Microcephaly - Pesticides or Viruses to Blame?

We’ve been here before.

This week, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages and other environmental health groups pointed the finger at Monsanto for the epidemic of microcephaly in Brazil. Immediately, Monsanto responded with its own PR campaign and expert testimony to rebuke these accusations.

As someone with a long history examining environmental health, this situation is all too familiar. If I had to summarize the history of every episode of environmental health, it’d go something like this:

  • People invent something useful
  • They use it
  • Some people experience a bad reaction
  • The people who have a vested interest in said thing deny any possibility that the adverse event and the thing are connected
  • The victims are (in this order) ignored, ridiculed, and then accepted as obviously being correct

This does not necessarily mean the larvicide is responsible for microcephaly, but if you examine the evidence provided by Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns and what Monsanto and USA Today are pushing, it doesn’t add up. The two stories contradict one another. Monsanto and USA Today say that the increase in microcephaly mirrors one in a Zika virus outbreak in the past. The Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages (PCSV) point to other outbreaks where microcephaly was not present.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a way to verify either story. Monsanto has a shady history - every person with dirt under their finger nails who doesn’t draw a paycheck from them seems like they’re out for the corporation’s blood. When you consider the amount of money the company spends on PR - including having their lofty executive pen an article opposing this one on a site like medium - you can tell they have a public relations problem. How did they get there except by abusing the public trust and continuously exposing people to harm needlessly?

I don’t have a definite answer to whether or not this larvicide is the cause of microcephaly, but I do know that I don’t trust Monsanto based on decades of corporate irresponsibility. I do know that I trust Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages, the sort of organization that gets ignored in these kinds of political squabbles until it’s too late for the people who can afford the harms least.

Besides that, using incesticides to fight the spread of pests isn’t working. The pests bounce back and their predator species - birds, reptiles, amphibians, and others - take a huge hit in population numbers. Lyme disease, Powassan virus, Borrelia miiyamotoi, alpha-gal - these are just a few of the diseases that are increasing in frequency in the United States. A hundred years ago, they were unknown, not because we weren’t getting bitten by mosquitos, but because we didn’t have the ability to abuse our environment into the kind of malignant place we’re making it, full of nothing but parasites and pests. Then there’s the fact that our nutrition has changed dramatically in the past several decades due to industrialized agriculture. Nutrient mining from the soil - vital nutrients like zinc, selenium, and boron - are lost and never replaced in our food. Trace elements like these are essential for immunity against any disease. Diseases are often multi-factorial. Whether due to Zika or an insecticide, microcephaly is no different.

Regardless of the outcome of this fight, it’s clear which way the wind is blowing. My generation of Americans is growing up intent on protecting the environment, our soil, and human health from the toxic chemicals produced by Monsanto, and other, corporations. They’re also growing up entirely disillusioned by the corporate and governmental elite, preferring Bernie-style socialism or Paul-style libertarianism. They want holistic management strategies for our environmental problems, and the doctors and environmental scientists who are stepping forward in our generation want the same thing.

tl;dr: Monsanto is up to their usual tricks, no one can be sure of the truth because of rampant corruption, but this is just another battle in the war that’s tearing down the modern, corporate, chemical empire