The Declining Bat Population, Chemical Additives in Our Food and More Surprising Facts

Learn about the declining bat population of the Carlsbad Caverns, The United State's increased defense spending, the chemical additives found in our food and more.

| July/August 1979

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    The chemical DDT kills not only insects but also the animals that feed on insects such as bats and birds. 

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"MICROBIOLOGICAL DETOXIFICATION OF CHEMICAL WASTE" is the subject of experiments being conducted by Oregon environmentalist George Ward. When "farmed" bacteria are fed toxic chemicals at a controlled rate, some of the microscopic "guinea pigs" die . . . but most "get addicted to the stuff and multiply like crazy". Once the noxious waste has been digested by the micro-organisms, it — and the bacteria — become harmless.

THOSE WHO LIVE BY POISON ... ! A two-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reaffirmed earlier findings that toxaphene — one of North America's most widely used pesticides — causes cancer in laboratory animals. An FDA study has also found "steadily rising" levels of toxaphene residues in food and feed over the past five years. (Since the publication of this article in 1979, toxaphene has sine been banned in the United States.)

PERENNIAL CORN? It may be possible to crossbreed corn with a wild perennial, teosinte, from the southwestern mountains of Mexico. The south-of-the-border plant is believed either to be an ancestor of corn or to have developed from one of the forebears of our modern ''maize". Scientists expect the hybrid to be more immune to disease . . . and to provide a means of reducing the cost of this major food crop by eliminating the necessity for seasonal plowing and planting.

GREAT NEWS, I GUESS: It appears that DDT will completely disappear from the flesh of fish in the Great Lakes —and become permanently trapped in lake-bottom sediments — within 28 years. It had been previously supposed that natural detoxification would take at least a century.

CARLSBAD CAVERNS' BAT POPULATION declined from an estimated 8.7 million in 1936 to 200,000 in 1973, and now we know why: Ironically, bats — which are among the most effective natural insect controls in existence — are being poisoned by the DDT in pesticide-immune bugs. And the bats continue to die, since they migrate to Mexico where the toxic chemical is still used. (Since the publication of this article DDT has been outlawed in Mexico.) 

DO YOU FEEL ANY SAFER? The United States has spent almost $2 trillion on its military establishment since 1945, and President Carter has called for an annual increase in "defense" appropriations of about 3 percent above the inflation rate. This means that — in the next decade — American taxpayers will spend about $1.8 trillion on preparations for war.

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