Media Release – Rachel Carson and Organic Cherry-Picking: The Anti-science Wing of the Organic Movement

Press Release, Agriculture, Frontier Centre

Winnipeg, MB.  25 July 2013. 

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released The Anti-science Wing of the Organic Movement, a review of Rachel Carson’s long influential book Silent Spring. Carson’s book provides organic activists with exactly what they want to hear, says author Mischa Popoff even though Carson’s approach was hardly scientific.

The review is part of a new publication program of the Frontier Centre entitled “Reviews from the Frontier,” which will produce reviews of books, essays and other publications that are relevant to public policy debates in North America.

Before Carson, organic scientists such as Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour relied on testing and experimentation, always subjecting their results to peer review. On the other hand, Carson is impetuous, but she receives all the credit for the rise of the organic movement.

Carson downplayed the effectiveness of the pesticide DDT in battling mosquitoes, and she outrageously predicted a mass “biocide” with absolutely no evidence. DDT was banned in 1972 as a consequence, and since then, malaria has been responsible for upwards of one million deaths a year. Just about every chemical there is has naturally originated from the environment, and Dr. I. L. Baldwin reminds us, “Man’s use, misuse, and abuse of the products of science determine whether these valuable assets are also harmful.”

Notably, Carson was reasonable at times, but organic activists “cherry-pick” from her book says Popoff. Demonstrators feed off inspiration, not boring facts and figures. By offering confusing science and words vulnerable to exploitation, Carson perhaps unwittingly gave credence to the default notion in organic circles that anything synthetic is bad and everything natural is good.

The review may be downloaded from the link here.


Mischa Popoff is research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan where he specialized in the history of nitrogen for fertilizer and warfare. He then worked as an Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector, inspecting over 500 organic farms and processing facilities on both sides of the American-Canadian border. He now works as a political columnist and radio host. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Is it Organic?

Media (only) may contact the author

Mischa Popoff