Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers



Michael Fumento writes in the Wall Street Journal (12 May 1999) "Consider the recently solved mystery of the deformed frogs." He then uses the frog case as a center piece for a larger thesis, that environmentalists are all too quick to blame human activities for tragedies unfolding in nature.

There is some validity in this... people develop paradigms based on their experience and knowledge, and often their first reaction is to fit new data into that belief structure.

But no one is more guilty of this than Michael Fumento, whose voluminous writing has never covered a chemical he couldn't defend. And the frog example is a classic case in point. In this instance, Fumento misstates the evidence and jumps to a simplistic conclusion that is not supported by the data available when he wrote the op-ed piece. Nor are his conclusions supported by subsequent studies.

Fumento seized upon a report in Science demonstrating that a parasite can cause certain types of deformities in frogs. This work, carried out at Stanford University, represented an important breakthrough in understanding some frog deformities.

It shows through laboratory experiments that a natural parasite can induce some types of deformities and that the rate of deformities is dependent upon the density of parasites. It does not explain, however, the most intense outbreaks of deformities, particularly in Minnesota, Vermont and SE Canada. Careful searches show that some of the places with the worst outbreaks are without parasites. They also show a spatial relationship between applications of agricultural chemicals and the frequency of deformities. And lab experiments demonstrate that filtered water from the sites of intense deformities cause deformities, even though no parasites could pass through the filters.

Fumento nonetheless contends that Science report explains all deformities, that it absolves human activity as a causal factor, thus demonstrating once again, in Fumento's mind, that the environmentalists over-reached. Even the simplest act of journalism--a call to the lead author of the Science report--would have told Fumento that it was he, rather than the enviros, who were over-reaching.

The causes of the epidemic of frog deformities remains an open scientific question. Parasites are involved in some places. They appear not to be involved in others, where ongoing research implicates disruption of development by agricultural contaminants.






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