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January 29, 1973

Tunnel Vision in Pesticide Control

Author Affiliations

AMA Department of Environmental, Public and Occupational Health Chicago

JAMA. 1973;223(5):552. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220050052013

Peripheral blindness to the secondary effects of its regulations is a frequent peculiar characteristic of government.

An outstanding example of this phenomenon is the current situation triggered by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus' decision of June 14, 1972, to cancel all DDT registrations except those for public health and quarantine uses, and for export. The order goes into effect after Dec 31, 1972. This regulation, which effectively abolishes US agricultural use of the organochlorine DDT for all except a few minor crops (onions, sweet potatoes, and green peppers, if need for the pesticide can be proved at hearings) is a culmination of social and political pressures that have represented DDT as the chief chemical villain in the modern environmentalist movement. This it almost certainly is not. But much worse, the organophosphate insecticides, which will usually now be substituted for DDT, may prove to be the real villains.