -- referring to erroneous claims by Rachel Carson and others that DDT had killed birds and thinned eggshells.

"Well, I lost my son and nephew, and my friend lost her daughter," Ms. Kobusingye responded. "Don't talk to me about birds."

Biotechnology could fortify plants with vitamins, to reduce malnutrition and blindness, replace crops devastated by disease and drought, and reduce the need to cultivate so much wildlife habitat and use so many pesticides. It could also help developing countries compete with European and American farmers who get over $300 billion a year in subsidies. But eco radicals oppose this technology too -- and piously call themselves ethical and socially responsible.

"I appreciate ethical concerns," comments Kenyan plant biologist Florence Wambugu, "but anything that doesn't feed our children is unethical." We wouldn't stop using penicillin just because it causes allergic reactions in a few people, she notes, and we shouldn't ban genetically engineered crops, just because noisy activists raise speculative safety concerns.


Thank you for bring up this contentious topic. DDT sounds like a terrible substance to be spreading around. I don't hate greenpeace. But you make a good point.
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