In an exclusive e-mail interview, U.S.-based pest control officer Steve Tvedten speaks to journalist SHREE PADRE about his tragedy and views on pesticides.
Are we aware of the dangers of pesticide use?
"They told me they were safe,
These brain poisons
They told me they were safe
These pet poisons
They told me they were safe,
These people poisons."
"These terrible toxins. I am determined that no matter what the cost, no matter how many falls and betrayals and foolish bureaucrats - together we will remove the use of dangerous poisons from this country and then the world!"
THESE are the words of Steve Tvedten, a pest control officer in the United States, and the result of what he believes we should be aware of - the "poison industry"; an industry that once advertised that chlordane was so "safe" that one needn't use gloves and/or a
At work, Steve stopped wearing gloves and using a respirator and years later, by the time he realised the bitter truth, it was late. The doctors gave him only two years to live.
Here is the rest of the story in his own words: "Even though I was in extremely bad physical and mental health, I worked to get chlordane banned. After chlordane was banned and/or "voluntarily withdrawn" - I detoxed. At one time I could not add up change - now, my IQ is around 200."
Now, after years of research and practice, Steve claims to have safely and effectively controlled all pest problems in and around over 350 schools without using any volatile poisons. His book, The Best Control with hundreds of safe pest control measures, is a bestseller. (Its second edition is almost ready.)
"There are virtually no pest problems that we can't solve without using any dangerous pesticides. If you want to kill pests without killing yourself, I now have a thousand alternatives. We have far better pest control using these methods than we ever did using poisons," he says.
SHREE PADRE: We still persist in calling "pesticides" as "medicines". Have you come across such a thing?
STEVE: No, but they both do the same thing; they are both designed to kill the bad things; sadly they also kill the good things. Often the same companies make both medicines and pesticides.
S.P.: "Pesticide companies build their fortunes on the foundation of half-truths. The safety lies in concealing the other half." Your comments.
S: Pesticide companies only test the active ingredients; they ignore the inert ingredients, metabolites, contaminants, transformation byproducts, and synergistic effects and, thereby, greatly understate the toxicity of their products. After many generations of chemical bombardment we have more insect damage today than before when there were volatile, synthetic pesticide poisons. If anyone knew the whole truth as I do, they too would never use any pesticide poison, but after generations of use and misuse, these terrible toxins have never controlled, much less eliminated, even one pest species.
S.P.: In your opinion, people from around the world have needlessly been made ill, mentally and physically because of these toxins. What made you conclude that all pesticides are needless?
S: Dr. Leaky estimates that poisons "accidentally" destroy 50,000 to 100,000 species of plants, animals and insects every year, but after generations of use and misuse of billions of tons of these terrible toxins, we have never controlled, even one pest species.
S.P.: Forget about pesticide manufacturers. Most of our entomologists and agricultural scientists recommend more and more use of these poisons. Most of them don't admit the reality even in the wake of unfortunate pesticide tragedies. What do you call this? Ignorance? Or "feigned ignorance"?
S: What is not done for love is done for money.
S.P.: It's quite unfortunate that you have lost your near and dear ones because of pesticide abuse. How has this happened?
S: First, it wasn't pesticide abuse. We only applied these registered poisons at the labelled rate or less. As soon as you spray a gravid (pregnant) female with pesticide poison (acute exposure), she aborts her egg case. One-time exposure, if you survive, can incapacitate you - look at Bhopal. Chronic exposure creates even worse problems.
S.P.: You point out that "today, doctors and scientists state that millions of adults and children are becoming sick by living in American homes built before April 1988. This is because the toxic pesticide chlordane contaminates the ambient air in over 30 million American homes. Symptoms include childhood cancers, neuroblastoma, leukaemia, infections, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, infertility, neurological disorders, aggression and depression. Unfortunately, most occupants are totally unaware that this is the cause of their illness! "Why do you think that despite a high incidence of diseases and the co-relation it has to the use of pesticides, that even an advanced country is still unaware of the root cause of such illnesses?
S: Our regulators and the poison industry still say these dangerous carcinogenic poisons are and were "safe". People want to believe that those in authority know what they're doing and care about the people they govern. Sadly, this is not always the case.
S.P.: Most synthetic pesticides are described as "safe" for human beings. What has your experience been like?
S: How can any poison specifically designed to kill and/or harm living organisms be described as "safe"?
S.P.: You are reported to have applied the methods of safe pest management successfully in over 350 schools. What are the general pests in your schools and the risks students face wherever synthetic pesticides are applied?
S: We no longer have any pests or use any dangerous pesticides in our schools. In Ohio, less than half the number of students could pass their proficiency exams; in schools where we stopped pesticides, basically every student passed his proficiency exam!
S.P.: I. Ching has rightly said: "Before a brilliant person begins doing something great, they must look foolish to the crowd." How were your safe pest control methods received by the public when you first started advocating it?
S: I was considered to be a fool.
S.P.: Over the years, how has the response been to your campaign to "control a pest without killing yourself"?
S: Everyday it gets better and better.
S.P.: Have you received threats because of your tireless campaign against harmful pesticides?
S: My home and office were accidentally burned down and I have had many threats and obstacles placed in my path.
S.P.: Tell us what your organisation, PEST, does.
S: I was called the No.1 pest in pest control, so I made "pest" into an acronym that stands for Prevent Environmental Suicide Today. This is what I do for free to stop the contamination and destruction of the entire world.
S.P.: Safe pest control methods don't seem to be as easy as applying synthetic pesticides. Likewise, what are the obstacles in the way of safe pest control?
S: Habit and false trust and ignorance - my safe methods are far easier, safer, more effective and economical. Early in man's history, a farmer had a pig living under his home. One day his house caught fire and burned down. After clearing the debris they found a roasted pig. For years people who wanted to eat roast pig drove a pig under a
home and burned it down. One day another man invented a fire pit. It took a long time for people to use the fire pit rather than burning down a home to roast a pig.
S.P.: The monkey (Vertebrate) and Heliothes armigera (Insect) are two major agricultural pests in Karnataka. What effective control measures would you suggest?
S: I am sure I can. Have you tried spraying the insect with soap and water? There are many different controls; thousands that might be used. To be honest, I have not had the opportunity to control either of these pests yet, but I have never met a pest I could not control safely and effectively without using any volatile poison.
Steve keeps tabs on the world's pesticide tragedies and one of his websites has an obituary page for such unsung victims. (His websites are: http://www.getipm.com and http://www.thebestcontrol.com ). Steve is likely to accept an invitation from a non-government organisation to visit India soon.
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