Just a quick update. Today I reorganised the main page a bit, splitting the “Food and Health” category in two, adding categories for “Environment” and “Social Justice”, and putting the “Tools” section under its own subheading, to make it extra clear those items are different from the various topic pages. This was provoked by the overly busy look that resulted from my adding the first new pages since I got back online after my year long “net fast”, one on GM (Genetic Modification) and one on DDT (the controversial pesticide).

GM is a critically important topic for us to get our heads around. From an Aotearoa perspective, the late 1990s saw the beginning of the first wave of pro-GM lobbying by biotech industry lobby groups. This wave broke and rolled back in the face of a broad social consensus against the environmental release of transgenic organisms (usually known as Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs), but in the last few years, there has been a renewed push by the the biotechnology industry, and its critical that everyone knows enough about the scientific arguments for and against GM to make the right decision on whether to support them, or once again oppose them.

Pro-GM groups like like the Life Sciences Network, whose public spokesperson was Dr William Rolleston, were light on references, but heavy on rhetoric; one of their regular claims was that environmentalists who oppose GM were opposed to “progress”. According to an article by Quiggan and Lambert in Propsect Magazine, this “anti-science” trope dates back to the 1980s, when tobacco corporations were desperately trying to distract people from the emerging evidence that their products cause lung cancer by claiming that public interest activsts of all kinds are “anti-science”.

The particular focus of the Quiggan and Lambert’s article is the claim that when the newly coined environmentalist movement, shocked by the revelations in Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”, pushed for a global ban of the use of the insecticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), this resulted in the avoidable deaths of millions of people from malaria. A number of big green groups considered persistent organic pollutants like DDT to be a serious health risk to humans and other species, and wanted the 2001 Stockhold Convention to ban them outright. But faced with evidence that living in houses sprayed with DDT was less wrong than dying of malaria, they accepted an exception which allowed countries to continue using DDT for disease control until better alternatives could be found.

The most recent evidence I could find today suggests that supplying malaria-affected countries with insecticidal misquito nets is both cheaper and more effective than DDT spraying, but as always, Drilling for Truth pages are a work in progress, and any evidence for claims or counterclaim is always warmly welcomed.

Filed June 24th, 2015 under Uncategorized

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