Another day, another Zika conspiracy theory

One of the defining characteristics of conspiracy theorists is how they will switch rapidly between seemingly competing implausible theories to explain unconnected events in any way that confirms their biases. So it is with the anti-GMO lobby, which seems to be behind the latest attempt to exonerate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for any role in causing Zika or the related outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil and neighbour countries.

A fortnight ago it was GM mosquitoes released by Oxitec which were supposedly behind Zika. This utterly implausible theory appealed to the anti-GMO crowd because it enabled them to scaremonger about genetic engineering while at the same time demonising a potential solution to mosquito control that involved a novel use of genetics in insects and was therefore bad. Along with many others in the pro-science community, I debunked this theory in the Guardian, and it quickly died away.

A couple of weeks later, the old theory is forgotten, and a new one is doing the rounds – and being shamefully promoted, again, by the once-great Ecologist. Again the Zika virus, and, contrary to prevailing medical expert opinion, the mosquitoes are innocent of causing microcephaly. This time the culprit is pyriproxyfen – a larvicide that is added to municipal water supplies in Latin America in order to prevent mosquitoes breeding.

It is interesting that what the two theories have in common is an attempt to blame one of the solutions to Zika and microcephaly for causing it in the first place. This theory has appealed to the anti-GMO crowd because at last – at last! – they have been able to get the name ‘Monsanto’ into the picture: a necessary bit of clickbait necessary to give the new theory viral traction on social media.

The origination of the story is an Argentine group called ‘Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages’ – an anti-GMO outfit that campaigns against the use of glyphosate in Argentinian large-scale soya farming. In the past it has made numerous scientifically unsupported claims about glyposate being responsible for cancer and birth defects. In its Zika press release, the group claimed that the larvicide “pyroproxyfen” (spelt wrong, incidentally) “is manufactured by Sumimoto Chemical, a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto”.

Scary! Everyone knows Monsanto is evil – so blaming them and some Japanese ‘chemical’ company is a great way to confirm biases for anti-GMO types and chemophobes in general. Except that it’s completely wrong. For a start the company is called Sumitomo, not Sumimoto. More importantly, as a Monsanto spokesperson told me: “Sumitomo is not owned by Monsanto. However, we do have a long-standing business relationship – they supply us with a couple of herbicides.” Guilty! Hang them!

So in reality Monsanto has nothing to do with any of this, but the antis get their headline: “Argentine physicians claim Monsanto larvicide is true cause of microcephaly”. And Facebook does the rest.

The science as usual, is somewhat different. As Dr Ian Musgrave at the University of Adelaide explains:

“This claim is not plausible. The pesticide in question is pyriproxyfen, a replacement for the organophosphate pesticides that the mosquitoes are becoming resistant to. Pyriproxyfen acts by interfering with the hormonal control growth cycle of insects from hatching, to larvae, to pupa. This hormone control system does not exist in organisms with backbones, such as humans, and pyriproxyfen has very low toxicity in mammals as a result.”

In order to achieve threshold toxicity levels that have been seen in animal studies, a person would have to drink 1,000 litres of water every day. The concentration of pyriproxyfen in Brazilian treated water is 300 times lower than the safe limit set by the World Health Organisation. (h/t Science Media Centre for this and other expert quotes.) And so on.

The toxicity of pyriproxyfen is well understood, and the WHO does not consider it carcinogenic, genotoxic or teratogenic at anything less than extreme doses. There isn’t even much correlation between treated areas and microcephaly cases – not least because, as Sumitomo has pointed out in a media response, its larvicide has been used in dozens of countries around the world for two decades already.

The problem with conspiracy theories isn’t just that they waste everyone’s time and confuse people, but that they are actively harmful. Already, according to the WSJ, one Brazilian state, Rio Grande do Sul, has banned the use of pyriproxifen in drinking water “as a preventive measure”. An increase in both Zika and Dengue fever cases can reasonably be expected as a result: many people will suffer and some will die because this new conspiracy theory is polluting the public discourse. But the science deniers get their ideological biases confirmed, which to them is much more important.

As I said in the Guardian, we have seen this before, and we know where it leads.

 

 

54 comments

  1. Les Hearn says:

    Thanks, Mark. This is another very timely comment.

    As you say, “The problem with conspiracy theories isn’t just that they waste everyone’s time and confuse people, but that they are actively harmful.”

    They also divert people’s efforts from the real problem and send them running off down blind alleys. Thus we lose potential activists who might otherwise help to tackle genuine problems. Anti-GM activism is the anti-capitalism of fools.

  2. Ben Palmer says:

    Thanks for clearing this up. it had to be said and it will have to be said over and over: scaremongering is evil.

  3. Scott says:

    Mark,
    I wouldn’t call it implausible. The idea that a pesticide could cause developmental problems is well established. And looking at the literature on pyriproxyfen I find that it is both highly likely to bioaccumulate AND does cause skeletal developmental problems at higher concentrations. It also fits the correlation stats just as well or better than the Zika virus.

    Until causation is robustly established, pyriproxyfen would need to be on the list to test.

    As far as your naive attempts to justify Monsanto’s highly unethical track record regarding safety studies. Get over it. You add for yourself no credibility defending Monsanto.

  4. Ben Palmer says:

    @Scott: In the absence of scientific evidence, it’s easy to speculate and to spread false rumors. It is even more plausible that it’s the that virus causes the malformation.
    The facts seem now to be established and your speculation proven wrong:
    http://www.nzz.ch/panorama/zika-virus-in-babygehirnen-entdeckt-1.18696170

    • Scott says:

      How does that correlation prove that pesticides can’t be the cause? Did they test the sample for pyriproxyfen? Did they test the Mothers for bioaccumulation of pyriproxyfen? Did they test any microcephaly cases that didn’t have the Zika virus?

      Your source says 462 of 4000 have been confirmed, how many of those confirmed cases of microcephaly had the Zika virus? How many had pyriproxyfen?

      Why hasn’t Columbia, who don’t use pyriproxyfen but have had cases of Zika not had reported cases of microcephaly spike?

      While I agree that the risk may be somewhat small that pyriproxyfen in the drinking water is causing this, I don’t see how it is ruled out by any means.

      Besides, there are safer alternatives like the GM mosquitoes and bacillus thuringiensis israelensis. Since there are safer methods that pouring pesticide directly into peoples drinking water, why risk it?

    • Ben Palmer says:

      Scott, questions after questions, but we, you and I, are in no position to answer them. We can only speculate.
      Microcephalus is a rare condition. “It is associated with Down’s syndrome, chromosomal syndromes, and neurometabolic syndromes. Babies may also be born with microcephaly if, during pregnancy, their mother abused drugs or alcohol, became infected with a cytomegalovirus, rubella (German measles), or varicella (chicken pox) virus, was exposed to certain toxic chemicals, or had untreated phenylketonuria (PKU).”
      So if you like we can add pyriproxyfen and Zika to the probable causes and continue to speculate until we know for sure.
      But: Monsanto is NOT one of the probable causes, there is no evidence of any conspiracy.
      The Zika virus seems to be a potential threat (unless Monsanto is conspiring and playing up the risks) for larger populations. Should we take the risk and do nothing? Or try GM (oh the horror) mosquitoes and bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (what do we know about its danger to unborn life)?

      Should we wait until the first case of Zika is reported from an airport near you before taking action?
      http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/microcephaly/microcephaly.htm

      Mark is spot on: conspiracy theories will not advance us in any way. It is important to be skeptical. Scientists can be wrong or biased for many reasons and is good to highlight these biases, but in the end science has to be judged on rational grounds and on evidence.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “How does that correlation prove that pesticides can’t be the cause? Did they test the sample for pyriproxyfen? Did they test the Mothers for bioaccumulation of pyriproxyfen? Did they test any microcephaly cases that didn’t have the Zika virus?”

      It could have been pink unicorns dancing in the bloody garden, for all we know, and we wouldn’t be able to prove that they *weren’t* the cause. But many people haven’t heard of Occam’s Razor.

      Viruses have a track record of causing fetal abnormalities. That’s why we vaccinate against rubella. And there’s solid evidence that Zika is the culprint in all these cases, see: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2077091-whole-zika-genome-recovered-from-brain-of-baby-with-microcephaly/

      Quite why anyone would wilfully ignore the smoking gun and implicate some other entirely unrelated factor as the guilty party is beyond me. It just makes people look ideologically driven to the point of being blind.

    • Scott says:

      Clyde,
      Because at this time no causal link has been found, only correlation. And the correlation to pyriproxyfen is just as strong or stronger than the correlation to the Zika virus. Both have the potential to be the culprit.

      You don’t see the irony? Rather than the mosquito spreading the virus, the pesticide used to prevent the mosquito spreading the virus? Increased pest populations would correlate to increased microcephaly without actually being a cause or a vector, because increased pest numbers would be followed by increased pesticide use.

      Interesting hypotheses, but still no actual evidence. Nothing more than a just so story until you actually come up with a way to test both hypotheses. They follow the same correlations. Either could be the cause.

      What we know isn’t the cause is GM mosquitoes. We also know bacillus thuringiensis israelensis is incredibly safe with statistically near zero chances of side effects. Both these measures also have a very high degree of effectiveness either separately or combined.

      Why even play with fire when fire is not needed?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “And the correlation to pyriproxyfen is just as strong or stronger than the correlation to the Zika virus. Both have the potential to be the culprit.”

      Bollocks. microcephaly is growing in communities that don’t use pyriproxyfen as well as those that do. the larvicide doesn’t work through the nervous system, yet that’s what’s being damaged in Zika fetuses.

      Can’t be bothered to respond to the rest of your posting, because it’s probably pompous claptrap.

    • Scott says:

      Come on Clyde. You are smarter than that. I know you are. There are cases of microcephaly outside the areas where pyriproxyfen is being put in the drinking water. But there is also cases of microcephaly outside the areas where the Zika virus has spread. That’s because Microcephaly has more than one cause. But the correlation to the SPIKE in frequency fits both.

      Have you read the EPA documentation on pyriproxyfen? It is not nearly as clear cut a case as you pretend. http://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/weight-evidence-edsp-pyriproxyfen

      Yes the weight of evidence shows pyriproxyfen is safer than many other pesticides. But there are two areas of concern. The potential for bioconcentration is very high and also some skeletal developmental problems associated with higher concentrations of Pyriproxyfen, even as severe as Cyclopia. It’s not proof, but it does seem plausible congenital abnormalities could result from putting pyriproxyfen directly in drinking water. Plausible enough at least for further study.

      I didn’t find any robust link between microcephaly and Pyriproxyfen though. So still no reason to jump to conclusions. But I sure wouldn’t want pyriproxyfen, or any pesticide for that matter, in the drinking water of any of my pregnant loved ones.

      Until robust causation can be determined, rather than these correlations, one would have to consider the GM mosquito and bacillus thuringiensis israelensis far far better options.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Rubbish. the most important act is to get of the mosquitoes. Period. And if that microcephalic fetus which had Zika rampaging through the brain tissue isn’t a robust example of causation then what is? I know, let’s DELIBERATELY infect some pregnant women with Zika and see what happens, shall we?

      You’re pouring petrol on the flames of a conflagration that should never have been lit in the first place. Show some sense of responsibility and put your chemophobia aside for once.

    • Scott says:

      Yes clyde, controlling mosquitoes is important. But there are other safer and even more effective ways to do that. What part are you missing? When attempting to reduce a known danger, like disease carrying mosquitoes, it is pretty foolish to use a cure that also can cause harm too, unless there are no other options. Well in this case there are other extremely effective options with much lower risk. As close to zero risk as statistically possible.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      What part are *you* missing? Pyriproxyfen has been shown to have NO significant effects upon the human nervous system, while the evidence against Zika is mounting daily. As the NYT, no less, has pointed out:
      “In a statement on Monday, the [Brazilian] government noted that microcephaly, which causes brain damage, was also growing in communities that did not use the larvicide, pyriproxyfen, and declared bluntly, “The association between the use of pyriproxyfen and microcephaly has no scientific basis.”

      Graham B. White, a medical entomologist who is a consultant to the United States Defense Department on disease-carrying insects, called the Argentine doctors’ assertion “ridiculous” and “not credible.””

      *No scientific basis*. Do you know what that implies? Nobody has shown the larvicide to have *any* causal basis in the microcephalic outbreak, let alone come with with a convincing hypothesis. As I have stated beforehand, fixating on imaginary risks while ignoring profound and measurable benefits from technologies seems to be a leitmotif among Green ‘thinking’. And the people who spread such ideas are dangerous fools and gambling with the lives and futures of people who they will never meet. Don’t be one of them.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “George Dimech, the director of Disease Control and Diseases of the Health Department of Pernambuco in Brazil, gave an interview to the BBC where he pointed out that the city of Recife has the current highest reported amount of cases of microcephaly, yet pyriproxyfen is not used in the region, but another insecticide altogether. He added that “this lack of spatial correlation weakens the idea that the larvicide is the cause of the problem.” In addition, the BBC interviewed researchers in Pernambuco, where no evidence has been found of the cases being linked to any environmental cause like an insecticide. Neurologist Vanessa van der Linden stated in an interview, “Clinically, the changes we see in the scans of babies suggest that the injuries were caused by congenital infection and not by larvicide, drug or vaccine.”

  5. Ben Palmer says:

    “Why hasn’t Columbia, who don’t use pyriproxyfen but have had cases of Zika not had reported cases of microcephaly spike?”
    I see where you come from: Google reveals hundreds of press releases all with the same content: Associated Press. A conspiracy of the main stream media? Has anybody checked the source? Has anybody compared the living and medical conditions between Brazil and Columbia, the number and causes of abortions?
    Whatever: The alleged Sumimoto/Sumitomo connection with Monsanto is not the cause.

    • Scott says:

      The pesticide certainly could be. It has not been ruled out and it is plausible. Read up on it seriously. High degree of bioaccumulation potential, and skeletal developmental problems at higher concentrations. That’s a dangerous combination in something you pour directly into drinking water.

      Almost guaranteed at some point there will be developmental problems, if not now, later as it bioaccumulates.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      No it couldn’t. (Hitchens’s razor being swiped there).

  6. Ben Palmer says:

    Monsanto has been ruled out as far as can I see. As Scott mentions, the bacillus thuringiensis could indeed be an alternative, but the choice wasn’t up to Monsanto. On the other hand, Monsanto was bashed for using this same bacillus in India.

    As for the insecticide, I gather there is strong evidence against it’s role:
    http://acsh.org/news/2016/02/16/sorry-crackpots-zika-has-been-detected-in-fetal-brains-heres-how/

    • Scott says:

      Ben,
      And what’s missing in that CDC report?

      There were tests to rule out other contagions that could cause fetal abnormalities: rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes, toxoplasmosis, and HIV. But where’s the test to rule out pyriproxyfen, which also can cause congenital abnormalities?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      From Wikipedia again:
      “A professor from the University of Adelaide in Australia, stated that “The effect of pyriproxyfen on reproduction and fetal abnormalities is well studied in animals. In a variety of animal species even enormous quantities of pyriproxyfen do not cause the defects seen during the recent Zika outbreak.”[25] A colleague also from the University of Adelaide stated that “While the evidence that Zika virus is responsible for the rise in microcephaly in Brazil is not conclusive, the role of pyriproxyfen is simply not plausible.”[25] Another professor in Australia concluded that “insect development is quite different to human development and involves different hormones, developmental pathways and sets of genes, so it cannot be assumed that chemicals affecting insect development also influence mammalian development.”[25]”

    • Scott says:

      They can say it, but it isn’t true. I gave you the proof of that with the CDC weight of evidence report. And it is not just one, but multiple studies have found BOTH a high potential for bioconcentration and at high concentrations developmental abnormalities in mammals.

    • Scott says:

      Correction weight of evidence report from the EPA not CDC. Sorry.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      A ‘higher concentration’ of pyriproxyfen is equivalent to drinking thousands of litres of water, day after day after day. Moreover, the *consensus* seems to suggest that the chemical is rapidly broken down both in the body and in the environment.

      Zika causes microcephaly. Not pyriproxifen. And if you can’t or won’t accept that, you can shove it.

  7. John Fryer says:

    Microcephaly in Brazil has increased and so is a problem to those who have it and to a country once relatively spared this illness.

    Whatever the cause the addition of effectively an agent to kill insects and parasites into the water supply is foolish. Even the makers, suppliers and scientists agree that this is barmy.

    Further research data does show the pesticide does affect mammals despite claims to the contrary. Lower birth weights and even mortality has even made research protocols fail to have the power they were designed to have because of such adverse health effects to mammals tested.

    Finally in many so called scientific countries the levels of microcephaly Brazil complain off would be accepted as normal with something like fifty or more “explanations” given for the unavoidable genetic condition they label the new born with.

    We have a chance to be honest and cure this scourge or we can just accept it and explain it away again as we are want to do and let science and industry take their almighty dollars once more.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      What ‘further research data’? I haven’t seen any such evidence, and believe me, I’ve been looking.

      Then you go on to say ‘The Brazilian scientists and doctors have suggested this chemical as a possible candidate for harming the foetus or egg in a mothers womb.’

      No they haven’t. As Mark POINTS OUT IN HIS ORIGINAL POSTING, ‘The origination of the story is an Argentine group called ‘Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages’ – an anti-GMO outfit that campaigns against the use of glyphosate in Argentinian large-scale soya farming.’

      No credible scientific source has suggested that pyriproxyfen causes microcephaly. “The effect of pyriproxyfen on reproduction and fetal abnormalities is well studied in animals. In a variety of animal species even enormous quantities of pyriproxyfen do not cause the defects seen during the recent Zika outbreak.”

      And then you have the temerity to go on about “indicating the level of ignorance in modern day scientists.”

      Every time you open your mouth on this or any other subject you come out with utter drivel. You are possibly one of the most scientifically ignorant people I have ever met. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones.

    • Ben Palmer says:

      “Whatever the cause the addition of effectively an agent to kill insects and parasites into the water supply …”
      The agent in question isn’t killing any insects nor parasites; read it up!
      But there is no doubt that Zika as a serious health threat, especially to unborn children.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I would imagine that Fryer also opposes the chlorination of domestic water supplies for the very same reason.

  8. John Fryer says:

    Not sure conspiracy is the correct term, as those that talk of conspiracy are actually conspiring themselves.

    Research data DOES show harm is possible to mammals as well as insects from PYRIPROXYFEN.

    The Brazilian government has stopped adding this chemical pesticide to the drinking water.

    The Brazilian scientists and doctors have suggested this chemical as a possible candidate for harming the foetus or egg in a mothers womb.

    Conspiracy is therefore those that want to veto any further investigations into exactly how this chemical may harm the egg of pregnant mothers in a similar way it destroys the eggs of pests.

    Hormones actually do work at incredibly tiny levels and so while effects on the parents are small or non existent this isntthe main concern or even any concern. The concern is for the egg and hormonal action at extremely low levels of concentration but high stakes for the eggs exposed.

    Just a few years ago research data spoke of the hormone affected in eggs as just a food for the new born animal indicating the level of ignorance in modern day scientists such that we now deny further investigations or leads into the cause of microcephaly at huge cost to both present and future humans to be born.

    Thlidomide was the first chemical to alert us to the massive harm from very simple and very safe chemicals. Today, Brazil does still use this very safe chemical alongside many other countries. Nobody wants to prevent medical advances or the destruction of mosquitoes causing harm but cruelty to babies is surely a punishable offense?

    I presume the author here would be glad to know what is the cause of current health problems and solving the mysteries must never involve excluding candidates just because it could prove costly for the industry that supports denial or investigations into its products with clarity, honesty and integrity.

  9. Chuck Niwrad says:

    Wait for it… wait for it… aaaaaannd… Thalidomide.

  10. John Fryer says:

    The INCHEM toxicological evaluation of PYRIPROXYFEN shows developmental problems:

    Rats 12 out of 42 dead from day 11 to 16 and rat studies normally last for several hundred days.

    body weights significantly reduced and hence presumably this would include the head.

    Rabbits: abortions spoken of without giving numbers and premature births and talk of skeletal abnormalities.

    Hardly no effect on human hormones

    further research again shows a 40 per cent similarity of insect and human hormones.

    Best to talk from science rather than hype, lies or perhaps unsafe optimism that man made chemicals can’t and won’t hurt humans.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      The only difference between a medicine and a poison is the DOSE. Breathing pure oxygen under pressure will KILL you. Too much of any chemical will. That’s ‘talking from science’.

  11. John Fryer says:

    Hi Clyde we seem to be In Agreement here. Essential chemicals can prove lethal if not used correctly. Surely therefore we need to be even more careful when using dangerous chemicals at levels where a few animals are seemingly unaffected.

    Phenoxy biocides do cause exactly the illness seen in Brazil and need higher tier investigations now?

    We have the vast data base of the use of phenoxy biocides in Vietnam and odd shaped babies with heads not quite rightanyone a direct result.

    I notice the same few, mostly old scientists again brought out to deny phenoxy harm to unborn babies and readvocating a return to putting such biocides in the water supply.

    Identifying the highest amount of a biocide which can be tolerated and ignoring effects at higher levels is not just risk analysis but risky where the expert takes zéro risk and the unborn babies take all the risks.

    Strange these people talk of a maximum of 0.15 micrograms maximum exposure for workers making these biocides but then talk that we can safely drink thousands of liters of water with the stuff in the water supply?

    The final irony is these people admit freely there is NO SCIENCE in their expert analysis but it is ARBITRARY and POLICY BASED.

    Quite so!

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Phenoxy biocides do cause exactly the illness seen in Brazil and need higher tier investigations now?”

      No – they don’t.

      “The final irony is these people admit freely there is NO SCIENCE in their expert analysis but it is ARBITRARY and POLICY BASED.”

      No it isn’t. There is plenty of science. You just have to go and find it.

      The day I find myself in agreement with you is the day the Second Law of Thermodynamics is proven to apply in Hell.

  12. John Fryer says:

    Nobody is sure as yet what causes microcephaly so the arguments you put forward that we mustn’t look further into PYRIPROXYFEN and its action on humans is hardly scientific .

    It is not rocket science to monitor the exposure of pregnant mothers to this compound and observe the results.

    When anyone isn’t prepared to face the unthinkable is the time we get to accept health problems in children as unavoidable and just a fault in their genes or some other “explanation”.

    A simple head count of people with microcephaly in Brazil and USA shows the problem is actually very much worse in USA where to my knowledge ZIKA is not a health issue yet.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Fuck off! I never suggested anything of the sort. What I *have* pointed out is that there is STRONG evidence that Zika causes it, and only a moron would deny that and suggest we concentrate our efforts elsewhere.

      The only reason you seemed to be so fixated on this larvicide is because you lack the comprehension that viruses can cause deformities. It’s like the man who drops his car keys in the dark but insists on looking under a streetlamp because there’s more light there.

      Stupid. And predictable.

  13. John Fryer says:

    Developmental Biology is a rather new and embryonic science and we need to work together to a better understanding and I fail to see how ignoring obvious adverse exposures develops this new science?

    For the chemical spill in Seveso it was discovered that essentially a combination effect made the health damage much worse than that predicted by the science of the time.

    Could we have the same here where toxins and endotoxins synergise to cause harm where none is expected from simple science of the past?

    No ZIKA caused microcephaly in other countries.

    No microcephaly expected at the levels found for PYRIPROXYFEN exposure.

    But together has anyone observed the combined effects and with your emotional denial of science and others nobody is very likely too.

    Hence perhaps why the microcephaly epidemic in USA is some ten times that of SIDS at its height .

    I do agree that viruses cause developmental health issues but let’s have the full science and not partial science where the chemical companies have a get out of jail free card?

  14. Clyde Davies says:

    “Developmental Biology is a rather new and embryonic science”

    Really?

    “No ZIKA caused microcephaly in other countries”

    Again, really?

    “No microcephaly expected at the levels found for PYRIPROXYFEN exposure.

    But together has anyone observed the combined effects and with your emotional denial of science and others nobody is very likely too.”

    Dear God, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Tell me, have you ever READ a scientific paper, end to end? Have to ever had to do a critical analysis of one? It’s always the most blinkered in this society, the Delingpoles, Pollands and Food Babes, who seem to think they have the right to lecture the rest of us on ‘science’ when in fact they wouldn’t recognise a scientific idea if it hit them smack in the mouth.

    I doubt very much whether you form your opinions from any sources other than activist websites. I read the research papers. Like I read that paper that Scott kept on citing and found that it had NOTHING in it about pyriproxyfen causing deformities or interfering with any human endocrine pathways. I get my information from the horse’s mouth. Not its arse.

  15. John Fryer says:

    You spend your time on abusing other people.

    You proclaim your own supreme understanding is the only acceptable interpretation of a scientific paper.

    You are the one fixated in your argument.

    Research does show growth and development health issues for mammals which is almost certain giving the fact that the chemical under suspicion does exactly that to insects.

    You are using anecdotal claims by people that people are getting microcephaly without exposure to hormone mimics and ignore scientific fact that most are not eased to ZIKA virus.

    In short you take a view of the cause of microcephaly that no one else yet is prepared to accept.

    Yoi ignore scientific fact that USA has much higher levels of microcephaly.

    In all I think you should look to your scientific impartiality and get a little less emotional in your state,wNts and attitudes that do you absolutely no credit as a fellow human being.

    Remember these people have terrible illness and short life expectancy and there is a need to end this illness not known at this level 20 years ago.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “You spend your time on abusing other people.”
      No, I spend my time ridiculing nonsensical ideas.

      “You proclaim your own supreme understanding is the only acceptable interpretation of a scientific paper.”
      No, I read the papers beyond the abstract, unlike you, evidently, and then I go away and make up my mind about them

      “You are the one fixated in your argument.”
      When the evidence changes, my mind changes. The evidence about Zika shows that the virus is the culprit, period.

      “Research does show growth and development health issues for mammals which is almost certain giving the fact that the chemical under suspicion does exactly that to insects.”

      Rubbish. As has been pointed out several times already, the insect and mammalian growth pathways use entirely different signalling mechanisms to control growth. Pyriproxyfen interferes with the insect growth pathway, not the mammalian.

      “You are using anecdotal claims by people that people are getting microcephaly without exposure to hormone mimics and ignore scientific fact that most are not eased to ZIKA virus.

      In short you take a view of the cause of microcephaly that no one else yet is prepared to accept.”

      Absolute, tendentious, lying *garbage*. None of these claims are ‘anecdotal’. As Mark points out:
      “The toxicity of pyriproxyfen is well understood, and the WHO does not consider it carcinogenic, genotoxic or teratogenic at anything less than extreme doses. There isn’t even much correlation between treated areas and microcephaly cases – not least because, as Sumitomo has pointed out in a media response, its larvicide has been used in dozens of countries around the world for two decades already.”

      You ignore scientific fact that USA has much higher levels of microcephaly.

      Huh? When did this particular piece of nonsense come from? This is what the CDC has to say about microcephaly in the US:
      “Microcephaly is not a common condition. State birth defects tracking systems have estimated that microcephaly ranges from 2 babies per 10,000 live births to about 12 babies per 10,000 live births in the Unites States.”
      And then we have from the BBC:
      “According to the BBC, in 2014, only 150 Brazilian babies were born with the cranial birth defect known as microcephaly; since October alone, however, authorities have reported 3,893 new suspected cases. Some 90% of these cases have been recorded in Brazil’s northeastern states, where the country’s Zika outbreak — the largest on record — is most pervasive, the BBC says.”

      “In all I think you should look to your scientific impartiality and get a little less emotional in your state,wNts and attitudes that do you absolutely no credit as a fellow human being.”

      No, I’m quite happy to be a complete asshole, if that stops halfwits like you spreading nonsense about issues they understand little, if at all. I’ll take my cue from the late great Christopher Hitchens:
      “Beware the irrational, however seductive. … Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”

  16. John Fryer says:

    The CDC are sending a team out to Brazil to look at the microcephaly cases and do a case control study.

    So science is moving forward with nothing proven or disproven as to cause.

    Taking the past experience of Vietnam and chemical catastrophes we must surely consider looking for synergy effects of virus and toxins combining to form harm.

    But the rapid growth and spread of ZIKA from Brazil in May last year to dozens of countries in South America does make any reputable scientist demand an explanation as to how it got to Brazil and how it spread so rapidly.

    Oxitech claim a range of action for its mosquitoes of 4 km . This seems not to agree with the spread seen though.

    Did the GMO mosquitoes come and were developed from South American sources or from areas where virus contamination may have caused an unwanted passenger on those mosquitoes used to stem dengue fever?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Listen, mate:
      The larvicide been used for decades without any prior cases of microcephaly and there is no correlation between current cases and is present use.

      Can you not comprehend this simple argument? Do you not understand how *stupid* you are making yourself look?

    • Scott says:

      Clyde,
      You say it has been used for years, but used in ponds lakes and things. Yes these lakes and such sometimes ultimately end up being drinking water, but what is going on in Brazil is different. They are literally pouring the insecticide directly in water tanks. It’s a recipe for disaster.

      Now I don’t know if it really is the cause of the health issue outbreaks, but it sure isn’t wise to pour an insecticide directly into a water tank, especially when it has been proven to be capable of causing developmental problems in mammals. It’s just not a good idea when we have bacillus thuringiensis israelensis available by the ton cheap and just as effective without the chance for side effects.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      There is NO direct spatial correlation between larvicide use and microcephaly cases. In fact, if anything there is an inverse correlation (hardly surprisingly). And there’s no plausible mechanism by which the larvicide can cause microcephaly in humans. And teratogenicity tests haven’t shown anything that might implicate it.

      Save your nonsense for somebody more credulous.

  17. John Fryer says:

    PYRIPROXYFEN has been in use for some time but as time goes by it has taken over from other insect regulators largely of the me too variety as they have been shown rk be unsafe. Hence the large scale use of PYRIPROXYFEN is probably just two of your many decades rather spoiling the one two many analogy snd therefore this product while not absolutely new is hardly a long accepted product.

    The use of the product in drinking water much more recent and possibly less than a year?

    I have not claimed , nor anyone the definitve proof of harm but a use of a pesticide chosen to affect growth and development and similar human problems is too much to ignore in the hunt for causation.

    A chemical company would never admit blame but companies denying their liability are common and ongoing.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Despite virtually every other credible scientific authority pointing out that it is highly unlikely to be the cause.

      And then you go back to trying to implicate GMO mosquitoes.

      You typify totally the kind of thinking that Mark has come to despise and which I’ve always shunned. You understand very little but think you have a right to point the finger at any bogey that looks like it might fit the bill. Let’s all Round up the Usual Suspects again, shall we?

      You’re pathetic. But the problem is too many other people think like you. You may all inhabit the same echo chamber, but the danger is when some sound gets out.

    • Scott says:

      GMO mosquitoes has been ruled out as a cause, the insecticide hasn’t. Oh and BTW, there is a very very very good reason insecticides are one of the “usual suspects”, and that is a HORRIBLE track record of actually being the culprit!

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Ok, propose a mechanism by which the insecticide might cause microcephaly. Go on. We’re all agog, here.

  18. John Fryer says:

    In May 2015 the ZIKA virus arrived in Brazil.

    Now in most countries west and north for example Bolivia where the WHO announced the first confirmed case of ZIKA on the 16th January 2016.

    People surely have the right to ask questions to establish what is the cause and how to stop the spread.

    It may turn out to be an unavoidable health issue but if man has taken some hand in its spread either deliberately or by some folly then we have the right to find out and take action.

    I get suspicious when people throw up arguments and slate people instead of taking their views and answering them with science . The CDC are looking seriously at this health crisis and it is rare that some good will not come from this and for myself the microcephaly cases in western countries would appear also to have been at near epidemic levels for twenty years and beginning to be accepted as inevitable.

    The sudden rise in South America shows there is a cause not genetic as is assumed for most cases in say USA today.

    Surely we must look at all possibilities and not reject some as it might hurt the profits of the multinationals?

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “I get suspicious when people throw up arguments and slate people instead of taking their views and answering them with science.”

      I get derisive when people ignore the science that’s plainly under their nose and start looking for other unrelated targets for blame.

      This issue has fuck all to do with ‘multinationals’. Diseases can and do spread globally, especially now that air travel is so cheap. Viruses also mutate and cause more severe disease in less adapted populations.

      And if you don’t want people like slating you, either talk some sense for a change or keep your mouth shut.

  19. John Fryer says:

    The Brazilian government have already announced the stopping of growth and development inhibitors in the water supplies. sensible precautions and in Australia for example water butts where it is physically impossible for mosquitoes to enter cures a problem without added risks.

    Now the Brazilian government have announced the abandonment of the novel GMO mosquitoes and are using more standard methods where mosquitoes are sourced locally avoiding any possible risks of unwanted viral loads.

    All very sensible fail SEF methods of combatting dengue fever .

    While it is possible that ZIKA just arrived it has had more than fifty years to get to Brazil and rather bad for public relations to choose the same time as the introduction of GMO mosquitoes.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “…Now the Brazilian government have announced the abandonment of the novel GMO mosquitoes and are using more standard methods where mosquitoes are sourced locally avoiding any possible risks of unwanted viral loads…”

      The Brazilian Government can’t find it’s arse with both hands, let alone tell one kind of mosquito from the other. As for ‘unwanted viral loads’, how the hell can a GMO mosquito bred in a laboratory for over 100 generations be carryingg Zika, a human RNA virus, down through the generations?

      I’ve come to the conclusion that you are a pretty dim individual who has a very slippery grasp on the concepts behind this technology. Yet you still insist on giving us your opinion on it.

  20. John Fryer says:

    not easy to get a sensible open debate here but just bigoted if the multinationals do it it must be 100 per cent OK .

    Sad to say the only 100 per cent I have seen is in the production of sugar and certainly not GMO technology where the company themselves couldn’t guarantee single sex mosquitoes so where were their controls to avoid unwanted viruses?

    If they sourced them from Africa this would be blatantly dangerous given the fact that they were then used in America plus the fact that health issues in Africa are a ten to hundred times that of anywhere else on the planet.

    Lets hope everything is taken into account in the CDC investigation rather than having our hands forced by denying possible reasons for the health problems just because it might upset people as it seems here for example.

    Again I can accept I am just an ordinary person and hope others here don’t think they are GOD and can dictate what we do and don’t do.

    Science is about discovery not the almighty dollar and propagation of blatant falsehoods and misery to the world.

    Brazil has a serious health problem and those in the know need to help the country not procrastinate and deflect from proper investigation.

    I have confidence in the CDC investigation but have reservations about most events leading to this multiple disaster there.

  21. Clyde Davies says:

    This is a perfectly sensible conversation. It’s just not the kind you found you really want to be part of once you’ve started it. And you’ve dragged in the red herring of ‘multinationals’, presumably because that’s all you can relate to.

    You then say “Science is about discovery not the almighty dollar and propagation of blatant falsehoods and misery to the world.”

    I’ve forgotten more science than you will ever know. One of the things I haven’t forgotten is that good scientific explanations tend to be parsimonious. That is, the hypothesis with fewest assumptions should be selected.

    Firstly, the idea that GMO mosquitoes caused this outbreak is utter nonsense because (a) the epicentre of the outbreak was 400 miles away (b) they were released FOUR YEARS before it occurred and nothing was reported then (c) the virus cannot survive without having a host, and nobody reported any major spike in Zika symptoms before the outbreak in the preceding years and (d) it’s an RNA virus that cannot infect mosquitoes and stowaway in their genes and (e) the mosquitoes in question can only thrive in a lab and they are male mosquitoes (which don’t bite) and would die out anyway, after delivering their lethal genetic payload.

    Secondly, the idea that the larvicide causes microcephaly is also utter nonsense because (a) the most heavily hit areas in Brazil have had no treatment with the larvicide (b) microcephaly has been growing in prevalence in treated and untreated areas (c) extensive animal testing has been carried out and shows effects only at huge doses and quite different to those seen in microcephaly and (d) humans and insects have quite different growth hormone pathways.

    All the positive evidence gathered to date implicates Zika as the sole culprit in this outbreak.

    Sometimes, if you are too ignorant or simply not bright enough to comprehend scientific reasoning, then it’s best to keep you mouth shut on sensitive issues. Going around talking garbage is one thing, having an expectation that you will be treated with respect is another entirely.

  22. Ben Palmer says:

    “CDC confirms Zika virus causes microcephaly, other birth defects”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/04/13/cdc-confirms-zika-virus-causes-microcephaly-other-birth-defects/?tid=ss_fb

    This puts the discussion about the role of PYRIPROXYFEN to rest.

Post a comment