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July 8, 2003


GM-Free Wales; Africa must drive GM agenda; Italy farm minister s


Today in AgBioView: July 9, 2003:

* Re: spurious correlation
* Africa must drive GM agenda, scientist says
* Italy farm minister sees end to EU biotech ban
* gm crops
* Biotech Foods: No Going Back Now?
* Plant Scientist Eduardo Blumwald to Receive Humboldt Award
* EU, U.S. at loggerheads over import rules
* GM food: No worries, say Kiwis
* The real poison is dishonesty



University of Glamorgan
July 9, 2003

Contact: Rhys Evans, Press & PR Officer
University of Glamorgan
T: (01443) 483 362
E: revans1@glam.ac.uk

The potential for a "GM-free Wales" is becoming an increasingly important
policy objective of the National Assembly of Wales, particularly in light
of the decision of the EU parliament, on 2nd July 2003, to allow the
import and sale of GM food products provided that they are clearly

As a contribution to this debate, Dr Denis Murphy of the Biotechnology
Unit at the University of Glamorgan has compiled a detailed report on the
concept of a “GM-free Wales”.

The main conclusions of Dr Murphy’s report are:

• The policy of a “GM-free Wales” is not practically feasible following
the EU approval of GM crops – Wales cannot “go it alone”

• The policy is not legally enforceable - as admitted by some of its
original proponents

• The policy would not contribute towards enhancing the economic
competitiveness of Welsh agriculture

• The policy could adversely affect the very small number of arable
farmers who may wish to grow GM maize or oilseed rape crops by restricting
their choice of varieties compared to other farmers in the EU

• The policy would not materially assist the organic farming sector

• “GM-free Wales” would not significantly benefit the environment – all of
the major risks to the Welsh environment lie elsewhere

Full press release and report are available at:


Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 12:07:13 -0500
Subject: Re: spurious correlation
From: "Bruce Chassy"

Dear Vivian,

While it is not at all clear that soybean allergies are actually on the
increase since one cannot distinguish between increased incidence and
increased reporting, it seems clear that with all the recent positive
health claims in Western countries about the benefits of increased soy
protein consumption one might expect soy consumption by humans to have
increased. I would certainly expect that soy consumption has increased by
more than 50% in the UK in recent years. Thus, one might reasonably expect
an increase in soy allergies quite independent of the GM nature of the
soybeans consumed, although as Parrot has pointed out, GM soybeans had
hardly entered the food chain by the time these claims were first being

Meacher's illiogical and unfounded assertion is a classic post hoc ergo
propter hoc fallacy. In the same timeframe, the cost of living has
increased, cell phone usage has increased, soy consumption has increased,
stress has increased, the cost of medical care has increased, etc. Take
your pick as regards causal association! When confronted with an
objection based on our system of scientific logic, however, one is often
told that rational reductionist scientific methods and thinking are
precisely the cause of the world's problems. We are told that there are
different ways of KNOWING that are just as valid as our science.
Arguments like Meacher's are clearly based on alternative systems of
belief. It appears that for some participants, this is a faith-driven
battle which MUST be won at all or any cost. The ends justify the means.
From this belief arises both the conviction that there is an association
between GM soy consumption with increased incidence of soy allergy AND the
ethical imperative to make the claim.

Bruce Chassy

see: http://skepdic.com/posthoc.html


Africa must drive GM agenda, scientist says

ABC News Online
July 9, 2003

A Kenyan researcher has called on African nations to make their voices
heard during the debate over genetically-modified (GM) food.

Florence Wambugu is visiting Melbourne this week to take part in the
International Genetics Congress.

She is working on the development of a sweet potato that has been
genetically modified to resist viruses and says the technology has the
potential to double production and feed millions of people.

Dr Wambugu says discussion on GM foods is dominated by Europe and the
United States and African countries must look after their own interests.

"We are hearing one group from Europe saying, don't take the technology,
and then the Americans are saying the technology is good," she said.

"What Africa doesn't want to be is a battlefield.

"We want to have our own agenda, to use the technology to benefit our own
people, to put genes in our local varieties.

"But this fighting between Europe and American and so on, we don't want to
be a battlefield."


Italy farm minister sees end to EU biotech ban

July 9, 2003

BRUSSELS, July 9 (Reuters) - Italian Agriculture Minister Giovanni
Alemanno said on Wednesday he expected the European Union to drop its
informal ban on most biotech products in the near future.

He told reporters that rules passed by the European Parliament on tracing
and labelling gene-modified food and animal fodder were enough to start
authorising imports now. It would take a little more time to have rules at
a national level to farm GM (nyse: GM - news - people) crops.

"We just need a few months," he said of the time it would take to get
these rules in place.

He was speaking after addressing Parliament's environment committee as
Italy begins its six-month presidency of the EU.

The United States is taking the EU to the World Trade Organisation over
its five-year de facto ban on new GM strains.

The European Parliament passed new laws last week requiring GM grains and
other products to be segregated from traditional strains and labelled as
containing GM organisms -- regulations U.S. farmers say are expensive and

U.S. farmers say the closed EU market costs them $300 million a year in
lost exports, mostly maize. GM crops are not labelled in the United States
where the public has not opposed crops engineered for pest resistance and
increased yields.

The EU has refused to approve any new GM crops for cultivation or use in
food in the 15-country bloc since 1998, when European consumer fears about
food safety were at their height following the mad cow disease debacle.

A group of GM-sceptical countries, led by France, said the moratorium
would remain until the EU had put in place a raft of new rules on safety
testing, labelling and tracing genetically modified organisms "from farm
to fork".



Commentary from the Food Safety Network
By Brenda Cassidy
July 6/03

The European Parliament's approval on July 2 of new labeling requirements
for food and feed made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients is the
latest in a series of developments in the ongoing international debate
surrounding the use of GE technology to develop improved crop varieties.
The U.S. continues to lead the charge at the World Trade Organization
(WTO)) against discriminatory practices regarding international trade in
GE products. Here in Canada, discussion continues around the potential
approval of GE wheat. And in New Zealand, political opposition to the use
of GE livestock feeds took a new turn last week, with the curious
resurrection of a myth long rejected by the scientific community.

Since the 2001 release of a comprehensive Royal Commission report on the
various aspects of genetic engineering (GE) technology and the potential
impact of its use, New Zealand's government has engaged in efforts to
develop regulatory and policy changes necessary for ensuring that GE
technology can be used safely and in a manner that is beneficial to the
country as a whole. A current moratorium on the release of GE organisms in
NZ is scheduled to end in October 2003.

Among other initiatives, the government is engaged in a public
consultation process on GE food labeling. Although a mandatory labeling
system for foods containing GE ingredients is currently in place, the
Royal Commission report recognized that the information provided by such a
system falls short of meeting consumer information needs regarding the use
of GE technology in food products.

Such discussions function as political lightning rods wherever they occur,
attracting both proponents and opponents of the technology, who invariably
attempt to support their contradictory views with what appears to be
"sound science’". Whether such evidence bears up to scrutiny is another
matter. This past week in New Zealand, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley called
for new regulations for GE animal feed, claiming that GE feeds increased
mortality rates and affected growth patterns in a Canadian feeding trial
conducted on chickens. A synopsis of the feeding trial results, offering
similar conclusions, was also published in the U.K.'s Daily Mail.

What Ms. Kedgley failed to mention, and what the Daily Mail glossed over,
was that the 1996 study presented conclusions, based on the data
collected, that were direct contradictions of their alarmed assertions
regarding the risks of GE animal feeds. According to the University of
Guelph’s Dr. S. Leeson, who conducted the trial, body weight, feed intake
and mortality rate of the animals in the study were unaffected by the feed
source, whether GE or non-GE corn.

Did their concerns result from a simple misreading of a complex scientific
report? Unlikely, given that opponents to the use of GE technology made
similar allegations based on this study in 2001. The U.K.'s Advisory
Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), a committee composed of
independent scientists who provide advice to the UK government regarding
the release and marketing of GE organisms, examined the evidence and
concluded in September of that year that there was nothing to indicate
that GE grain used as animal feed posed any additional risk to humans and
animals as compared to conventional grain. Mortality rates for animals in
the trial fell within expected ranges and growth rate variations could not
be confirmed from the data.

Undaunted by ACRE's conclusions, anti-GE groups have continued to point to
this study as evidence’ to support their beliefs, continually recycling
the story in the hope of reaching a receptive audience. This past week, it
worked, and a long-rejected myth became news’ once again.

The science of food safety is a cumulative, contextual and complex
discipline. Determining the safety of new products, whether produced
through GE or conventional technologies, involves multiple assessments,
including evaluations of potential risk to the environment, to humans and
to animals.

International scientific expert panels have determined that the use of GE
technology in the development of new food crops does not result in unique
risks. All new products, however produced, instead must be assessed on a
case-by-case basis to ensure their health and environmental safety. That's
the basis of Canada's food safety regulatory system for Plants with Novel
Traits (including those developed through GE technology), an approach that
has received strong international support.

But such an approach -- cautious, measured and objective -- won’t make
headlines. It doesn''t lend itself to sweeping pronouncements. It won't
capture votes or raise funds for special interest groups. It's the
rational voice that often gets lost in the politically driven debate about
GE foods.

Brenda Cassidy is a research assistant with the Food Safety Network at the
University of Guelph

Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 13:31:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: "bob kisken"
Subject: gm crops

One constantly reads about farmers losing 300 million sales of corn due to
restrictions on gm crops. If the farmer would produce what the consumer
wanted this would not happen. I thought that tis is what free enterprise
is about.

bob kisken


Biotech Foods: No Going Back Now?

Entomologist Anthony Shelton says genetically engineering desirable traits
into plants beats traditional methods and will soon be widely accepted

JULY 8, 2003

Over the past 10,000 years, humans have bred hybrids plants that can
withstand harsher climates or produce larger or better-tasting fruit and
vegetables. Within the past decade, the food industry has taken such
tweaking to a whole new level with the genetic engineering of crops.

Using this technique, scientists copy a gene from one organism and add it
to another to create a new plant with properties not found in nature. The
practice has grown rapidly, says Anthony Shelton, a professor at the
department of entomology (the study of insects) at Cornell University in
Geneva, N.Y. And it has been highly controversial. Activists around the
world claim that genetic engineering is a threat to both nature and human
health. And the European Parliament recently approved tough rules on
genetically modified products requiring them to be clearly labeled, among
other regulations.

That's a temporary hurdle, contends Shelton, who has written more than 300
articles on agricultural pest-management techniques, including those
accomplished with genetic engineering. On July 3, he spoke to BusinessWeek
Online Reporter Olga Kharif about genetic engineering in agriculture.
Edited excerpts of their conversation follow:

Q: How much of the food in grocery stores today is genetically engineered?

A: Many of the [items] produced with corn or soybeans are the result of
genetic engineering. It's also used in the production of cotton and
papaya. [A big component of] genetically engineered plants is pest
control. About 30% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered
to fight insects.

Q: How does that work?

A: A gene from a bacterium has been incorporated into the corn plant's
gene. That corn starts producing a protein from this bacterium. If an
insect starts feeding on the corn, it ingests this protein, which is toxic
to insects. It's not toxic at all to humans. This bacterium has been used
as an insecticidal spray for more than 50 years by both organic as well as
conventional growers. It's not a great insecticide when used as a spray,
but when the genes that produce this protein are incorporated into a
plant, the proteins become very effective.

Q: Do you expect genetic engineering to be used on more types of crops in
the future?

A: A number of different crops are waiting to be commercialized. The
majority are designed to reduce the amount of synthetic insecticide and
other pesticides used to protect the crops. Tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts --
most of the major crops -- are being tested for attributes that would
allow for pest control.

Such pest-management crops might not be seen as beneficial by the public,
despite the fact they reduce the use of more hazardous pesticides.
However, what if food crops were developed that would lower people's
cholesterol? Make us slim down a little bit? Contain more nutrients, such
as vitamins and minerals? These products are coming onto the market, also.

Other products are also being developed: plants that will be able to clean
up toxic waste, trees that will have higher production levels of useful
wood fiber.

Q: How safe are these products?

A: The public has requested that the amount of pesticide used in
agriculture be reduced. And genetically engineered crops on the market
right now reduce the amount of pesticide. In the case of insect-protected
plants, the bacterium used has been sprayed on the fields for decades and
is considered safe for humans and nontarget organisms. I think the
alternatives are much less safe.

More than 75% of the cheese that's consumed in America is a product of
genetic engineering. In the manufacturing of cheese, you need a particular
enzyme that will help form the cheese. What people used to do was take
this enzyme out of the gut of an animal. This technique had its health
risks, such as spreading viruses. But now, this enzyme is produced through
genetic engineering and added to milk for the production of cheese.

Nothing is 100% safe -- everything has risks and benefits. What you try to
do with any technology is weigh the risks and benefits. You have to look
at each product separately. The scientific body of evidence indicates
that, for the products on the market right now, the benefits far outweigh
any potential risks.

Q: And what's the impact of genetic engineering on nature?

A: I came into entomology because I was a child of the '60s, and I have a
strong environmental background. I think that the products out there --
for fighting insects, weeds, and for disease management -- are very
healthful to the environment compared to the way that these pests would
have to be managed without genetic engineering.

Q: Is cross-species genetic engineering more dangerous?

A: You just really have to look at the particular product that comes out
of that. Let me give you an example: To try making tomatoes
frost-resistant, scientists thought about taking a gene from a flounder --
it's a cold-water fish -- and putting it into a tomato. Some people might
say, "Well, that's crazy idea. I don't want fish genes in my tomatoes!"
But it's actually an interesting case.

The gene from the flounder that caused the tomato to be cold-hardy is
probably the same gene as from an alpine plant growing in Switzerland,
which allows that plant to be tolerant to cold weather. Would it be more
acceptable to take the gene from a plant rather than the flounder, even
though molecularly, it's the same gene?

Q: What are the cost benefits of genetic engineering?

A: Genetic engineering can reduce the costs and environmental hazards of
managing pests, which can be very high. Much of the sweet corn that's
grown during the winter months and the early spring comes from Florida. A
particular pest down there is very difficult to control, the fall army
worm. Growers may spray anywhere from 15 to 30 times with foliar
insecticides to control this particular caterpillar. But with sweet corn
that has been genetically engineered, they only have to spray it once.

With spraying, you destroy beneficial insects in the field. You expose
workers to higher levels of toxicants. You have potential for ground-water
pollution. But with genetically engineered sweet corn, you don's have
these problems. I'd certainly rather eat sweet corn that has been
genetically engineered for insect control than the corn that has been
treated fairly heavily for insect control.

Q: What's the outlook for genetically engineered foods in the U.S. and
other countries? Europe has been especially resistant.

A: In 1996, when genetically engineered crops first came onto the market,
they were grown on 4.3 million acres. Now, they're grown on 145 million
acres worldwide. That's tremendous growth, and each year, the acreage
continues to go up. There are 16 countries now growing such crops, and the
adoption will continue to grow.

Once the Europeans have done more testing, they'll adopt it also. In the
early 1900s, when pasteurization first was used to reduce microbial
contamination in milk, it was very controversial -- despite the fact that
it tremendously reduced the rate of infant mortality. When frozen food was
first being produced, some states tried to ban it based on the belief it
was unhealthy. Nowadays we take pasteurization and frozen food for
granted. I think the same will happen with biotechnology.


Plant Scientist Eduardo Blumwald to Receive Humboldt Award

University of California, Davis
July 7, 2003

In recognition of his research on salt-tolerant crops, plant biologist
Eduardo Blumwald of the University of California, Davis, has been selected
to receive the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award.

The award, named after the 19th-century German naturalist and geographer,
has been presented annually since 1975 to one individual who is considered
to have made the most significant contribution to American agriculture
during the previous five years. It includes a $15,000 cash prize and the
$5,000 Alfred Toepfer Scholarship, which enables a UC Davis student to
study agriculture in Europe.

A public award ceremony and seminar by Blumwald, a professor in UC Davis'
Department of Pomology, will be held in September at UC Davis.

Blumwald's research career has focused on how plants respond and adapt to
harsh environmental conditions such as drought, cold, and salty soils or
water. During the past decade, he has concentrated on the impact of
salinity on crops.

Salty irrigation water damages most plants by upsetting their ability to
take in water through their root cells. If salt concentrations are very
high, flow of water into the plant is actually reversed and the plant
dehydrates and dies as water is drawn out of its cells.

Blumwald and colleagues studied a naturally occurring protein known as a
"sodium/proton antiporter," which uses energy available in the plant cells
to move salts into compartments within the cells. Once the salt is stashed
inside these compartments -- called vacuoles -- it is isolated from the
rest of the cell and unable to interfere with the plant's normal
biochemical activity.

In 1999 Blumwald and colleagues announced that they had manipulated the
gene that governs production of the antiporter protein and were able to
genetically engineer salt tolerance in the Arabidopsis plant, a cabbage
relative that is commonly used in plant research. Continued research in
this area led to the 2001 announcement of a genetically engineered tomato
plant that thrives in salty irrigation water. The discoveries were
published in the journals Science and Nature Biotechnology.

Blumwald is continuing this research in hopes of developing other
salt-tolerant crops that will be useful for agricultural production in
areas of the world that have salty irrigation water and salt-damaged
soils. His work has drawn international interest both from industry and
government agricultural agencies.

Blumwald began this research at the University of Toronto and continued it
after coming to UC Davis in 2000. While in Canada he also was awarded the
1995 Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of Canada.

Two other UC Davis faculty members, Bruce Hammock of the entomology and
environmental toxicology departments and the late Charles Rick of the
vegetable crops department, also received the von Humboldt award for
agriculture in 1995 and 1993, respectively.

Media contact(s):

Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843, pjbailey@ucdavis.edu

Editorial: Biofood fight
EU, U.S. at loggerheads over import rules

Sacramento Bee
By David Holwerk
July 8, 2003

The European Parliament has approved legislation that European Union
officials say is meant to defuse the trans-Atlantic quarrel over
genetically modified (GM) foods. Au contraire: If anything, it will
intensify the dispute, which Washington has taken to the World Trade
Organization on the ground that Europe's limits on GM foods is thinly
disguised trade protectionism.

GM crops are widely grown in this country -- soybeans and corn are the
most common -- and consumed by nearly all Americans. But many Europeans
shun them, citing health concerns, even though scientific tests have yet
to show they harm anyone.

Nonetheless, since 1998 the European Union has blocked the entry of new
foodstuffs that contain GM organisms. The legislation just passed, which
is expected to be ratified by the 15 member countries, would end the
moratorium but would impose two restrictions that could still make it
difficult for U.S. producers to sell GM foods in Europe.

One provision makes sense, in theory at least. It would require that food
items containing more than 0.9 percent of genetically modified material to
be labeled as such. Giving consumers more information seems reasonable.
Yet it could also remain a deterrent to Europeans who call such products
"Frankenfood" and to retailers, some of whom refuse to stock it.

The second requirement is more troubling. It mandates detailed tracing of
a GM product from its origin as seed through every stage to its arrival on
the grocery shelf. American farmers, and the U.S. Trade Representative's
office, say that compliance will be very costly and, in some cases,
impossible. In effect, they say, its main purpose is to limit U.S. farm
exports to Europe.

Who is right? Even the WTO may be hard-pressed to say with certainty that
the EU restrictions are a disguised trade barrier rather than a reasonable
attempt to protect consumers, which under global trading rules is
permissible if the policy is based on sound science. Moreover, the Bush
administration has declined to require U.S. growers to provide safety
evaluations to the Food and Drug Administration.

This dispute will not end soon, and in the context of U.S.-European
discord on other issues, the GM standoff may exacerbate tensions. To
prevent the emergence of a full-blown trade war, both sides should first
moderate their rhetoric. President Bush, for example, has accused Europe
of worsening Africa's food crisis by intimidating governments there into
rejecting GM food from the United States; EU officials just as bluntly say
that the purpose of the new GM restrictions is "to look after European
consumers, not American farmers." Unless attitudes change, it will be hard
to avoid a fight that neither side needs.


GM food: No worries, say Kiwis

National Business Review
July 9, 2003
By Nevil Gibson

Americans and New Zealanders are less suspicious of food that has been
genetically modified than Australians and Britons, a new Roy Morgan
International poll shows.

Although GM food is just as safe, if not safer, as so-called “organic”
food, 55% of Australians and Britons won't buy it if they can help it.
Only 38% of Australians and 39% of those in the UK don't try to avoid GM
food. The remainder of people (Australia 7%, UK 6%) can't say.

In contrast, New Zealanders and Americans are divided on the issue.
Slightly more New Zealanders try to avoid GM foods (49%) than don't (46%),
while in the US, where about 39% of crops are GM, slightly fewer Americans
try to avoid GM foods (46%) than don't (47%). The remainder of people (New
Zealand 5%, US 7%) can't say.

In New Zealand, more women (57%) than men (42%) tried to avoid GM foods.
Across the age groups, 50% of those aged 25-34, 53% of those aged 35-49
and 50% of those aged 50 or over tried to avoid GM foods. Only among 14-24
year olds (44%) did less than half try to avoid GM foods.

In Australia, women (59%) were more likely than men (50%) to avoid buying
GM foods. Across age groups, the proportion of Australians who avoided
buying GM foods increased with age, from only 43% of 14-24 year olds to
59% of those aged 50 or over.

In the US, more women (51%) than men (42%) avoided buying it. Across age
groups, the proportion who avoided buying GM foods increased with age,
from 40% of 14-24 year olds to 50% of those aged 50 or over.

As with the other countries, UK women (61%) were more likely to avoid
buying GM foods than men (49%). Older people (62% of 35-49 year olds and
58% of those aged 50 or over) were more likely than younger people (43% of
14-24 year olds and 49% of 25-34 year olds) to avoid buying GM foods.

Of those who bought the household groceries in New Zealand, most (54%) or
some (49%) of the time were more likely to avoid buying GM foods than
those who never bought groceries (43%). In Australia, those who bought
them most of the time (58%) or some of the time (51%) were more likely to
avoid buying GM foods than those who didn’t (46%).

This compares with 51%, 48% and 36% respectively in the US and 62%, 58%
and 38% in the UK.

In New Zealand, farmers were less likely to avoid buying GM foods (42%)
than non-farmers (50%). This contrasts with Australia, where farmers were
more (59%) likely to avoid buying GM foods than those who weren't farmers
(55%). American farmers were much less likely to avoid buying GM foods
(14%) than non-farmers (47%).

• Roy Morgan International interviewed 25,612 men and women aged 14 years
or over throughout Australia between April 2002 and March 2003; 12,927 men
and women aged 14 years or over throughout New Zealand between May 2002
and April 2003; 5099 men and women aged 14 years or over throughout the US
between March 2002 and August 2002; and 1100 men and women aged 14 years
or over throughout the UK between May 2001 and November 2001.


The real poison is dishonesty

Scripps Howard News Service
By Jay Ambrose
July 4, 2003

President Bush, who seems honestly to care about the misery of the African
people, could do them no better service on his trip to their continent
than to speak out loud and clear about how fanatical, well-off, Western
environmentalists are annually killing hundreds of thousands of Africans
with their misplaced values.

It sounds astonishing, but it is true that conjectures about the long-term
dubious harm of the indoor spraying of DDT have prevented its use in the
fight against malaria, even though it is known to be highly effective,
even though nothing else is effective, even though the risks are
negligible and even though a million people die from the disease every
year and hundreds of millions more suffer from it.

Read published reports on the subject, and you find out that most of the
deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children are the chief victims. The
Economist quotes a researcher who says it is as if seven Boeing 747s
loaded with children crashed into a mountain daily, killing all on board.

The Economist says, too, that on top of the deaths there is the
extraordinary, impoverishing cost of trying to cope with this
mosquito-borne killer. Malaria, which can cause excruciating pain, is more
than painful, more than death-dealing. It is a destroyer of hope and

There is an answer, and that answer is DDT. One article observes it has
been used all over the world to diminish diseases ranging from yellow
fever to typhus, and that a mosquito need only touch it to perish. It is
because of DDT that malaria no longer exists in the United States or in
Europe, it is noted. Its anti-malarial effectiveness? Something like 90
percent, says The Christian Science Monitor, which tells an interesting
story about South Africa. When that nation used DDT widely, malaria cases
dropped to 6,000. Five years after it switched to other techniques, the
number had climbed to 60,000.

Nothing else does anywhere near the same job as DDT, not bed nets and not
drugs that are less and less able to resist the malarial parasite. So why
is it that DDT is so sparsely used around the globe? The story begins with
Rachel Carson, who wrote the 1962 book "Silent Spring," maintaining that
the agricultural pesticide was destroying wildlife. Some morning in the
spring, she wrote, many might wake up as she once did and hear no
songbirds. A decade later, the United States and other developed countries
had decided to prohibit DDT's use.

Any environmental danger, though, consists in drenching crops with the
chemical, not in light spraying inside homes, as is done in anti-malaria
programs. While some suspect a threat to human beings, nothing has been
proven. One writer notes that the exposure in America was once huge, but
no human harm has been shown. Reputable scientists are quoted as saying
the suspicions are nonsense.

Some extremists in the environmental movement are nevertheless opposed to
any use at all, and industrialized nations have been responsive to their
pressure. While an international treaty would permit the employment of DDT
in anti-malaria programs, not much is produced anymore, and politicians of
the developed nations are hesitant to give aid for its use or even to
affirm that they think it should be used. Most of the African nations have
no means of getting their hands on it without the help of richer lands.

President Bush, whose $15 billion commitment to battle AIDS in Africa
includes money to fight malaria, could turn things around. He could give a
speech at an African hospital simply and clearly stating the facts and
vowing to do all in his power to provide the continent with DDT for
carefully planned, expertly administered anti-malarial programs. He could
challenge other developed nations to do the same.

Given the tactics the extremists sometimes use, and their general disdain
for the president to begin with, Bush would face some political hazard,
yet even if he absorbs some punishment, it would be worth it. Just imagine
what the achievement could be - the saving of hundreds of thousands of
lives every year, year after year, perhaps the eventual elimination of
malaria in Africa, and a major move toward restoring hope and possibility
on the continent.