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June 26, 2006


There's been a recent backlash against the vilification of insecticides, mainly focused on the apparent wonderfulness of DDT, so wrongly demonized in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Well, break back out the devil horns, because a new study reports that those with a sustained, low-level exposure to pesticides are 70 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease. To some degree, we're talking gardening here, but the real issue is occupational exposure: ranching, fishing, farming, etc. In a depressing turn, these are coordination-intensive occupations, and early onset Parkinson's deprives their participants of their livelihood.

Maybe the organic boosters have a point.

June 26, 2006 | Permalink


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Yeah, hard to believe poison could actually be, you know, BAD for you. Our benevolent corporate overlords would NEVER endanger the public with junk science just to make a quick buck, right? Pesticides are OK, global warming is a Leftist hoax, drilling in ANWR will solve our oil dependency problems...

Am I leaving out any?

Posted by: Samurai Sam | Jun 26, 2006 11:03:10 AM

I went organic a couple of years ago. I can't know for sure if my body is benefitting much, but my peace of mind quotient has increased exponentially.

Posted by: Constance Reader | Jun 26, 2006 11:32:32 AM

I suspect that a considerable contributor to the re-acceptance of ddt is the west nile virus. I know that after several years without seeing it mosquito repelent it reapeared when west nile showed up. Personaly I just ate a ton of garlic in the summer, especialy on days when i had bonfire plkans for the evening. Not such a worry in the Pacific NW but Michigan was bad for mosquitos. It just seemed terribly suspicious to me that ddt suddenly became much less dangerous when west nile came around. Of course I thought it was suspicious that west nile came around.

But then I'm kind of a nut like that - even going so far as to, you know, tentatively agree that poisoning our food is bad. When you poison the ground on which you'll grow it to get rid of the weeds, poison the water table that will nurish the food and spray poison onto the surface of the food plants it just seems to me that it might cause problems. call me a tree hugger but it just doesn't make sense - though i'm not fond of granola and I don't worship dirt - for that matter the only trees I have ever hugged are ones I was climbing.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 26, 2006 11:40:01 AM

Nobody like poison, even though every pesticide is rigorously tested and approved by the EPA for safety. I wash my food very thoroughly and try to buy organic whenever possible. However, here is a fair question that no one has explored:
Can the world produce the same amounts of food needed to feed this planet without these tools?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 26, 2006 11:58:52 AM

Can the world produce the same amounts of food needed to feed this planet without these tools?

I will see if I can find one of the articles exploring that very question - in short the answer is yes. By using crop rotation and other tools of farming.

An idea I have personaly espoused and researched teh viabilty of is another method that would allow for such production - factory farming. Being a fan of Archologies I thought, why not build large multi story structures that would provide a easily controlled growing environment. A fifty acre facility with severaly floors and machinery mounted in the ceilings would allow more than double the production per acre per floor. When you needn't worry about rows open enough to allow for machines you can use the space more eficiently. Build on a large river and you can use hydropower for your energy and watering needs. Using automated machines you could avoid most human contaminents.

That aside there are many ways that organic or non-organic non-pesticide farming can produce the same abundance of food we have now - on the same amount of land or even less than we use now.

The problems that arise from pesticides go far beyond washing your food. Many plants, lettuce and tomatoes for example will allow heavy metals in the soil (most pesticides are heavy metal based) to grow into the foods. No amount of washing can remove the heavy metals inside your veggies.

The other issue is that the pesticides get into our water table an contaminate our drinking water - finer for those who can afford to get heavily filtered

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 26, 2006 12:48:51 PM

sorry, computer going ape - accidental pre posting - too finish. . .

but for those millions who can't afford it - they get stuck drinking poisons in their water that are in large part due to pesticides (and nitrates if they have a well) .

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 26, 2006 12:51:24 PM

How 'bout genetic engineering that has proven to produce high yield crops as well as disease resistant crops.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 26, 2006 12:59:35 PM

DDT has a cost/benefit analysis just liek anything else.

In the USA and other modern nations, the C/B analysis clearly speaks against routine usage of DDT.

However, in Africa there is an entirely different cost/benefit analysis that actually favors the usage of DDT.

DDT is extremely effective in controlling mosquito populations. The same mosquito populations that are innocuous in America bring killer diseases like Malaria to millions of Africans every year.

In that context, DDT is a good chemical to use. Malaria is a much more debilitating, dangerous disease than Parkinsonism. Hell the average life span of most Africans is well short of the age when they would get DDT-induced Parkinsonism anyways.

If you give me a choice of having either Malaria or Parkinsons with the appropriate epidemiological data (i.e. Malaria attacks kids and young adults, Parkinsons attacks much older age groups) then I pick Parkinsons every day of the week and twice on sundays.

Posted by: joe blow | Jun 26, 2006 1:05:15 PM

Thanks for pointing that out Fred, I note now that I didn't specify that - it is one fo the implications I meant when i said non-organic non-pesticide farming - the other being growing indoors.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 26, 2006 1:05:49 PM

We as a society are too eager to first promote the use of chemical products then turn around and try to ban them when they produce some adverse effects. What do we expect? We are after all chemical organisms.

That pesticides have been implicated in the development of Parkinson's is not new news. So have many, many other things. I develop symptoms of Parkinson's when I take SSRI's. Did you know that smoking or maybe just nicotine has been found by many to have an ameliorating effect on the symptoms? So does Benedryl.

All these bits and pieces, including the findings in this study, may eventually lead to prevention and cure of a truly devastating disease. Nevertheless, a knee-jerk reaction to renew the global ban on DDT would be shortsighted. Of course it should always be used judiciously and with as much information as is known about its affects made available. In the areas of the world where the use of DDT seems to help more than it hurts by preventing widespread malarial infections, the people living in those areas should be able to "pick their own poison" so to speak. The key thing is to be able to make an informed choice.

I say this as a person who is likely to develop Parkinson's because both my father and grandmother had it and I inherited many physical characteristics from them.


Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jun 26, 2006 1:07:48 PM

I wouldn't argue for a global ban on ddt - I would argue heavily for renewing the ban in the U.S. I agree that it is a cost analysis argument and that many places in the developing world need to use it. That doesn't mean we should blindly accept its use here. Short of an all out ban, we should require prominent labeling explaining the dangers and potential dangers of it's use.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 26, 2006 1:25:35 PM

Just for the sake of facts DDT for public health purposes has not been banned anywhere. DDT use for agriculture has been banned most places. One of the big reasons for doing so is to avoid malaria carrying mosquitos developing immunity too fast.

The following contain common DDT myths and links to their refutation.


Specific refutation of the claim that DDT was banned for public health purposes:


Posted by: Gar Lipow | Jun 26, 2006 3:04:58 PM

Of course the organophosphates the article talks about are the replacements for DDT.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Jun 26, 2006 3:32:43 PM

Live with your lover before getting married

Posted by: 4 duck mighty | Aug 29, 2007 2:42:33 PM

I haven't been up to much , but I guess it doesn't bother me. Pfft. I just don't have much to say lately, but maybe tomorrow. Basically nothing seems worth doing.

Posted by: breakdown | Sep 1, 2007 8:22:42 PM

Help the homeless down the street and persuade them to look for work

Posted by: my-land | Sep 3, 2007 10:20:29 AM

Rural development is the main cause of wildfires

Posted by: Jeniffer | Oct 1, 2007 5:41:36 AM

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