Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Pillars of IPM, Part I

By Rich Kozlovich

The pillars that hold up the structure of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in structural pest control are arrogance, deceit, deception, ideology, lies, ignorance, bullying scare tactics and its foundation is the Precautionary Principle; the latest bulwark of junk science.

The Precautionary Principle, which is outlined in this manner; “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically”, places a demand on industry that is simply irrational. Commonly known as the “better safe than sorry” principle it imposed this value; “If you can’t prove its safe you can’t use it.” Who could be against that? So then what is so irrational about it?

A Precautionary principle sounds logical on the surface, but the reality is this:  “The alternative fringe has embraced a trendy catchphrase: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." It's cute, it sounds impressively philosophical, and, technically, it actually is true. But it can be deceptive, misinterpreted, and misused. The alternative fringe, which interprets lack of evidence as positive support, in effect expands the slogan to mean: "Absence of evidence is evidence of presence." And the peddler of homeopathic nostrums (water imagined to contain a healing "magnetic resonance" of substances that were diluted in it) has it thus: "Absence of presence is evidence of evidence."

“But, as a practical matter, is it really true that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? And is the slogan useful in critical scientific thinking? The slogan simply reminds us that we cannot prove a negative, that we can never be 100% sure of anything.”

(Editors note: If you follow the link you will see the article, “Absence of Evidence – Evidence of Absence?”, by Dr. Marvin J. Schissel. I highly recommend reading both of the comments. I believe they are as enlightening to the reader as to what constitutes real science as the article)

When you aren’t sure if something might cause harm, be careful and don’t do anything that could be dangerous, especially to anything really important like human lives, the environment and so on. It also seems like it would not be a new or revolutionary concept. However, the Precautionary Principle is really a lot more extreme and a lot less common sense than one might think.  
"Safety advocates who say that we shouldn't take chances, but should ban things that might be unsafe, don't seem to understand that if we banned every food to which somebody had an allergy we could all starve to death. -Thomas Sowell
The problem is the practical definitions of what do you accept as “proof” of safety and what constitutes ‘safe’. This makes the practical applications of it nebulous. This allowed for Arbitrary and Capricious decisions by European Union courts, “demonstrating that the precautionary principle has been inconsistently applied in at least 60 court decisions. By failing to provide a consistent application of the precautionary principle, it has generally been applied in an unreasonable and often unpredictable manner. ‘The principle can only remain politically viable while it remains nebulous.” That is its strength and its danger. That is the strength of the greenies demand for IPM and the very real danger of accepting IPM as a valid concept for structural pest control.

First of all, in science, nothing is safe because at some level everything will reach an unacceptable risk level. That automatically creates a paradox for any practical application of a product and a potential for nebulous judicial rulings, which is what occurred in Europe.

Secondly, demanding that you have to prove it is safe in order to use a product is scientifically and physically impossible. It is called proving a negative; and the greenies know it! It’s like asking someone if they are cheating on their wife, and when they say “no” you say, “I don’t believe you, prove it”. You can’t prove someone isn’t cheating, you can only prove someone is cheating. The same principle applies to products, you can only prove what things do, not what they don’t do.

At best the Precautionary Principle is circular reasoning, i.e. don’t do anything because something bad might happen. Well then, what do we do when bad things happen because we did nothing? Surely that should be part of the equation! Unfortunately, the greenies never apply it that way and would be outraged if that became applicable. The Precautionary Principle as the greenies would apply it would forever prevent any progress in science whatsoever. Application of this principle would forever end all of the practical benefits from scientific research, including health benefits. After all, we know that pharmaceuticals have side effects, sometimes very serious side effects, and we absolutely know that electricity isn’t safe. Edison could have never electrified the world if the Precautionary Principle had been in effect during that time.

In fact, the word safe can be used and misused in so many ways that it would become almost indefinable under the principles outlined in the Precautionary Principle. If it were up to these people we would still be using candles to light our homes, at least until someone noted that soot emanated from the candles and then demand that candles be banned also.  The Precautionary Principle is one of the great scams of our time and will eventually die of its own weight, but who knows what damage the greenies will have wrought before that happens.

To understand why I say these things it is necessary to lay some groundwork and go back to days of yesteryear in the pest control industry. Although pest control has a long history, the beginnings of modern pest control are traceable back to the 1850’s, however it never really took off, or was all that effective, until the advent of DDT. DDT was considered “the” silver bullet and was credited with saving the lives of hundreds of millions of people. That changed with Silent Spring.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring first appeared as installments in the New Yorker magazine vilifying DDT, and had never been peer reviewed before being published. Two years later she died from breast cancer, not living to see real scientists using real science shred her information. Everything she predicted about DDT was wrong and a great deal of what she presented as evidence was equally wrong and in at least one case she knowingly misrepresented the facts. Although she never called for the ban on DDT; from her work banning DDT was the only rational conclusion you could draw; provided you believed her.

It is unfortunate that the Precautionary Principle was never applied when it came to the DDT ban. Since 1972 the number of unnecessary cases of malaria totaled over 13 billion, with up to 100 million (this number varies from 30 million to 100 million depending on who you read, but even at 30 million it is certainly an argument for genocide and should fill decent people with righteous indignity) of them dying, mostly children. Many of the surviving children suffer permanent brain damage. This doesn’t count the other unnecessary diseases, afflictions and vermin people in the third world have to tolerate because of the ban, along with the long term economic and social impact on those societies. While it is true that the ban on DDT has never been legally universal, the economic pressure that first world countries put on third world countries made it a de facto ban for all but a few.

In February of 1970 then President Nixon stated in a speech that he had taken steps to eliminate DDT. He then formed EPA in December of that same year, nine months after his original declaration. Seemingly, with his marching orders in place, the first director of EPA William Ruckelshaus, an environmental activist, banned DDT in December of 1972 in spite of the fact that a federal magistrate ruled that there was no evidence to support claims against DDT, overturning any and all rulings that preceded his.

Ruckelshaus admitted two years later that the decision was based on political considerations, not science. EPA has been a virtual lava flow of scientifically dubious regulations ever since. The fact of the matter is that almost everything everyone “knows” about DDT is a lie. Ever since that very successful effort by the environmentalists the pattern has been the same.

Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Ph.D. notes that there are seven steps to this process and usually follow this pattern:

1. Create a "scientific" study that predicts a public health disaster
2. Release the study to the media, before scientists can review it
3. Generate an intense emotional public reaction
4. Develop a government-enforced solution
5. Intimidate Congress into passing it into law
6. Coerce manufacturers to stop making the product
7. Bully users to replace it, or obliterate it

The book, “Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? — A Scientific Detective Story” based on work out of Tulane University implicated pesticides and other chemicals as endocrine disruptors. EPA pesticide chief Lynn Goldman under then director of EPA Carol Browner stated; "I was astounded by the findings…..I just can't remember a time where I've seen data so persuasive … The results are very clean looking."

This information had not yet been peer reviewed and when it was it was, no one could duplicate the results. Tulane eventually pulled the study and later it was found that someone had not been entirely honest with the data. It turned out to be another fraudulent study that was a conclusion in search of data. Furthermore, and I find this probably the most distressing part of this saga, unless the Food Quality Protection Act has recently been changed endocrine disruption regulations continue to be a part of FQPA with this study playing a direct part in that regulation. Once this kind of fraud becomes ensconced in regulations it remains an unnecessary unrelenting drain on society.

I think this lays enough groundwork to start discussing important points and ask the appropriate questions.

The Pillars of IPM, Part II
The Pillars of IPM, Part III
The Pillars of IPM, Part IV

You may wish to peruse these articles;

The Paralyzing Precautionary Principle
Precautionary Principle: Possibly the Biggest Sham of Out Time
Going in Circles, Precautionary Style
Precautionary Principle Raises Blood Pressure

You may also wish to view these pro-Precautionary Principle articles in order to test your critical thinking capabilities.

Answering Critiques of Precaution, Part 1
Answering the Critics of Precaution, Part 2


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