Fifty years ago, conservationist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, which purported to expose the dangers of chemical insecticides and pesticides — including, most notably, the organochlorine insecticide DDT. Silent Spring would go on to become an influential best-seller. In particular, it helped launch a largely successful movement to ban DDT, which the book characterized as deadly. In the decades following, other lobby groups used the anti-DDT template to militate against everything from GMOs to vaccines.
Silent Spring was correct in its conclusion that indiscriminately spraying large quantities of pesticides can have serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences. Ms. Carson helped sow a degree of caution about synthetic chemicals by showing the ill effects they can have on plant life, animals (Silent Spring focuses on the effects of DDT on birds — the Spring season will be “silent” once they have all been killed off) and, potentially, humans.
Unfortunately, Ms. Carson pushed the pendulum past the point of scientifically justified equilibrium, and on to the other side of costly paranoia about potentially live-saving pesticides.