US Senate Committee Testimony

Roger Bate & Richard Tren | 28 Sep 2005
Africa Fighting Malaria

Written Testimony of Roger Bate[1] and Richard Tren[2] to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the role of science in environmental policy making, Wednesday 28th September, 2005, Room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for inviting Africa Fighting Malaria to submit written testimony to this most valuable hearing. Africa Fighting Malaria is a health advocacy group based in South Africa and the US. We monitor the activities of aid agencies and health groups in Africa, and in other parts of the world, and advise those interested in policies to combat malaria and other diseases.

Executive Summary

This committee seeks to understand the influence of science in public policy and consequences of the misuse of that science in such policy. There can be few more compelling and tragic examples of the abuse of science and misuse in ongoing public policy than that of DDT and public health.

DDT helped eradicate malaria from Europe and the United States in the 1950s, and was used to eradicate malaria in many other countries in the following two decades. It is still used widely in at least a dozen countries (perhaps as many as two dozen), but these countries have been discouraged by virtually all United Nations organizations, donor agencies and commercial interests.

DDT is safe for human use and there has never been a peer-reviewed replicated study showing any human harm from the chemical, even though billions have been exposed to it (hundreds of millions in moderate to high doses). Its bioaccumulation and persistence in the environment have caused far less harm than is commonly believed. But small problems did occur when massive amounts were used in farming, and today, quite correctly, it is used solely in disease control where tiny amounts are used. But some environmental groups continue to conflate tiny vital use in disease control with massive and potentially dangerous use in agriculture. These groups have sustained pressure against its use for over three decades with disastrous results. Today, their mistaken rhetoric is repeated by aid agencies around the world.

The UN's World Health Organization has dithered and although not rhetorically opposed to DDT has purchased none in recent years. The malaria program of the United States Agency for International Development has been the subject of other Senate hearings for failure to use DDT, or even to make significant purchases of any useful commodities. Very recently a senior manager within the German corporation, Bayer Crop Sciences, has gone on record supporting EU threats of trade sanctions against those countries that seek to use DDT solely for malaria control.

Ultimately it is poor children in Africa that pay for these policy failures, based on abused science. As President Bush has announced a massive increase in federal funds for malaria control, we urge the US Government to insist that years of scaremongering and bad science be reversed and to take a strong stance against the EU and Bayer Crop Sciences.

Download the full testimony here:

[1] US Director Africa Fighting Malaria, Resident Fellow American Enterprise Institute.
[2] South African Director, Africa Fighting Malaria.