Ron McCarley’s letter on May 9 vilifying environmentalists of causing millions of deaths by opposing genetically engineered “golden rice” and spraying of DDT is typical of the right-wing’s use of half-truths, simplistic treatment of complex issues and outright misinformation to defend its radical political and economic agendas while claiming it’s really its opponents who are doing so.
First it is not true that all environmentalists are categorically opposed to any and all genetically engineered crops. While I personally don’t see a big problem with golden rice, I’m not at all convinced that vitamin A deficiency couldn’t be more effectively addressed by other conventional crops such as sweet potatoes.
That being said, there are very legitimate concerns about GMO crops including loss of crop diversity, the massive inputs of fertilizers and pesticides they usually require, and increasing corporate control of world agriculture.
But the claim from the right about DDT is where it degenerates into outright lies. Ever hear the one about how us greens have the blood of millions of malaria deaths on our hands because of the banning of DDT?
Well, the truth is that while Congress banned spraying of DDT in the U.S. it, of course, couldn’t ban it in other countries and Third World tropical countries rampantly sprayed it until fairly recently when it became far less effective and more preventative and integrative strategies that proved more effective.
So, why didn’t all that DDT stop malaria? Because of one of many scientific facts the right doesn’t believe in — evolution.
I remember as a biology student in the late 1960s reading an article in a science journal reporting that grasshoppers in the Midwest had started incorporating DDT into their defensive froths. They were literally eating it and spitting it back at us 45 years ago.
Finally, environmentalists aren’t opposing DDT and GMOs as a plot to drop world population. No need to as there is already a nefarious plot around that will accomplish that quite soon. It’s called climate change denial.