By Patrick Poole
It isn’t everyday that the environmental leftists gang up with an international tobacco conglomerate to advocate policies that are responsible for the deaths of millions of pregnant mothers and small children throughout the Third World over the past 30 years, so the occasion is worth noting. What has brought these two seemingly unlikely forces together? The recent decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reverse its 30 year-old ban on DDT for indoor use to combat malaria – one of the biggest killers of children in the Third World – after a mountain of scientific studies have repeatedly found that DDT is safe, inexpensive and the best way to eradicate mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite. This move by WHO follows a decision by USAID in May of this year to begin funding malaria control projects in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia as part of President Bush’s $1.2 billion five-year plan to reduce malaria mortality rates by 50 percent in 14 Sub-Saharan African countries.
This reversal by WHO flies in the face of the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which calls for the eventual elimination of DDT and has been signed by 122 countries (the U.S. Senate has not ratified the treaty). However, many countries that face regular malaria outbreaks have refused to sign the accord, or, like Tanzania, are beginning to use DDT despite being signatories to the Convention.
During the negotiations over the Stockholm Convention, more than 300 environmental groups, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, and Physicians for Social Responsibility had pushed for a total worldwide ban on DDT. Under pressure from representatives of the Third World who argue for the necessity of using DDT to fight malaria, Greenpeace and WWF has since softened their stand. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore has spoken in favor of using DDT for malaria control, though the WWF still publicly advocates for a total DDT ban
DDT was the victim of one of the first eco-hysteria scares following the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which warned that DDT threatened bird populations and larger animals up the food chain, including humans. Several environmental organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, were founded to combat the supposed threat posed by DDT. Rachel Carson is today hailed as one of the founders of the environmental movement and has been honored on a US postage stamp, even though her research has subsequently been characterized by scientists as “fraud”.