DDT opposition in Uganda: Business, not environmentalists

DDT advocates continue to smear Rachel Carson and “environmental groups” with a campaign of made up calumny. To the frustration of scientists, health officials and the gods of fairness, these people continue to get credence from people who should know better, like the contributors at the Volokh Conspiracy (Quiggin and Lambert are the good guys, if you’re not following closely).

Reality is a different story. Business interests appear to have started a false rumor that someone stole a massive quantity of DDT from Uganda’s mosquito control program in an attempt to make the mosquito control guys look incompetent and dangerous. From The Monitor in Kampala, via allAfrica.com:

Safina Nambafu

The Ministry of Health has denied reports that some people were last week arrested in possession of stolen DDT drugs in Oyam District.

The head of the Malaria Control Programme, Dr Rwakimari, said it was the detractors of the campaign that are inciting the public to spread falsified information.

He was addressing the press at the ministry headquarters on Monday.

Dr Rwakimari said some local leaders are trying to fail the DDT campaign yet over 94% of the district had successfully been sprayed as of last Monday. Last week, civil society organisations led by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists [Nape] held a half day sensitization meeting with stakeholders in Kampala where they collectively condemned the government for carrying out the exercise.

They claimed that many of the crew members had reported strange illnesses, which they fear could have been caused by exposure to DDT. Dr Rwakimari said the government would not just look on as individuals de-campaign the exercise, adding that DDT was being sprayed in eight district in an effort to fight malaria.

Erute North MP Charles Angiro Gutomoi told Daily Monitor that he was bitter that government had had sprayed DDT, saying the exercise threatens the food market.

“National Association of Professional Environmentalists” — in Uganda.  Don’t you love it?  The group’s website, lacking much information, looks like the site of an astroturf organization to me.  The organization exists, though, but DDT doesn’t appear to be a major concern of the group (it earns no mention in their April 2008 report).

There is real opposition to the use of DDT in Uganda, and there is a lawsuit to stop use of DDT.  The suit was filed on behalf of nine different agricultural businesses.  Farmers claim the spraying is not following the strict guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), and they fear their crops will be contaminated and unsaleable.

Effective malaria fighting uses only small quantities of DDT, in a few places, on a few occasions.  The fight also requires use of screens and nets to protect people at night, when the mosquitoes are active in feeding.  The New York Times featured a story on the successful Nothing But Nets program today — not a government-run program, not a program favored by the Rachel Carson critics, but a useful and necessary program.

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