Cultural Imperialism and the Ban on DDT

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) is embarked on a misguided campaign to ban the pesticide DDT under its Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Framework Convention. Tropical countries that sign this convention will seriously damage the health of their peoples.

DDT is the most cost-effective agent ever produced for the control of diseases spread by flies and mosquitoes. The US National Academy of Sciences estimates that DDT saved 500 million lives from malaria before 1970. In India, effective spraying virtually eliminated the disease by the 1960s. The number of malaria cases fell from 75 million in 1951 to 50,000 in 1961, and the number of malaria deaths from a million in the 1940's to a few thousand in the 1960s. The mosquito nets ubiquitous in my childhood disappeared from urban houses by the time I was at university in the late 1950s.

Then, in the 1970s, largely as a result of an environmental scare promoted by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring , foreign aid agencies and UN organizations stopped promoting DDT, and its usage declined. Mosquitoes soon hit back and endemic malaria returned to India. By 1997 the UNDP estimates that there were 2.6 million malaria cases.