Hunting, not DDT, depleted falcon populations

Letter to the editor
Copyright 1998 Duane Johnson
September 5, 1998

Your Aug. 31 editorial promotes the scientifically unfounded belief that banning DDT was responsible for restoring the population of peregrine falcons.

When I was a boy in rural Indiana, falcons and other raptors were considered to be nuisance birds and were shot at every opportunity. Nests were commonly destroyed. The change in the public attitude toward the birds has had a much more profound effect than any perceived effect of banning DDT. After all, hunting pressure exterminated the passenger pigeon long before DDT was formulated.

Michael R. Fox, Phd., has prepared a background paper on the subject, accessible through Among the points Fox makes is that peregrine falcon populations are thriving in Alaska and Canada despite high DDT concentrations in body mass. He also reviews the history of the EPA role in banning DDT, which was not based on sound science, but rather on public pressure arising largely from Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring."

The World Health Organization opposed the ban, since DDT played a key role in controlling malaria and other tropical diseases. One wonders how many human lives have been lost because of the ban, for a very tenuous benefit.

Perhaps Carson's true legacy is the principle of subverting science for political ends, a principle that has been replicated in the Alar scare, the current global warming campaign, passive smoking risks, and many other such causes.

Columbia City

Comments on this posting?

Click here to post a public comment on the Trash Talk Bulletin Board.

Click here to send a private comment to the Junkman.

Material presented on this home page constitutes opinion of Steven J. Milloy.
Copyright © 1998 Steven J. Milloy. All rights reserved on original material. Material copyrighted by others is used either with permission or under a claim of "fair use." Site developed and hosted by WestLake Solutions, Inc.