Roundtable Discussion of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson's latest book Silent Spring created a storm of controversy even before its publication in September. Scientists have both hailed and condemned Silent Spring the educational radio network presents an intercity discussion of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring with a distinguished panel representing both sides of the controversy. As we take up the topic of pesticides and ask the question how silent is spring participating on the E.R. and round table from Boston. Richard Borden president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society in New York City. Robert Kaufman Murphy Lamont Karaite are emeritus of Byrd's research associate and oceanic birds at the American Museum of Natural History in Philadelphia. Dr. Thomas H Jewkes director of bio chemistry agricultural division of the American scion of MIT company. And in Washington D.C. Robert S. Rowe director of the Bureau of biological and physical sciences the Food and Drug Administration. Now here is your moderator Milton Sachs dean of students at Brandeis University Dean sex.
There are those of course who have taken the position that. Interfering with what is called a balance of nature is wrong per se and that man should not behave this way. And over on the other side there are those who subordinate all of our natural environment to what they consider to be the needs of man. In a sense the discussion about Rachel Carson's book fits into these into this continuing debate. And of course the participants take their positions along the spectrum stemming from one pole or another of these two antipathetic positions. Perhaps our listeners will find that some mixture is what is really desirable but without prejudicing the issue. I would like to first begin by asking a direct question about the book itself and indicate what I consider to be from the American siamak company a position which in a sense makes it difficult and creates difficulty as far as the entire discussion we have tonight. And I'm quoting here. Referring to the new book that Miss Carson has published there is a statement by Robert White Stephens of the American cyan of a company the facts and fallacies of science bring to this effect. It is somewhat sobering to realize that urban people have the controlling vote and can therefore if sufficiently aroused to propel legislation through Congress which could literally shatter the manse of American agriculture and with it the entire scope of our civilization. It would not be until after the damage was done and the insects and diseases had boiled back to depress off production and raise its cost by a factor of perhaps five. That the incredible damage to our total economy would be fully recognized. To paraphrase Mark Twain this is really a case of free speech allowing someone to cry Fire erroneous Lee in a crowded theater. That is one statement he makes and a few pages later he says but suffice it to say that Miss Carson has written a significant piece. If for the sole reason that it will smoke the agricultural chemists out from their laboratories and conference rooms and force them to justify their resume d'être before an aroused and justifiably curious public. Now it seems to me these are two antipathetic statement. Normally we say shouting fire in a crowded theater is a reason for suppressing freedom of speech and then to argue the reverse that we are here getting a public service by smoking out those who have a responsibility to the public implies a good and I'd like to begin first by in a sense putting our participants tonight in identifying the opposition. What do you really think about Miss Carson Silent Spring. Taken as a whole. Is it something like crowd shouting fire in a crowded theater or is it a public service that Miss Carson has performed. Suppose we begin with. Mr. Borden here in Boston.
Well I feel it's definitely a service in that she has dramatized something that we feel and have felt all the way along is a very vital issue. And it isn't like yelling fire in a theater. It is raising implications that will and we feel are definitely in sewing from this sort of a program of mass insects inside spraying now such organizations as ours is the master's Audubon Society are not opposed to spraying and we realize the importance of agricultural spraying both from public health and disease control and also agriculture. But we are very alarmed Needless to say about the implication of broad insecticide programs dealing with what we like to call static and nuisance insects. Now just the apple of fire that mosquitoes in our section of the country are not a public health menace with in most instances it's a straight proposition of nuisance and spraying by cities and towns of large areas for mosquito control. Without understanding its long term implication not only with all the wildlife values involved but human values. So we we we raise a real question about that here in New England also you have the problem of Dutch elm disease and the preserving of these lovely shade trees. Now needless to say we all want to preserve that. But do we want to pay that high a price particularly when it is shown that this continuing spraying roadside spraying of Allums is not succeeding and that the best way is to remove dead trees immediately and stop the spread of the disease. The only other case that I would use would be the case of gypsy moth where we've sprayed extensively here in New England. And again it's anesthetic spraying gypsy moths do not kill trees. They cause a nuisance and no more and a little later I don't want to take too much time now. I would be glad to point out the position that the Massachusetts Audubon Society has taken on this very important issue.
Mr. Jukes in Philadelphia yes I do not think that the statements made by my colleague Dr. White Stephens are antagonistic in the least. The second statement in which he said that this is performing a service and smoking out the scientists from behind the benches is overstated by the fact that I'm able to appear on this program tonight. Now with regard to Silent Spring I think it's a very bad book because it is because it's on truthful and distorted. For example on page 121 it states that research by Dr. Drew which show that quail in the hous diet DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season produce fertile eggs but few of the eggs hatched. And I'm quoting this Carson What doctor do it actually reported was that 67 percent of the eggs hatched from the birds receiving DDT as compared with 82 percent of the controls. Now I have a study in poultry nutrition and this different size show you could be due to chance. Furthermore the quail received 200 parts of DDT per million of diet which is about 30 times the amount permitted in any agricultural product. Furthermore Miss Causton states that of those that did hatch more than half die within five days while Dr. DeWitt reported in a second experiment that 97 percent of young quail survived attain we test on 100 parts per million of DDT in the diet while only 82 percent of the control survived. Obviously the book was not competently edited. I speak as a scientific editor of some years standing I think Silent Spring is a bad book because the author writes about toxicology without understanding it. The first principle of toxicology is that there is a safe doze and a toxic dose for every chemical and common table salt is just as poisonous as any other chemical if you will be on the safe dose. I was shown recently when the babies died in a New York hospital. To show a picture of Silent Spring does depicting DDT as so poisonous letters as beyond the dreams of the Borgias is an art of all sort. DDT has saved more lives than any single agent in history of the world. I quote Dr pile of the Indian mineral Institute since 1933 about 147 million pounds of DDT have been used in India as a result of malaria in India has been reduced from 75 million cases to less than 5 million. The average span of life in India is now 47 years as compared with thirty two years before the eradication campaign. The tier-I region once abandoned by its inhabitants because of malaria has become a beautiful and prosperous area and a quotation. Apparently the bird population in the United States is exploding as in the complement of the widespread usage pattern. Guys. On September 26 the New Jersey farm bureau joined local farmers in their war on black birds starlings grackles and power birds and the Audubon Society voiced no objection. This was stated in the New York Times and the National Audubon Society's annual bird census showed a Christmas Bird Count in 1940. Nine hundred part observer. In 1950 it was thirteen hundred for observer and in 1960 it was five thousand eight hundred per observer. The average annual robing count increased nine fold. Miss Carson says Robinson exterminated robins are increasing faster than starlings percentage wise. The red winged black bird which inhabited which inhabits marshes that a spray with DDT increased 14 fold in 12 years probably due to protection against mosquito bites which carry bird diseases as shown in Hawaii by the University of Hawaii. I think the book Silent Spring is a hoax.
Thank you very much jokes for a very forthright and strong opening statement. I believe we now have with us Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. And I'd like to have him comment on whether he thinks the book Taken as a whole is performing a public service or is the hoax that he's just heard it described as.
I naturally agree on the basis of my experience. And regarding this book as an extremely important and mainly truthful document. The last speaker mentions something that came up in the course of our trial against the Department of Agriculture with a reference to the increased numbers of birds in Christmas censuses. Naturally the DDT man had not sprayed Labrador Greenland and the tundra country of the north where the great bulk of the birds in the Christmas census come from. The species we see only in the winter season. Examples of some of the same species that come down in a partial migration so that that argument does not hold water. There are more and more observers of birds and their numbers are bound to increase. And I should say that the great increase in starlings and red being black birds and so on is one of the undesirable features of the replacements of large numbers of species by. Large numbers of individuals in a few species now Miss caution is quite as forthright as Dick Lawton was in saying throughout the books that she is not opposing spraying per see but on Long Island. What we objected to was the weasel words the hop Kreutz which we were all fed there in advance of the protest in 1957 spraying. They said all the spraying in this dilution will not harm fish but we recommend that you cover your pools if you can. They say it will not damage seriously the surface finish of motor cars. But we also recommend that you keep them in the garage on the day when the spraying is announced. Now only a few days ago on November 25th the Department of Agriculture came out with a press releases saying that Suffolk County Nassau County generally infected again with the gypsy moss which is a fault state run. It was not generally infected befogged under oath during the trial.
The department admitted that there were only 37 centers in Suffolk County centers of infections some of which represented a single tree and in for that purpose they sprayed 100 square miles of country including salt Matias and dairy farms and open plains because payment was made not by the square mile of a car but by that gallon. The 37 cent tires admitted them on now 600 all more perhaps many more. Which is exactly what we could expect. The TAC kenned fly is the Newman wasps the Korat beetles were wiped out to a greater extent than the photography of the spraying along with no god only knows how many water insects and fish frogs and toads and salamanders and birds. What Doc did you says about the red winged black birds and so on may be true but on Long Island the hermit thrushes of Suffolk County the only place where they breed south of the mountains have been virtually wiped out. A common bird like the tremendous West has been reduced since the spring of 1957 on Long Island where we used to see perhaps a thousand a day. We didn't make counts. My particular law just count since that day has been three parts summer. Now I can talk on but I'm going to stop since also that someone else may speak up and hope to come in again.
Well thank you very for a very forthright statement joining issue I'd like to turn in. Lastly for a general comment to Robert S. Rowe who was director of the biological physical sciences. Section of the Food and Drug Administration can you comment on this without committing your agency because I assume that what you say will be in an individual capacity when it comes to talking about the book.
Well I will speak in an individual capacity but of course I can hardly divorce myself from my agency either. I don't seem to be quite as well prepared to make a speech here at this time as my colleagues seem to have ban. But let me say this whether respect to the book. I would not term it a hoax. Nor do I think it can be applauded without some reservation. I think that the disasters and the hazards and the mess of venture is that Miss Carson has depicted in this book are largely due to misuses of pesticides careless uses and and adequate planning of the programs some of which did leave to bad results. I think it is generally agreed among scientists and those in position to know that American agriculture today could not exist and produce the foods that it does produce without the use of pesticides. I think one of the other speakers mentioned that Miss Carson wasn't condemning past decides completely. I think that's true. I heard her speak here in Washington a month or so ago and her same was as she expressed it the condemnation of misuses careless uses. And I think with that we all can agree certainly pesticides pose hazards their poisons if they weren't poisonous they wouldn't be of any value for the purposes for which they are used. So I think I think if this book does bring to public attention the problems involve the hazards involved the need for careful use of past decides that it will have served a good purpose if it brings to the attention of the country the need for adequate regulation adequate support of such agencies of this as the Food and Drug Administration which is charged with the protection of the public whether it's back to the safety of foods. It will have done a good service. On the other hand the book is not completely fair in its perspective. And if it should lead to public alarm in the way of a public hysteria it might do some disservice. But I think that the facts here do show that there is need for great care in the use of pesticides. This after all is only one segment one factor one indication of some of the new hazards in our environment due to the advances of science in this atomic age.
Thank you very much. Throw. I wonder if we could separate out one of two items that have been referred to just to focus our discussion a little bit closer. Let's take this bird issue which has been raised I hope by the end of the evening we'll touch on some other aspects of the general problem.
Would you say Mr. Jukes on the basis of your examination of Miss Carson's book and granting perhaps that your particular statement about the problem of sterility in that particular study you mention may not have been interpreted properly.
Are you prepared to say on balance that the evidence which he cites with respect to the loss of birds in various areas where pesticides have been used extensively is not substantiated by the material that she sets forth.
Yes I am prepared to say that on referring to our original source material another source she quotes as a source that appeared in England from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and they have a long table in which birds were picked up and alleged to be killed by pesticide in some cases they were found to have worm infestations and other parasitic infestations. Now with respect to him. Mr. and Murphy's very good point about the census being conducted to some extent in regions like Labrador where there are large flocks of migrants out all the senses are birds who have flown down here from lab or gotten that get into the Christmas census. Yes very true. Now of the some of these however such as the Mockingbird in the cardinal and the flicker have not come from Labrador and their numbers have increased very markedly the mockingbird went up threefold. The figures I quoted were not to uncorrected with respect to the number of individuals involved I gave the figures in terms of counts per observer going up from 900 1940 to 5800 in 1960 and the robin count which Miss Carson says is on the verge of extinction has gone up nine fold nine hundred forty nine in 1960.
That's often a severe drought I think.
All I know is that we have firearms notice around our house today and SWAT was bought off a brood of young on our front porch we had to use a side door. I found a golden crowned king of its nest in a bush beside the front door the first of us in my life. Mockingbird and that's in our printed page and this Fall of course. The grounds were covered with black birds which are to some bird watchers are anathema but I don't think so I think the black birds deserve their place in the college and I think they're very attractive interesting birds.
Mr. Borden had made a point a moment ago or at least interrupted I'd like him to continue. Would you tell us what your experiences here are in connection with the bird population.
Certainly he and the robins in particular are very competent observers here in Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England. Noting a very marked decline and these sort of figures that Dr. Fuchs is quoting I think of more misleading than he would like us to believe. I would like to read just and. To show you that we're not just talking about birds. The Massachusetts Audubon Society's position just two small paragraphs. We do not oppose many general insect control programs as now carried on using broad spectrum chemical inst insecticides because of that damaging long term effect on soil water fish animals and birds not just birds. And further another paragraph we oppose the use of public funds for the indiscriminate and widespread application of insecticides having dangerous or unknown potentials. And in the absence of expert biology biological research we oppose all widespread application of insects against nuisance against Newson insects. Now Doctor folks I think you're a body you're about as eager to talk about this subject as a cigarette manufacturer is about lung cancer and the implication here we feel is real and is long as the public believes they're safe and as long as this program continues. The ultimate spin out is going to be very hard to tell and we feel that some break should be applied.
Would you agree with Gordon. Interesting to have your comment on lung cancer I'm going to the prominence of the Sloan Kettering Institute tomorrow on this subject.
We're working with Dr. winder in that field to say that Mr. Carson doesn't oppose the use of pesticides as a point I suppose he just says they cause cancer in boys and babies. She doesn't oppose a use with respect to mosquitoes not being a public health menace. We saw in New Jersey two years ago what happened when there was an unsettling news outbreak we saw it again in Florida this summer when the Audubon Society in New York advised Florida daughters not to get bitten by mosquitoes but the people lived in Florida and were exposed to disease before spraying.
I wonder are you referred to Britain before and I have Miss Carter's book here. Are you suggesting that the that she misquoted the information from Great Britain. As far as the number of birds that were found to have been affected she says in the book here in a joint report the British trust for anthology and the Royal Society for Protection of Birds described some sixty seven kills of birds far from complete listing of the structure that took place in the spring in 1960. Of these 67 59 were caused by sea dressings and ate by toxic sprays and then she refers to the fact that a committee that had been set up reported to the House of Commons that the Minister of Agriculture the Secretary of State for Scotland should secure the immediate prohibition for the use of seed dressings of compounds containing the elder an Al Green or help to chloro chemicals of comparable toxins to city. Are you suggesting that. This action of this committee and its recommendation to the House of Commons was unwarranted or that Miss Carson is wrong in citing such information.
I'm suggesting that if you refer to the original book a book which I have before me the number of birds analyzed was less than forty nine. I'm suggesting that most of these birds were pigeons according to appendix one in the book which of course the farmer patrols his fields for with a shotgun when after he saw his corn and also suggesting that would be advisable to use a last talk sexy dressing and I believe that has been done I think a great deal of fast has been laid over an incident which has been described by so WM slighter of the Royal Society. Former Secretary of Agriculture Research Council England. He calculated that the number of bodies and thousands that died of natural causes in Great Britain was well over five millions as compared with a few hundreds reported as being killed by chemicals.
You see these birds have a tremendous potential breeding potential clashes of some 10 to 12 eggs and a simple calculation will show you that if a pair of pheasants is placed on an acre and if all the young survives even if they are adults only live one year they will be about six pheasants per square foot in five years so how dangerous that no danger of that because there are many forces that hold men Jack and if a new force comes along and kills some of them off they breed and bring up the population to the amount that is a ceiling as controlled by food supply and other natural enemies.
I take it then that the what in effect the issue that we have here is that on the one hand your contention Mr. Jukes is that whatever lost there is in bird life will more than be made up by the natural ability of the birds to reproduce. Whereas the claim that's being made by the opponents of your position is that even granting the care which you're taking and should take with these spraying materials the toxicity of some of them are such a character as yet so that there is a threat to the existing species on a selective basis am I correct in my general conclusion before we proceed to the next item I don't propose to take sides myself. What would you say to that Mr Murphy in New York.
Well there's no question whatsoever. The elimination of birds over large areas by this publications of Wallace State University of Michigan show that six months after the spraying of elms for Dutch elm disease the earthworms ingested by robins killed practically the entire population over thousands and thousands of acres. There's no question about that there's no question about the reduction of the pine and the hermit thrushes on Long Island the home of threshers the finest singer we have. There's no question about the widespread and general elimination of such useful creatures as the frogs and the toads and the water living insects. There's no question that the most annoying mosquito on the entire Atlantic seaboard is virtually immune to DDT. All o New York City in a single year. Recently New York City spent two hundred fifty thousand dollars in spraying which the entomologist tell us probably didn't kill a mosquito. They have become immune.
The Department of Agriculture claims. A single elimination of an insect passed by DDT or another chlorinated hydrocarbon and that is the Mediterranean fruit fly which they say was actually eliminated in Florida. It pops up again every little while but then they say Well that is not survival. That is a new importation of them now. Otherwise they only use these general sprays is to assure you one year's crop of vegetables or some other market product. None of these sprays. I sure any future. While the lamb and it's a life you can spray you may have to spray food stops growing food stuffs but you're not doing anything to the ultimate elimination of the pests. You can eliminate them for a single year and at what a price. And in this same statement released on appearing in the press on the 25th of November the arrogance of the sprayers and saying we're not going to do it again on Long Island you've got to take the consequences well they know mighty well that they wouldn't dare do it again because the result in the caucus would be quite different. The last case was all lost on lay on a techno technicality and the arrogance of this men to these men to say there was DDT in Long Island milk I quote now not enough to hurt you. Now who are they to say that when the tolerance in milk of DDT is zero as audited by the United States health and welfare services. One of them got to jail last shipping from state to state.
If it has any DDT and yet these bug man tell us not enough to hurt you I think by way of explanation the last reference and we might continue with that is that Mr Murphy made has to do with the causal chain that is set up. Where the DDT goes into the soil and then it suggested by some of the insects and by plants and ultimately ends up in the ingested by cows we would then give the milk in the DDT the concentrate.
I would like to get to that point because I think is an important problem involved here and takes over into the food area. Miss Carson in her book is very clear on this point alleging that the use of the elder in has resulted in a cumulative deposit. Which has affected the liver and she says It's interesting to note the shot rises in hepatitis. It began during the 1015 and is continuing to fluctuating climb. Cirrhosis also is said to be increasing and I'd like to ask Mr. Roe in Washington do you have any evidence that the use of insecticides has in fact through such a causal chain resulted in the poisoning of food which men and women ingest.
No I have no evidence that the disease conditions mentioned are related to past decides. But nevertheless there are real problems whether respect to what happens to pesticides in the soil in the plants and on the plants in the atmosphere what changes take place. There are chemical changes sometimes through oxidation through certain pesticides that are actually taken up into the systems of the plant sometimes called systemic ce. Why how do they metabolize in the plant and what are the products of metabolism are they also poisons or are there not. Are they not poisons it is known that and most of the metabolites of pesticide chemicals are no less toxic but there are some that are just as toxic or maybe more toxic. Now these are just some of the problems that are involved on which investigations more investigations are needed in order to be sure that our controls and our regulations our methods of analysis are interpretations of results of analyses are adequate. But I think that perhaps the author is jumping too far to suggest that cirrhosis and hapa Titus are related to a specific past beside chemicals. There are many factors involved and this. Let me give a little perspective to this also in terms of the development of some of the regulations and the controls.
This book is not the first declaration of some of the hazards of this scientific age.
The Congress of the United States back in 1950 set up a select committee to investigate the use of chemicals in foods.
And later they expanded that to investigate chemicals and cosmetics.
This because of the realisation of the developments in chemistry and the vast number of new chemical compounds that had been introduced and for uses pesticides and agriculture for use in other ways that might leave residues and food. And regarding many of these new chemicals little if anything was known about their toxicity this select committee held hearings for two years throughout the country receiving testimony from scientists of universities and industry and government. In June 1952 they rendered a report in which the majority of the committee recommended that legislation be adopted to strengthen the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and its public protective features. Whether respect to foods. This resulted in the chemicals amendment in 1954. Subsequently the food additive amendment in 1958 and the Colorado Dave amendment in 1960. Now the stated purpose of all of these amendments was to require the safety testing of chemicals before they are used in ways that might place residues in food or otherwise affect the nutritive qualities of food. This then placed on the Food and Drug Administration added authority to regulate but also greatly increased responsibilities and following these enactments work has been done to establish regulations that set safe tolerances in the case of pesticide chemicals and regulations that define Safe Uses of food additives. So much has been done I think one of the shortcomings perhaps of the Carson book is that it doesn't emphasize enough some of the affirmative things but nevertheless there are real problems here. There is a real need for a public understanding for understanding by all users of pesticide chemicals that they are poisons when used correctly and carefully. They provide good crops and serve a real good purpose when used carelessly or not in accordance with good practice they may result in considerable harm.
So thank you Mr. O. Before we go on with our next respondent I'd like to reintroduce our guests for all is the public here with me in Boston Richard Borden president of the Massachusetts order months Sidey in New York City.
Robert Cushman Murphy Lamont curator emeritus of Byrd's research associate in the American Museum of Natural History in Philadelphia Dr. Thomas Duke's director of biochemistry and cultural division of the American cyan of my company. And in Washington D.C. Robert S. Rowe director of the Bureau of biological and physical sciences the Food and Drug Administration. I'd like to go on a little bit with the line of investigation that you've opened up. Mr. Roe by citing something from Miss Carson's book. Oh talks about organic phosphate poisoning and the relation it has to. Nervous System. And she talks about the link being provided the University of Melbourne and Prince Henry Hospital in Melbourne where 16 cases of mental disease took place on the part of those who had a prolonged exposure to organic phosphorus insecticides along with this. She then has the claim that many of the Smiths much of this material is cos and genetic in the sense of producing cancer. And I would like to ask Mr. Jukes whether he regards that citation with respect to the link between nervous disorder and the cost of the general qualities of some of these insecticides having been established in any way.
I have not seen any evidence for this work with DDT was done in the laboratories of the Food and Drug Administration.
I believe this was a prolonged study with a very high level and rats and there were a few cases of liver tumors both on the control diet and on the rats or in the rats receiving DDT. Obviously DDT was carcinogenic its use would not be permitted. And obviously the tremendous amount that has been used in conditions to which human beings effects have been exposed has not really resulted in any increased incidence of cancer it's very easy to say that chemicals cause cancer.
And it's very difficult to prove they do not cause sunlight causes cancer that's generally accepted. And for Mr. Gordon's benefit I presume that cigarette smoke causes cancer since cigarette smoke contains carcinogens one can argue that way very logically and I believe that we have to be very careful carcinogens but there are certainly enough to watch out for that are known carcinogens without inventing carcinogens. I believe I share Mr. Murch his fondness for the hermit thrush.
I expect to see the hermit thrush when I go to the Sierra Nevada for the evolution country or when I go to the Green Mountains of Vermont. But I think we must recognize that not and we should not blame just pesticides for the loss or the retreat of some of our own more delicate species those that stand at the top of the apex of biological parents are apt to be disturbed by the urbanization of regions like Long Island I believe. We certainly need a new insecticides we are constantly searching for those that are more selectively toxic and this work of course is not helped very much by a book like Miss Carson's because it makes chemical manufacturers Lohse to embark on research programs looking for better and safer insecticides. This is one of Jackson's we have to it. Also there are hundreds of dedicated scientists such as Mr Rau and his group people in the IRA cultural colleges and the US Department of Agriculture constantly improving and protecting the food supply. And all this is pretty much brushed off by in this caution with regard to the organic phosphates and high doses of course these are highly poisonous especially some of the older ones such as power. They do cause a depression of acid he'll call in air strikes in the blood but I don't believe that they have definitely been established as causing anything but that when small amounts of the type that would be encountered normally use are ingested.
Would you care to say anything on this subject from New York.
I won't because I see that the proponents. These poisons are constantly dodging the issue. We know what has happened. I know I was in the midst of it on Long Island and gathered a great deal of evidence and had a pot in the analysis of many kinds of vegetables and many dead bodies of birds and other organisms. We know what happened in the southern states when the families who had called in the government for that absurd campaign against a fire and finally ended up by saying For God's sake get out of here. We know what has taken place.
Now we we don't say Miss Carson hasn't said. Mr. Borden hasn't said I have never said that we can't use these things but they have been used irresponsibly and dishonestly beyond measure. We know what has happened in New Brunswick rivers when some miserable campaign against. Spruce cause the death of 15 million salmon.
According to Canadian figures when the same thing in the rivers of the Yellowstone system killed nearly all the fish in the rivers and the bug worm is there afterwards the gypsy moth on Long Island is there are many fold more than it was in 1957 when the Flyers sprayed all the salty metals and killed all the fiddler crabs which is an indication of an enormous mortality of useful creatures and they were. The gypsy moth has simply multiplied. It's my opinion that if they had been left alone with their 37 little samples of infection in Suffolk County and some of those sprayed from the ground would have been entirely reasonable. The enemies of predatory enemies would have remained and we would have had no more on now or perhaps few out than we had in 1957. But now we have hundreds of Santas of infection instead of the thirty seven we had then. We want no more of that.
I think that's a rather strong statement would you care to reply I missed you.
I don't know what would have happened to the gypsy moth if it had not been sprayed but that one's usual experience with insects is that they spread to new centers. I don't know what the gypsy moth count is on Long Island and I'll have to bow to Murphy's knowledge of that particular factor.
However with respect to the spruce bad one here was a dilemma apparently in Canada and I believe this was settled by the Canadian governmental authorities that they wanted to try to preserve the spruce forests against the insects and they apparently went into this with their eyes open I heard a discussion of this some years ago. Probably won't be need there is either some more selective insecticide or else we'll just have to that the spruce farce go.
That is you recognize that this did do damage to the Salmon of a serious kind.
Oh yes yes we write we recognize this this was a well-known fact that there was a killing in fish now with fish. Here is something definite that you can put your finger on. But when birds are picked up and just shown have DDT in the liver and you don't know the algae 50 DDT of that species this is just guessing. But when the fish can be very carefully evaluated with respect to their response to insecticides and they are very sensitive to them. Would you care to comment Mr. Borden.
Dr. Drew you seem to be very interested in birds and on a theology which pleases us very much. Would you realizing the fact that biological research can never keep pace or hold its own with the rate at which these new insecticides are being developed in you. Would you feel favorably towards a suggestion a way by perhaps 1 percent of your gross on insecticide manufacture for a year was earmarked for biological and field research.
Well I don't make the decisions in the financial problem and I certainly think that this would be a great step forward yes. As far as wiping out an insect is concerned we never expect to be able to do that because only about 5 percent of the land in the United States gets sprayed. So obviously there's always a reservoir of infection from which you can come back. Just as in rabies and other diseases we can't eliminate disease completely and we can't eliminate an insect completely. We just have to do our best. And with the conditions that we're faced with as in Florida and the case of the attack on the citrus.
Industry there by the Mediterranean fruit fly no doubt it will come back it may be existing in pockets and reservoirs that we don't know about in or outside of this country.
How would you care to wear make any further comment Mr. Roe that could deal with this general question of the degree to which control is really exercised. Miss Carson argues if I'm remembering correctly that effectively the legislation which you referred to was introduced at a point which left me in being a good many dangerous. Items I notice that in the material from the American sign of my company they claim that the new legislation which was passed in effect caters to the existing materials which were approved earlier and rules out and make difficult the introduction of new insecticides without proof because it imposes an intolerable burden on the companies. And in fact it is becoming necessary to use reasonable discretion in separating law for fear that it may in fact hurt the development of new selective pesticides which might do away with some of the nonselective ones that are proved earlier would you care to comment on it.
Yes I should like to comment on that in the first place the Food and Drug Administration does not interest itself in the competitive factors of the different past decides our sole job is to determine whether a petition requesting a regulation setting such and such a tolerance for chemical acts on a certain crop is safe and whether the tolerance asked for is one that will be mapped and whether the tolerance whether that tolerance will permit a use it will be useful. In other words we're concerned solely with the safety of the residue and not whether the new passed decide would replace an old one or would compete with an old one. We cannot concern ourselves with that. Now prior to the month of the pesticide chemicals amendment in 1954 we had of course been dealing with past aside chemicals but under a law that was a bit inadequate to handle the regulation as effectively as it should have been done.
Nevertheless hearings had been held back in 1950 where the respect of the past decides then and use to determine what tolerances might be.
It might be possible to set under the then existing provisions of the law when the amendment of 54 was enacted. The first regulation issued under it dealt with those chemicals that had been the subject of the hearing in the previous two or three years. There were about 50 as I recall of the chemicals that were involved on which regulations were established setting tolerances. Sense the sense under the new amendment the procedures are more specific. The authority granted to the agency greater a somewhat different basis of judgment. A more severe basis of judgment I may say has been utilized in setting tolerances that were established since then. This chiefly is in the area of being sure that there are adequate methods of analysis which will enable the enforcement of the regulations in the earlier tolerances some of the methods of analysis were not as good as needed but under the then authority of the law that in itself was not a basis for withholding use. So we have been faced here with some of the older tolerances on which we have been doing more work and methodology to bring that up to date so that the marketing of a new pesticide since 1954 probably does present some want more difficulties to the manufacturers because they do have to present the data and the information that is adequate under the present law to enable the enactment of a proper regulation.
I wonder was the Board time we have remaining If you care to make a short statement as to your view of what further governmental regulation is required I notice you introduce the idea that the industry itself should be required to put aside some money for a fund in alternative methods of dealing with the problems that they are attempting to deal with. Do you have any suggestions on the level of government action.
Well yes I have. I think we feel that the government is in this area and that no pesticides in existing pesticides should be properly mocked in one and people using them should be won. We feel further that on the state level even when these tolerances are known that some agency should be responsible particularly where broad application is such as in a year your spraying and roadside spraying that before I say as a citizen hire a plane to spread DDT on my property that I have to get a permit from an agency that is prepared and no use to give me the proper dosage seasonally and otherwise. But I think the most important thing that the Massachusetts Audubon feels is that the local community should be alerted to what is going on and decide whether they want to accept all the implications of this sort of a program in town government in my hometown we do mosquito control programs. I think of an awful local citizens can go in and question the selectmen the town manager and make them really focus on what we're doing that an anonymous amount of damage in residual Homme can be eliminated.
I wonder Mr. Jukes if you care to say a word on what you think is necessary in the way of government action or do you feel that the present state of affairs is adequate and that the industry is responsible enough to. Warrant its own activity in this area.
Well last week we went down to see Mr. RAO about a proposed food additive that we've been working on and we have filed a petition for his use four years ago and since then the Food and Drug Administration has asked us to do additional work which we have cheerfully done. And I think that they are doing a tremendous job in preparing and thinking of every possible angle with respect toxicity. Now we are spending a little money on these compounds ourselves a classes from $500000 to a million dollars to ready a new chemical for the agriculture market. And the bulk of that is spent usually on toxicity studies in various species of animals and lifetime studies and so forth this is going to be very seldom mentioned.
I should also like to mention the the question of zero tolerance which we would all like to see of course in all our foods but.
Speaking as a chemist zero tolerance is something that one strives towards but never reaches. Milk has been radioactive since the beginning of time. Milk contains radio carbon and radio potassium which comes from cosmic rays from the sun ever since the sun first started to shine. It's just a question of how much is present and how much can be tolerated. Cows eat wheat that contain anti-thyroid substances that get in the milk such as Shepherd's purse. These substances would never be put out as food additive I don't want to interrupt but I do want to make a summary statement because I want to give a last word to Mr. Murphy before we close I take into what you summarize I would say that we need more new pesticides not just for the sake of having new ones but to combat resistant insects and to fulfill the requirements for selective toxicity and these should be and are being very thoroughly tested and scrutinized by the FDA.
Thank you very much and now Mr. Murphy in terms of your experience do you think that there are some action is required at the governmental level.
Well I think what we need most of all is further study of biological control. The government spent millions of dollars in bringing needed parasites introduced pest insects and most of these parasites appear to be considerably more susceptible to the poisons than the target organism. There have been studies on the sterilization of one or both sexes of insects which reduces them and might even eliminate them completely much more likely to pest control. We need a broad Ru broader understanding of biological controls which is the way the world ram before interference by man. Now of course we have now changed the regime of the past. We must exercise control. But let's look more and more to biological control in its broadest sense and less rely less and less on increasing the toxic toxicity and the quantities of chemicals which are abundantly known to be dangerous and which do not. Provide for any prominent future or settlement of the matter but mainly by phone. All of that only uses the repetitive use year after year and the cost of that to the world of nature is altogether too high.
I want to thank all of four participants for a very wonderful hour of discussion on this most controversial of subjects and invite our listeners to express their opinion not so much with respect to the program but rather in their own community in terms of what their beliefs are on this most vital of all questions. Thank you and good night.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" sparked discussions across the country about the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. WGBH hosted a panel discussion the same year to debate this topic, moderated by I. Milton Sachs, Dean of Student Brandeis University.
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Host: Sachs, I. Milton
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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- Chicago: “Roundtable Discussion of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson,” 1962-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 19, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-4947dkg7.
- MLA: “Roundtable Discussion of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.” 1962-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 19, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-4947dkg7>.
- APA: Roundtable Discussion of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-4947dkg7