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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.