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There is little that is more annoying for a policy analyst than when two types of wrong-headedness conspire to undermine his case. As inappropriate policies are implemented, society becomes worse off, and the instigators of stupid policies feel emboldened by their ‘success’ and move on to interfere ever more passionately in our lives. Such is the case for policies driven by the pursuit of a pesticide-free, or at least a pesticide-diminished, future, which will cause an increase in insect-borne disease. When this happens, as it surely will, climate alarmists will claim the problem is due to emissions and not due to their policies, and will press for more stringent controls.
In mid-October 2007, former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his climate change campaigning. Two weeks later the United Nations Environment Program published its Global Environment Outlook, claiming the world was running headlong toward disaster by ignoring environmental problems. Both announcements made numerous headlines, prompting politicians to show off their green awareness and commitment.
The Pesticide Action Network Europe argues that children are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure, and with laughable specificity given the paucity of data claims children are 164 times more at risk from up to 13 organophosphate pesticides than adults.
Members of the European Parliament were urged by environmental groups and Green MEPs to mandate lower pesticide use across Europe. The Pesticide Action Network Europe argues that children are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure, and with laughable specificity given the paucity of data claims children are 164 times more at risk from up to 13 organophosphate pesticides than adults.a German Green MEP, said that at 260,000 tonnes per year, Europe accounts for 25% of the
Hiltrud Breyer, world’s consumption of pesticides. ‘We should show the red card to dangerous substances such as those which cause cancer’. Breyer actually prepared the MEPs’ environment committee’s official stance on the subject, in response to the European Commission’s proposals to halve pesticide use. Inevitably, MEPs agreed to numerous measures that will make it harder to use pesticides in future. MEPs supported a general ban on aerial spraying of pesticides and heavy restrictions on the use of them near schools, playgrounds, parks, recreation grounds and hospitals.
In their well-meant desire to eliminate potential risks, MEPs have overlooked a stone-cold certainty. Infections carried by insects, especially malaria, are mankind’s most successful killers. When West Nile virus arrived in New York around 1999, probably carried by a bird which had been bitten by a mosquito, widespread insecticide spraying of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey would probably have controlled the disease. Instead, officials dithered, as environmental groups protested, arguing spraying was more dangerous than the disease. West Nile virus has now spread to almost every US state. Over 700 people have died from the disease.
Contrary to popular belief, mosquito experts continually try to tell us that mosquitoes can survive almost anywhere. Professor Paul Reiter, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, gave written evidence to the House of Lords of a malaria epidemic in the Soviet Union in the 1920s which had a peak incidence of 13 million cases per year. Transmission was high in many parts of Siberia, and there were 30,000 cases and 10,000 deaths in Archangel, close to the Arctic Circle. Professor Reiter insists that the principal factors involved in the alarming increase in malaria are deforestation, new agricultural practices, population increase, urbanisation, poverty, civil conflict, war, AIDS, resistance to anti-malarials and resistance to insecticides: not climate–worrying about the weather is a tragic distraction.
Some MEPs are surely old enough to remember that malaria persisted in many parts of Europe until the advent of DDT. Holland was finally declared malaria-free only in 1970. Unlike West Nile virus, malaria is easily spread among humans, and children suffer the highest fatality. An outbreak is not impossible and we may have neutralised our capacity to protect ourselves.
Green self-fulfilling prophecies are upon us. Unless we expose them today, we will suffer more idiotic and dangerous policies in the future.
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.
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