The circumstance of science; Episode 7 of 13
Since pesticide control of insects is so very important to the production of food to the maintenance of cleanliness in the home and to protect public health. It struck me this this near hysteria was just about to prevent the use of things or sexual or appeared to be essential to our standard of living. Problem time of 1862 controversy was real it was less severe at the time of the murder 262 controversy. There was. Certainly greater fear is being reserves most throughout the world. Basic question once again is whether or not we should use Long live chemicals that contaminate the landscape that are cycled in natural food chains and end by being magnified to the point where they will cut
off species at the ends of food chains pesticides our incomplete knowledge. One program in the series the circumstance of science exploring the forces of contemporary science and technology and their possible effects on society modern organic chemicals pesticides are useful to us as a means of both controlling disease and increasing our nation's food production. Even though these chemicals remain in small quantities there are a variety toxicity and persistence are affecting biological systems in nature. In this program we will explore many diverse views on the development and use of modern chemical pesticides. The publication of racial Carson's book Silent Spring and the early 60s was in many ways a turning point for the past Alcides controversy. The book because it was a bestseller introduced the subject to many Americans and brought the debate into the open. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall has related that the past aside problem following Silent
Spring was moved into the area of scientific management and the manufacturers realized they were going to have to produce new and safer pesticides that would degrade quickly and that would not continue as poisons. We talked with money about pesticides and the changes. Ms Carson's book. And we ask if the problem was severe at the time of the early 60s controversy but his sense subsided. I think the problem was severe and the problem continues to be severe. I don't think the problem has subsided at all because there's been no drastic change in policy. Well one clever vice president of the National Audubon Society. I disagree completely for example with the notion that pesticides entered into an era of scientific management until we make up our minds about eliminating environmental contamination by the long lived chemicals more particularly the chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides. We will not solve
this problem. This is the fundamental critical issue. This is the issue that is elided by most people who follow the party line. It is true of course that manufacturers are producing new and safe pesticides. But the big question is what is the proportion of use and is environmental contamination by the long lived chemicals like DDT for example continuing. I insist that there is still a continuing use of the Long live chemicals in open environments and therefore there is contamination. Unfortunately DDT is still the cheapest of these pesticides and for this reason alone it continues to be used. It's a matter of fact is a hindrance to trade involved here because it's an obstacle to the chemical industry to improve the performance of these chemicals so long as DDT remains available. I don't really understand what Secretary Udall was referring to park Brinkley
president of the National agricultural chemicals Association. Presume he was referring to the fact that in 1962 or at the time of the publication it sounds boring. That was a great deal of controversy between the Fish and Wildlife Service on the one hand and the officials in the Public Health Service and the Department of Agriculture who are charged by law to protect people and crops and livestock from the ravages of insects and disease only. These include such pests as mosquitoes which are the carriers of diseases such diseases malaria for instance far past such as the gypsum off of him Loch Lupo as Bruce bloodworm and such farm past is certainly below. The Japanese be the fire ants and grasshoppers also included of course as past such things as Ragg weeds and poison ivy. Now the Wildlife Conservation is felt that the way these programs were being
conducted it caused harm to livestock in many instances. And this of course was the real reason that most cost and wrote her book Silent Spring. Now if this was what must the Udal was referring to then we can infer from his statements that the problem was Sylvia in 1962 but has since subsided had the manufacturers produce new and safer pesticides since 1962. Well before pesticide can be sold it's got to be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture. The United States Department of the Interior that's the fish and wildlife service or the Department of Interior and the United States Public Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration and these various agencies all have to agree that the pesticide is safe if used according to direction new materials have continued to be produced since 1962 and they like all of the pesticides have had to be proven safe before they could be put on the market.
The publication of the book Silent Spring concerning pesticides caused quite a storm throughout society and especially in Congress. But now it seems that most of the debate has subsided. Why is the issue of pesticides cooled off so much. Well the answer is really rather simple. Mocassins predictions of great doom just didn't come out and just as a little boy who cried wolf. And you know Wolf. Let me add that there have been some other things that have also helped as we have gone along have been some changes in the materials used in the application techniques used in the large public programs such as those we referred to a little earlier in the control of forest insects and in the mosquito control frozen programs things of this sort.
Even by 1962 there were enough. Straws in the wind to begin to see this pattern of change in same time I wouldn't want you to think that there were no further problems with the use of pesticides. Are we still from time to time find some that are being used in ways that are not desirable in the spring year in the state of Arizona Southern California there have been some uses of pesticides that have resulted in damage to bees that have resulted in damage to birds. These could have been predicted in most cases and I suspect they might have been prevented. Dr. John Buckley director of the Interior Department's Office of ecology. Whether careful benefit risk analysis would demonstrate gain from this isn't at all clear to me. But these were ones where other uses were made by private land owners. Whose concern perhaps
legitimately was for the immediate protection of their crops becomes a very touchy situation. Things are better than they were before. People are are more and much more concerned about. The use of pesticides and for other pesticides produced after 1962 safer. I can't answer that in any straightforward way. Many of the same pesticides that were produced before are still produced and some of those were for compounds which were quite toxic but you can't label things safe or not safe it really has to do with the way in which they're used and it is quite possible to use extremely toxic materials in a very safe way. And I would say that it's quite clear to me that cereals are used more safely now than they were in 1962. I would say speaking from my own from my own observation and
experience in dealing with the public that primarily the agitation about that time came not because of anything happening except perhaps the writing of two or three reports followed by Miss Carson's book which is six to three congressmen Jamie Whitten the Mississippi goes to publicly she normally doesn't read about insects past and things of that sort. Did read her book because she's such an excellent writer and group got very much disturbed following her book I believe to a greater degree than any findings in any other things that may have occurred with time and due to other investigations and other occurrences. The public began to see that the government makes every effort to be seitan that anything that you use has been cleared by food and drug by agriculture and by the various government agencies. So I would differ with him as to the cause. I would differ with his
secretary as to the reason for the change. Nevertheless we have given a whole lot greater attention to this area as a result of whatever it was that stirred up the agitation very resistant chemical as a voice of contemporary this many years. Dr. T.S. Byerly director of the cooperative state Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our problem is one of developing selective and selective forest work on the part of the organism with a minimum effect on non-targeted organisms. And as pointed out in your question. Is minimal. Stimulation in timber. We've learned a lot in these last five years to what extent the rate of our learning was
accelerated by Silent Spring. So one question certainly served to focus more attention on the problem not but had no attention before. Actually I well remember 20 years ago sitting in my office and boats filled with human concerns with DDT which was 1947. Rove knew it was very much concerned because he found that you know it could be secret again your milk was not new information not new information to anyone nor was it. It was the football. We don't see everything all at once. I think the. Since 1962 there has been two things happen. First of all repeat it as these fools have indicated that really
it's very safe and wholesome. We assumed it was which continues to be. Second with respect to the intervention into the infirm wildlife life is the source of these problems. Look very simple some hard choices to be made. All the old trees are continue to die at a rather alarming rate. I do not wish to imply a wholesale use of DDT would save on elm trees. I don't think it's that simple. But we haven't come up with any better way. So some communities said it all. No oil. Nice one out of my window here I hope it stays or goes on here. I like that elm tree we have choices to make. We have learned through a concerted action concerted
communication grow operation between manufacturers reducers regulatory officials and people concerned with the wildlife how more effectively to use pesticides there are available some degrade more rapidly in the environment or into occurrence. Of course there are difficulties. So those are those of an acute toxicity that's very high. So the hazard of use is pretty great to the immediate future. We haven't escaped all the problems by any means. We still have problems before us. I think my answer to your direct question. The problem I have time of 1962 controversy was real. It was less severe at the time of the 1962
controversy that was alleged and. Certainly greater care is being exercised now throughout the world. At that time was the case. We are making some gains in the safer use versus persistence regulation. Total environmental effects. These appear to be the major areas of concern today. Many of the more powerful chemicals appear to be responsible for delayed toxicity and concentration along plant and animal food chain. Mr. Clement of the Audubon Society explains that the organization is not opposed to the careful use of pesticides but is concerned with the problem of environmental contamination from the use of the long lived chemicals. It's very easy to fall into the mistaken notion that all we need to do is to
follow directions. There is currently for example a campaign being sponsored by both the United States Department of Agriculture and the chemical industry that the answer to pesticide hazards is safe use. Follow the directions. I do not agree with this at all. It is of course necessary to use these chemicals carefully. But the basic question once again is whether or not we should use long live chemicals that contaminate the landscape that are cycled in natural food chains and end by being magnified to the point where they will cut off species at the ends of food chains either directly or indirectly as a matter of fact there's been a very real reduction in the use of the Long live materials insofar as they're loud uses an industry itself for example as Shadi and in cutting back on the recommended uses of some of these materials. Aldrin and dieldrin and
anderen for example were all recommended enthusiastically 10 or 15 years ago. Today they've been cut back so that they're recommended on only a few crops. So this is progress but it isn't enough and we still have work to do in this area. The President's science advisory committee notes that although pesticides remain in small quantities there are a variety toxicity and systems are affecting biological systems in nature and may eventually affect human health. How can we be sure there won't eventually be serious effects on human health. Well I don't know how you can be absolutely sure about anything. Congressman Whitman you just have to use common sense no a test with which you are familiar and then come up with new ones if you can. You know I've made a number of talks on this subject because I approached it as a man who would who dealt with the problem here
studied from the experts in this area. And I said you just can't afford to settle the source of your very existence as your food with the unknown. How do you know that the CD as you all might not call you to be crippled some day the only way you can just live your life if you're not crippled when you die when you know it didn't work. You just can't attach to anything the impossible that's to say we are sure what we say you get in every test we can think of and see if we can see it. We can't be sure because there are still lots of open questions about this as a matter of fact within a month or so. The World Health Organization issued a news release stating that they were concerned about the relatively high levels of some of these organo chloride pesticides like DDT for example and the fact that these were apparently
causing liver damage. Now at this stage of the game this is a controversial question. But the very fact that the World Health Organization which has had no reservations about the use of these chemicals for the last 15 to 20 years should at this late date now come out and tell us that it is indeed concerned about potential liver damage indicates that there are lots of problems that are not yet solved. Should we be focusing more attention on the potential problems developing in this or we need to continue studying this very intensively and it would make very real sense to eliminate those chemicals we know potentially the most hazardous to living forms of all kinds including man especially in view of the fact that we can learn to get along without that it's simply an economic commitment that is keeping us in this box at the present time. Roland Clement of the nice a lot of on society widespread long term
contamination of the environment by pesticides is difficult to evaluate and is believed by many to be an area of immediate concern. What are feared and long term pollution from pesticides are ecological the facts so complex that it is almost impossible to relate cause and the facts. Congressman Whitman I think that we just well-recognised was about that with the urbanization of a country in a van full percent of people are no longer on the farm that when the public gets stood up or agitated you should do some studying just to get the public temple cone if for no other reason. But if there's anything happening to the environment that is bad all that we think bad we should check to see how able in recent years we do have a special committee appointed by the National Research Council the Academy of Sciences which now is compiling all available information on persistent pesticide residues. And with on the objective in mind
to determine what effect it's having on the environment. There's been a tendency to assume that if the levels of DDT for example were not of and acutely toxic nature at a known toxic level for example we didn't have to worry. Roland Klement of the nation a lot of society or the planet is that the more we learn about this problem the more we realize that these chemicals have subtle effects that are very difficult to detect. We have evidence that they have effects on the behavior of the organisms for example therefore this interferes with their success at the community level. And they apparently have and we know this from experimental evidence for example that they have an effect with the reproductive success of a number of species. This is an effect that the population level and ultimately of course we know that organisms under stress from starvation for
example in winter or after a long difficult and tiring migration flights these organisms will be subject to fatalities from much lower levels of DDT than might otherwise be the case in 1962 about 20 million dollars were allocated for pest control programs. But at the same time no funds were provided for concurrent field studies on the effects on the environment as such a program not been implemented. Or is it desirable. Well yes I think several agencies of government are involved in measurements of effects on various parts of the environment from pest control programs. Dr. Barklay of the Interior Department's Office of ecology. That figure I'm sure the 20 million spoken as they're related to federally sponsored controlled programs and no federal program is carried on
now without studies of the effects of the program that go along with it. Our government agencies that exist now able to monitor residue levels properly and do they. And can they guarantee that there will be conformity to safety standards in the use of pesticides. You know we have good monitoring devices. I think the question of how extensive monitoring is enough is for the judge but certainly it's increased our methods of monitoring I think are adequate. They do not provide a guarantee. They do say the situation is here and we see no cause for alarm. We do not provide a guarantee but they do provide a reasonable assurance. Dr. T.S. Byerly of the cooperative state Research Service of the Department of Agriculture.
We asked Dr. Buckley of the Interior Department if government agencies can effectively monitor pesticide levels to guarantee safety levels are monitored in a variety of places. And certainly our foodstuffs have been monitored regularly over the years and is good evidence of no increase in the level of pesticides in the U.S.. We've monitored water and we find pesticides in practically any water. We look at. But again they're in very very low quantities. And while the monitoring has not gone on sufficiently long with these ultrasensitive methods I don't know of any evidence that suggests any marked increase in the quantities available here. We seem to be somewhere in the balance and that's it seems to me that our monitoring program is quite adequate to detect before it becomes serious and substantial change in quantities of materials present. It's been reported that residues are not always below federal tolerances when
found in foods that are marketed within the states of their origin. Can we assume that there are some states that are not adequately protecting residents because they're not maintaining. Similar levels as those established by the federal government. Well this is a problem about which I probably am. Much less knowledgeable than other people in other parts of the government. It seems quite clear to me that the same kind of monitoring that results in detection of residues in foods that will move in interstate commerce. Prevent. Substantial residues in most crops that don't move within interstate commerce and there's good enough communication between the federal people and the state people. Ordinarily it's not fit for interstate travel. It's not fit for sale within the state. I'm sure there are at least some rare occasions when some
of these would would tend to move to the market. But by and large I don't think it's at all possible. I don't think it's at all likely that we're endangering the help of the people of any state. By this kind of procedure. What is the philosophy of the registration process and manufacture and marketing of pesticide the use of pesticides is controlled by the by the registration of a pesticide by the Department of Agriculture for each specific use. Thus DDT might be registered by manufacturer A to be used in plant X to control such and such an insect and it may be registered for a whole series of such uses. And each one of these uses may be a perfectly good and valid use and completely safe as used as registered
on the other hand. I don't see anything in the system that permits control of the total use. Of any one of these compounds. Therefore if we found more of a particular compound being used than we really would like. I don't see any way at the present time of controlling this because the registrations are based on the individual uses. What I'm really saying is in terms of environmental considerations environmental pollution in the system is not designed to control this. For the most part it does very well but for compounds which are used in very very large quantities and they begin to appear vary widely through the world. The system I think is not out of control and I don't really know how we will control this. If it becomes necessary to do so you would say that most of the problems that we do have from pesticides that come from this compound in effective use.
Yes I think those will be in the future. Those will be the problems. If there are problems those will be the ones we'll need to be concerned with for the most part. Individual use is well controlled now. There are occasional examples perhaps more than occasional examples of misuse aren't nearly use as has approved does not result. In an individual case in detriment. It's only the aggregate of a whole group uses which sometimes results in substantial damage. You've been listening to the seventh program in the series the circumstance of science exploring the forces of contemporary science and technology and their possible effects on society. You're invited to be with us for our next discussion. Part two of pesticides our incomplete knowledge. Central to this program will be a presentation of viewpoints concerning the effects of chemical pesticides on the total environment. And some suggestions for new or alternative
- The circumstance of science
- Episode Number
- Episode 7 of 13
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Other Description
- The Circumstance of Science. Documentary series. No information available.
- Media type
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-23-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “The circumstance of science; Episode 7 of 13,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-xd0qww76.
- MLA: “The circumstance of science; Episode 7 of 13.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-xd0qww76>.
- APA: The circumstance of science; Episode 7 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-xd0qww76