Our regular readers are no doubt familiar with the efforts of various industries to protect their particular products from regulation. These industries (and the organizations they fund) often succeed in weakening or delaying regulations intended to protect people from climate change, tobacco, and other hazards. 

In addition to battling specific regulatory proposals, these same industries often fund efforts to weaken the agencies, groups, and process that advance regulation. For instance, the infamous Data Quality Act, which makes it far too easy for regulated industries to gum up the works at federal agencies, had roots in Philip Morris’s efforts to halt regulation of secondhand smoke. 

Now, the Natural Resources News Service’s Adam Sarvana warns us about an often-overlooked player in the anti-regulatory arena: Roger Bate, who has used the issue of DDT and malaria “to pit potential allies in regulatory efforts, especially environmentalists and public health advocates, against each other in an effort to draw their fire away from regulated industries, including tobacco.”

The claim that environmentalists are responsible for malaria deaths because they pushed to ban DDT is easily debunked, but it keeps returning, and getting play even in publications like the New York Times, which ought to be better at fact checking. Basically, DDT has never been banned for antimalarial uses – only for agricultural use, which contributes to DDT resistance and thus makes it less effective. (For more details, see Tim Lambert at Deltoid.) Sarvana explains Bate’s role in pushing this falsehood, and his position in the larger anti-regulatory world:

The most important thing to know about Bate is that he is squarely in the camp of those who promote “sound science,” a term first popularized by the tobacco industry in its efforts to obscure the dangers of smoking. The phrase has become a code for undermining public confidence in the scientific community, mouthed frequently by global warming skeptics like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and their counterparts at free market think tanks. Today, sound science serves as a rallying cry for a professional network of deregulation activists and sympathetic politicians who argue that many environmental and public health laws should be repealed.   

Apparently, Bate’s next target is generic drugs. He explains that his interest is in assuring the quality of drugs sold in developing countries, but Sarvana warns that “this is Bate’s declaration of hostilities against the White House’s health care plan.” 

The piece is a great in-depth exploration of the sound science movement and one of its less-noticed players. It’s well worth a read.