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DDT promoters schooled by scientists (again)

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"Stop raising doubt where there is consensus." "Take an online course in epidemiology!" These were but two of the admonitions scientists and malariologists directed at Africa Fighting Malaria's representative at a Geneva symposium on malaria last week.

Richard Tren, who spoke at the meeting for Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), is an economist by training whose public career has included manufacturing doubt about climate change as well as spreading misinformation about the effectiveness of DDT in controlling malaria.Not ones to bow to or even admit global scientific consensus, Tren, Roger Bate and other DDT promoters recently self-published The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Political and Scientific history — a remarkable title given the authors’ lack of relevant scientific expertise. AFM is a Washington, DC and South Africa-based organization linked to free-market think tanks including the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

At the Geneva symposium scientists who have been attacked by AFM for their work documenting the human health harms of DDT took the opportunity to tell Tren he should leave discussions of DDT health impacts and its use in malaria control to scientists, doctors and public health experts. It was Dr. Paul Saoke of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Kenya, who urged Tren to “stop raising doubt where there is consensus.” As we reported in July, Drs. Hans Herren and Charles Mbogo  — both with extensive malaria control experience and expertise in Africa, publicly corrected AFM in an open letter published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Mbogo, a physician from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, stressed the on-the-ground track record of non-DDT control methods: “The safe and proven effective approach to controlling malaria involves ongoing monitoring of the disease, use of evidence-based measures, cost-effective, locally appropriate, sustainable, and socially acceptable community-based approaches.” Even a pesticide industry representative at the symposium (from CropLife International) stressed the need for development of DDT alternatives for malaria control.

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