Letters > The absence of balance: the environmental lobby, poverty and malaria

04 July 2014

The absence of balance: the environmental lobby, poverty and malaria

One can only hope for a positive outcome in the trials of the GM Anopheles mosquito described by John Kitui (The Tablet, 28 June) as a path for eliminating the human toll from malaria.

Quite by coincidence Malaysia has recently confirmed the release of 6,000 GM Aedes aegyptii mosquitos directed against dengue fever. John Kitui believes it will be some time before GM mosquito campaign can really get going, even though about half a million children under the age of five are still dying each year still from a disease we failed to control 40 years ago. We failed to eliminate it because of the premature and ill-founded ban on DDT, a substance thought to have saved the lives of two billion people and which didn’t kill anybody. The 1968 statement by Paul Ehrlich, a well-known environmentalist, that “every life saved this year in a poor country diminishes the quality of life for subsequent generations”, adds a more sinister dimension to the background for the ban.

The limited form of thought responsible for the DDT ban is still in evidence today in the opposition of environmentalist groups to the use of Golden Rice, a GM crop designed to prevent Vitamin A deficiency related deaths. Here the toll is put at two million children a year. The Green Revolution of Norman Borlaug gave the lie to the claims in Ehrlich’s Population Bomb. Our vastly increased food supply does not come without some cost, but the naïve projection of the rural idyll in Transylvania (The Tablet, 28 June) typically overlooks the positive. Given the experience of other populations that have been put into eco-zoos the Transylvanians should act quickly.

Dr Michael Hughes, Newbury

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