Raw Story follows the money on Rachel Carson smears

The CEI has gone all out in its attacks on Rachel Carson. As well as their Rachel eats babies site, there have been pieces by CEI operatives John Berlau, Angela Logomasni, Jeremy Lott and Erin Wildermuth, and Iain Murray, all singing the same song about how Carson killed lots of people.

Raw Story has been following the money:

A Republican Senator who successfully prevented the US Senate from honoring the centennial of the birth of environmentalist and Silent Spring author Rachel Carson received campaign donations from a member of the board of directors of a group that sponsors pro-DDT advocacy, RAW STORY has found.

William Dunn, President of Dunn Capital Management in Stuart, Florida, gave $4,000 to the campaign of Senator Tom Coburn in 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records. Dunn sits on the board of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group that promotes the use of DDT to fight malaria, and has sponsored a website called "Rachel Was Wrong," which condemns the environmental scientist and activist for her famous book. ...

CEI has been accused of serving as a pro-industry advocacy group against various environmental causes. A 20th Anniversary Report on the CEI website showed that 31% of its 2003 income came from corporations.

Additionally, a CEI staff member told the Inter Press Service in 2004 that the group received funding from Monsanto, the agribusiness corporation that originally manufactured DDT, although it no longer produces the pesticide.

Monsanto also supports the work of the Congress of Racial Equality, another pro-DDT group that contributes content to the 'Rachel Was Wrong' website, according to the Pesticide Action Network of North America.

A spokeswoman from PANNA, Stephenie Hendricks, argued to RAW STORY that although Monsanto was no longer manufacturing DDT itself, it was sponsoring efforts to promote the pesticide's use in anti-malaria campaigns to "create a more broadly permissive environment for agricultural chemicals."

Monsanto did not respond to RAW STORY's inquiries on whether it had a hand in the anti-Carson activities of Senator Coburn or CEI.

But Monsanto certainly had a hand in anti-Carson activities back in 1962.


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Business groups and chemical companies are not alone in their attacks on environmentalism in general and Rachel Carson in particular. Right-wing preacher D. James Kennedy has released a video in which Carson is characterized as responsible for the deaths of tens of millions. They're lifting chapter and verse from old industry smears of Carson, remarkably unconcerned about bearing false witness.

I wrote up their remarks here.

What?!!? You mean those folks are not mostly dedicated strivers towards third world health and heavily involved in malaria remediation? I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!!

thanks for keeping track of this--it's something I've recently become aware of.
I still can't figure out WHY the whole demonize RC is happening--is it just a convenient way to bash environmentalists under the cover of "see, conservatives are compassionate" ?

Presumably in an attempt to undermine arguments for action on climate change.

By LogicallySpeaking (not verified) on 04 Jun 2007 #permalink

One of Carson's central arguments was that indiscriminate use of pesticides was slowly rendering them useless due to the evolution of resistance. This argument encapsulates two unforgivable sins: (a) Carson told businessmen their short-term interests were ruining their business in the long run. (b) Carson told the faithful that millions of people would die if policy makers were incognizant of evolution.

This should be added to the cautionary language on all stock offerings, for those who don't quite realize that they're risking their ability to think when they invest. From the evidence the risk is quite high on this.

"Biologically rational decisions may not be politically possible once investment has occurred."
-- 10.1126/science.1135767 Science Magazine v315, 5 Jan. 2007 at 45

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 04 Jun 2007 #permalink

Are Tierney's claims about Carson true? For example, he writes "Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass."

Is that a correct statement?


If he cited his sources we'd find it easier to check them, eh? Does he say he read that himself in her book, or read about it elsewhere?

Tierney's column generally has been sad since the Greenland glacier story, in which he was obviously spinning his coverage. He's not a science writer yet.

"Attack the founder, to try to discredit the current science" is fundamentalist thinking -- the idea that there's a founder on whose work everything else is built, who can be discredited to damage all the subsequent science.

Science doesn't work that way -- early research gets people started, replication supports some ideas and fails to support others, and the field grows by developing productive ideas.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

By the way, keep following the money. The whole area of endocrine mimicry is very lively right now.

The EU just raised the requirement for testing chemicals.

Industry's attacking the whole idea of early warnings and precautions -- why spend money to find out what might be bad news, when you can sell the stuff without testing it, eh?

The EU is requiring precautionary tests.

The USA and China both ask "who died?" before considering whether a new chemical may be dangerous.

Got toothpaste?

I would urge people not to get too focused on DDT and its metabolites -- notice the whole area of endocrine mimicry, that's where the money is nowadays.

Do check the facts we know now now -- long after the book Silent Spring was published decades ago. That's how science works, it grows toward the light.

Google can help inform writers:

What happens to DDT, DDE, and DDD when they enter the environment? ... DDT may reasonably be anticipated to be a human carcinogen. ...

IDLH: 500 mg/m3; Not applicable for DDT, a potential human carcinogen. ... EPA offices overseeing regulations and guidelines applicable to DDT, DDE, ...

ATSDR - ToxFAQsâ¢: DDT, DDE, and DDD
Exposure to DDT, DDE, and DDD occurs mostly from eating foods containing small amounts ... DDT may reasonable be anticipated to be a human carcinogen. ...

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

Mr. Tierney is wrong.

Mr. Tierney could have searched full text in Silent Spring:


I did. You can too. Here's the closest match to his claim, and it's not very close: pages 227-228.

He misread, or he trusted a PR lie instead of checking it.

Dr. Carson's case report there is cited to Dr. Hargraves and his associates, at the Mayo Clinic.

See longer excerpt below -- Dr. Carson addressed the uncertainty of these reports explicitly and clearly.

Mr. Tierney could have checked the letters from Dr. Hargraves, here:

"Research Material files contain an alphabetical arrangement of subject categories on many aspects of the pesticides controversy (Boxes 30-37) as well as correspondence with many leading scientists and environmentalists, among them C. J. Briejer, Clarence Cottam, Frank Egler, Malcolm Hargraves, and Robert Cushman Murphy (Boxes 42-44)."

Or Mr. Tierney, failing to check his claims and their sources, could have relied on a good science writer who did check the sources from which Dr. Carson wrote. See below.

Mr. Tierney could have found this as easily as I did.

Checking how writers check their sources is basic good sense. If the NYT's looking for a science writer, they should do that.


The Noisy Response to Silent Spring: Placing Rachel Carson's Work in Context

Kimm Groshong, Pomona College, Science, Technology, and Society Department, Senior Thesis, April 2002

-----begin excerpt-----

"The portion of the book that is still questionable is that concerning the link between pesticides and cancer. The fact that scientists today are still unsure as to the type of connection between pesticides and the expression of cancer makes the arguments in Silent Spring from chapter fourteen, entitled 'One in Every Four,' the most open to critiques ....
"Faced with these arguments, a question can be posed. Carson was in close correspondence with several distinguished experts in the study of cancer during the time -- she was also correspondending [sic] with several other distinguished experts in the study of cancer during the time that she was researching the book, such as Dr. Malcolm M. Hargraves of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Morton S. Biskind of Westport, Connecticut. There is evidence to prove that she checked her statements along the way with these experts and supplemented this by continuing to read articles published on the topic by Greenstein, von Euler, and others. She was not simply making up arguments that seemed to fit her thesis. It should also be noted that she points out in the chapter the uncertainty involved in any discussion of cancer several times. One example of this is found near the beginning of the chapter. She says, "Here the evidence is circumstantial, as it must be since we do not experiment on human beings, but it is nonetheless impressive."147 Thus she told her readers that the knowledge of cancer was incomplete. The question, then, is would it have been better for Carson to not draw attention to the possible links between pesticides and cancer when Dr. Hueper had already classified DDT as a definite carcinogen? As a writer trying to provide the public with an awareness of the hazards facing them, I suggest it was her moral responsibility to include the cancer-related information. Having worked through the chapter source materials files related to chapter fourteen in the Rachel Carson Papers, I can state that Carson did not deviate from her sources. It was very easy to look at a citation in her list of sources, to find that particular document, and to see the direct correlation between what that document said and what she wrote in Silent Spring. I found no cases in which what she wrote was too much of an abstraction or generalization of what her source document said.
'The source document from which most of this was derived reads: I believe this representative type of case history, of which I have a large number, will illustrate what I mean.....'

This is the kind of close agreement that I found to be the standard for Carson between her sources and her interpretations of those pieces of information. With this being the case, it becomes very difficult to accept arguments for the inaccuracy of her statements."

----- end excerpt-----

Shame, Mr. Tierney.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

By the way, keep following the money. The whole area of endocrine mimicry is very lively right now.

Tyrone Hayes.

Or the maize pollution in MX from our Bt corn.

Haven't heard about them? Huh.



More people should hear about the work from Dr. Hayes et al.:

The maize problem --- related to Novartis's then contract with UC Berkeley -- seemed to go silent. Is it related to endocrine mimicry?


"... A recent Mexican study by two different research institutions using multiple research methods is said to have validated Chapela and Quist's results (Demmon & Paul, 2002). The results have yet to be published, ....
... Neither side disputed the fact that cross-pollination is happening. ...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

Speaking of killing lots of people, besides the DDT promoters, notice others whose business model also actively selects for resistance, making the problem worse.

Ignorance of evolution is no excuse for criminal stupidity.


"... fake drugs are a massive problem in South East Asia.
"The composition of these fakes is wide-ranging. Some ... do contain small quantities of the artesunate-type anti-malarial drugs - probably only to fool the testers - but ironically it is these that constitute a major problem in themselves.

"Global resistance to the last generation of malaria drugs first emerged in this region. Now scientists are worried that these small amounts could expose parasites to a level of the drug that is not enough to kill them, but could select for resistant parasites.

"The artemisinin class of drugs, of which artesunate is one, is the most powerful and effective in treating malaria - and the impact of parasites developing resistance to them would be disastrous, says professor Day.

"Particularly in Africa, which sees about 90% of the world's malaria cases, it would be "a public health catastrophe," he adds.

"And he describes the criminals responsible for this growing trade as murderers."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 07 Jun 2007 #permalink

"The popular herbicide, atrazine, is a potent endocrine disruptor that de-masculinizes and feminizes exposed amphibians, by reducing androgens and increasing estrogen production."

Rightwingnuts blame it on liberals.

"'Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass.'
Is that a correct statement? "

From the book:
"In mid-August she had gone into her basement with an aerosol spray containing DDT and petroleum distillate...
she repeated the entire procedure in September, running through two more cycles of spraying, falling ill, recovering temporarily, spraying again... When examined by Dr. Hargreaves she was found to be suffering from acute leukemia".

The context of this is, previously, "There is, however, one presently known exception to the fact that a long period of latency is common to most malignancies. The exception is leukemia". The next story is about a man who sprayed his basement with "25% DDT concentrate suspended in a solvent containing methylated napththalenes" and developed aplastic anemia, then nine years later fatal leukemia. A major thrust of the chapter is the synergestic effect of various carcinogens, and that DDT is seldom encountered by the consumer in pure form; more usually with other noxious substances, and such combinations are by and large not tested.

Gotta wonder; did Tierney or whoever feeds him his arguments just not read the book, and instead accept what criticisms he/they reads elsewhere as absolute truth; or did he/they find the need to embellish the original, from a feeling that criticising it as it stands would not be severe enough? Pfah.

And another one:
"She's a favorite of people who with few real scientific credentials [sic] --people who prefer a quasi-religion of environmentalism to serious intellectual inquiry or critical thought about environmental issues."
Unlike the scientifically credentialed author, of course: "Eli Lehrer is a writer in Arlington, VA."
Quite the polymath, he: "Eli Lehrer is a homeland-security manager for a Fortune 500 company and associate editor of The American Enterprise." http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-lehrer073003.asp
"Eli Lehrer is an associate fellow of the Sagamore Institute"
"Eli Lehrer is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute"
and, most accurately,
"Eli Lehrer, a living example of the Peter Principle who knows less about science than anyone on the staff, is the literary editor of SciTech magazine. As a medieval studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences, he thinks that wood-pulp based paper is a high-tech invention"