Instapundit screws up again (Uganda, cotton, DDT)

July 5, 2008

Instapundit loves to roil waters, but he’s low on content, and everytime I see it, low on accuracy, too.

This is the entirety of Glenn Beck’sReynolds’s post linking to the rabidly anti-Rachel Carson, RWDB with a rant about DDT that lacks several key points of accuracy:

THE HIGH COST OF fighting malaria.

Six words and he’s wrong already. That’s quite a skill to be dead wrong in six words.

Our friend, Mr. Beck, at RWDB, has a news report from Uganda, and rather than note it and check for accuracy, he uses it as a tee for numerous shots and mulligans against science, scientists, environmentalists, health care workers, the EU, and anyone else who inhabited his latest delerium.

The story out of Africa is that a buyer of organic cotton refused to buy Ugandan cotton due to DDT contamination. True to the line of recent events, it’s not environmentalists who do anything , though the news story finds a way to blame them in the last paragraph. Instead, it’s a businessman.

But here are problems with the story:

  • There is no indication EU has anything to do with this failed purchase.
  • There is no indication that any environmentalist ever played a role — this is a Dutch purchasing company, shopping for organic cotton.
  • There is no indication that Uganda farmers can’t sell their cotton to other buyers.
  • There is no reason to presume that the cotton must be sold as “organic.”
  • There appears to be no indication of any DDT contamination.
  • It’s illegal to spray DDT on cotton in Uganda, as I understand it — if this cotton is contaminated, the problem is that DDT was diverted from malaria control. That’s not a problem for environmentalists — and, according to the PAN story cited above, farmers have incentives to keep it from happening.

Are we to believe that marauding anti-insect people roam Uganda, forcing farmers to steal DDT from health authorities and spray it on their cotton instead, against the farmer’s better interests?

Neither Glenn BeckReynolds at Instapundit nor the other Beck at RWDB bothered to check the facts, nor even to see whether the first face story passes the smell test. Where would DDT contamination come from? Why would a buyer refuse cotton if there’s no DDT contaminant? Why wouldn’t there be tests? Where are the test results? If EU is so down on DDT on cotton, where is the document that says so?

The company in the news story, ineptly named as it is, Bo-Weevil, does exist, it appears, either there or in the Netherlands. That surely is not the only cotton buyer for the EU. The first BoWeevil isn’t an EU company, since it’s headquartered in Tennessee. From their website:

Welcome to Bo-Weevil Eco Sportswear Mfg. LLC., nestled in the hills of Tazewell, Tennessee.

Producers of the most earth friendly clothing on the planet.

Bo-Weevil Eco started manufacturing and supplying clothing with one main vision: “Provide our customers with the highest quality clothing that integrates current fashions with timeless style, to create lifestyle clothing that brings awareness to care what you wear.”

We are a company that practices to restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Doing so by being at the forefront of U.S.A. factories producing a line of women’s, men’s, kids and k-9 apparel made by pre-consumer recycled fibres. We are working to create change in the textile industry; to offer one step on the path to more sensible and sustainable use of resources in the production of basic commodities.

So, how does the EU get into this story at all? The second company, I can find listed only through a post at Pesticide Action Network, a source that is not always reliable on such issues.

Smell test: Does this sound accurate to you? When was the last time you saw anyone at Wal-Mart demand organic cotton?

The use of DDT has now affected cotton prices in the region. Patrick Oryang from Lango Cooperative told All Africa, “We are buying cotton at sh500 per kilogram instead of sh750. The country will lose about US$20 million because EUREP-GAP, an EU exporters body, has suspended buying products from the region because the consumers in Europe and America want purely organic products.”

What’s the real story?

Neither Beck nor Reynolds seems to care. They get a dig at environmentalists, so what if Ugandans get malaria?

Update, sorta: News from Uganda, in New Vision, seems to indicate that the EU has okayed the wise use of DDT in Uganda, contrary to claims of an EU ban (July 10 story). You can’t help but wish there were some good, clear reporting of this issue, from BBC or Reuters, or someone in Kampala besides these few, shallow news dailies.


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