PRESS RELEASE: Senator Nelson Urges the USDA to Stop Recommending DDT | 1966


For Release Sunday, June 19, 1966

by Roger Blobaum, staffer for Senator Gaylord Nelson

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Senator Gaylord Nelson has urged the U. S. Department of Agriculture to stop recommending DDT for use by home gardeners, farmers, and others in combating insect pests.

“In view of the overwhelming evidence of damage to the environment and the dangers of DDT contamination of feed and food,” Nelson wrote Secretary of Agriculture Freeman,  “I would appreciate your comments on the possibility of dropping DDT as a recommended pesticide in all cases.”  Nelson’s letter to Freeman was released by Nelson’s office.

Nelson said the government “should be setting an example if we are to reduce the damage this harmful pesticide is causing. ”

Nelson said he was surprised recently to discover that the Agriculture Department still recommends DDT for widespread commercial use.

“An examination of the official USDA publication on this subject … shows 366 instances where DDT still is officially recommended,” he wrote.

“I am advised that this is the guide now used throughout the country and that no supplements have been issued since publication in May, 1965.”

Nelson said less harmful pesticides are recommended along with DDT in 343 of the 366 situations and that it is likely that new pesticides put on the market since May 1965, could replace DDT in all the other cases as well.

“New less persistent pesticides, such as Sevin, are introduced commercially every year,” Nelson said,  “and it seems logical that the Department would recommend them in all cases where they could replace older pesticides that leave harmful residues in the environment.”

Nelson noted that the Agriculture Department includes stern warnings in its publication regarding the use of DDT in agriculture. These warnings, he said, include such statements as:

“Do not use cottonseed treated with DDT for food or feed;” “Do not feed clover plants treated with DDT, or ensilage made with treated plants, to poultry, dairy animals, or animals being finished for slaughter;” Do not apply DDT to forage to be sold or shipped interstate;” and “Do not use DDT after appearance of any part to be eaten.” Nelson said he had become greatly concerned in recent months over reports that DDT is doing great harm to the environment.

“This highly persistent pesticide, although used commercially only a few years, now is found in the fatty tissues of organisms through­out the world,” he wrote Freeman.

“Heavy losses of fish and wildlife due to this contamination have been carefully documented. ”

Nelson said DDT is so much more damaging than other commonly used pesticides “that it is in a class by itself, ”

“It is so harmful,” he said,  “because it becomes highly concentrated in fish and wildlife through biological magnification, becomes highly toxic in combination with other chemicals, is soluble in the fat of organisms, and is a broad spectrum pesticide that kills friendly insects as well as target pests.”

The official USDA publication Nelson referred to is “Suggested Guide for the Use of Insecticides to Control Insects Affecting Crops, Livestock and Households 1965”.    It is Agriculture Handbook No. 290, carrying a May 1965, date.