Merchants of Death Oppose DDT for Malaria Control

|

The World Health Organization announced its strong support for spraying the pesticide DDT indoors to help control malaria-carrying mosquitoes earlier this month. According to East African Business Week, a coalition of companies in Uganda led by the British American Tobacco company is against residential use of DDT. Why? Because the companies correctly fear that Ugandan agricultural products could be banned from Europe. As absurd as it may sound, French smokers might in fact wave away coffin nails loaded with natural carcinogens declaring, "Sacre bleu! DDT est la mort!" The Merchants of Death and fearful Europeans are apparently willing to sacrifice the lives of 70,000 to 100,000 Ugandans annually to malaria in order to smoke "organic" tobacco.

The most amusing feature of this sorry episode is that the statement opposing DDT was read by–I kid you not–British American Tobacco Uganda's Corporate Social Responsibility Manager.

NEXT: The Missionary Position

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Is this intended as a joke post?

    FTA:
    A prominent scientist/ researcher and director in Uganda’s Joint Clinical Research Centre (a government centre for HIV/AIDS, malaria research), Dr Samson Kibende said even countries that are currently spraying DDT, like South Africa are exporting agricultural products to the EU and US.

    I didn’t see any comments from Eurozone people saying if DDT was sprayed in houses they would cut off imports, but I might have missed it.

  2. Jammer: Not “would,” but “might” cut imports.

    See URL: http://www.deluga.cec.eu.int/en/newsletter/dec04/ddt_effects.htm

  3. Jammer: EU official warned a while back that DDT use meant that the country would be “taking a risk” some imports would be turned back and that some consumer groups might reject Ugandan ag products.

    See URL: http://allafrica.com/stories/200604050060.html

    The absurdity is that some smokers might refuse to smoke cigarettes containing parts per billion of DDT because they think it might kill them.

  4. I must be missing something-what does DDT have to do with tobacco?

  5. I’m with Adam–what does “residential” use of DDT have to do with tobacco crops?

  6. Thanks, Ron. It would have been nice to have that part of the post, though. Would have saved me some head-scratching.

    I don’t know about the residential business affecting crops either, unless the residences in question are pretty darn close to the fields. Which is actually pretty probable; lots of farmhouses here in the US are smack dab in the middle of cropland, why not Uganda?

  7. Brian and Adam, I think that was the point of the post: “Isn’t it absurd that a tobacco company is warning Ugandans against the indoor spraying of DDT.”

    This reminds me of the story that Marlboro cigarettes was one of the first brands to remove lead from their advertisements and packaging in the early 70’s. Lead was the most cost effective way to make red pigments that did not fade.

    I guess tobacco companies want to keep their customers alive as long as possible so tobacco can kill them.

  8. Adam, brian24:

    I think it depends on who you talk to. There are some groups what will not abide by anything but a complete and total world wide ban on DDT because any use is considered a major health risk:

    WWF said new research shows that DDT sprays — even when used indoors — leak significant levels of DDT into the environment and pose hazards to both human health and wildlife.

    “DDT is such a potent chemical that as long as it is used anywhere in the world, nobody is safe,” said Clifton Curtis, director of the WWF Global Toxics Initiative.

    Being aware of this sentiment in the West, the exporters of ag/tobacco products are concerned that they may lose business if DDT is being used anywhere near fields where there might be, you know, canals or standing water…

  9. As absurd as it may sound…

    I want to see the contortions that European smokers go through when GM tobacco hits the scene.

  10. The absurdity is that some smokers might refuse to smoke cigarettes containing parts per billion of DDT because they think it might kill them.

    Control, Ron. It’s all about control.

    People will accept any statistically significant risk to their health if they feel they are in control of that risk. Smoking, driving without a seatbelt, having unsafe sex, etc., are deemed acceptable risks by many because they require a concious choice on the part of the individual and thus appear to be something that can they can control.

    People refuse to accept miniscule risks such as low pesticide residues or tiny amounts of mercury in food because they didn’t conciously choose it and therefore they feel they can’t control it.

    Add to that the fact that most people don’t understand basic toxicology and you get the recipe for all sorts of irrational behavior.

  11. I thought that DDT was relatively safe for humans.

    So sayeth the Wiki.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT#Impact_on_human_health

  12. ‘Not “would,” but “might” cut imports.’
    – Ron Bailey..

    “Might cut imports” IF agricultural products are contaminated with DDT. That’s the terrible, evil threat the Europeans are holding over the Africans’ heads; they might not buy agricultural products that are contaminated.

    And of course, indoor spraying of DDT doesn’t contaminate agricultural products.

    As demonstrated by, “A prominent scientist/ researcher and director in Uganda’s Joint Clinical Research Centre (a government centre for HIV/AIDS, malaria research), Dr Samson Kibende said even countries that are currently spraying DDT, like South Africa are exporting agricultural products to the EU and US.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.