Is there an ethical duty of DDT manufactures related to their export of DDT to countries that do not ban its use as the USA does

  • Corporations often “vote with their feet” in terms of doing business where expenses are lowest and revenues are highest. Buying low and selling high is a basic economic formula for success that has motivated international trade in many ways over the centuries.  This is popularly discussed when governments consider tax policies and is also applicable when they also consider the less obvious factor of environmental protections laws. If Mexico has no ban on DDT (a pesticide used in agriculture) and the USA has banned the use (but not the manufacture) of DDT, should a corporation buy land in Mexico, import DDT from the USA, grow larger crops, and export them to the USA?
  • What ethical duties does the corporation have to the workers in Mexico, the neighboring landowners, and the USA consumers about the potential dangers of using DDT?
  • Is there an ethical duty of DDT manufactures related to their export of DDT to countries that do not ban its use as the USA does

Hi all,

I want to show (as much as possible) both sides of the coin here. I do not want to claim that usage of DDT is justified, but the point I will try to make is why corporation usage DDT on the first place. So, if you think corporations should not use harmful chemicals, please know I am on your side.

DDT or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was developed as synthetic insecticides in the 1940s. It was initially used to combat malaria, typhus, and for insect control in crop and livestock production (EPA, n.d.).

Around the planet more than 3 billion people are in risk on malaria.in 2010 malaria caused .7 million deaths, mostly in Africa. DDT is used to control malaria in Africa, it is not expensive and works for long time (Dasgupta, 2012). 

All over the world, DDT is used on 300 agricultural crops to keep the pest away (Kapoor,2010).

So to play devil’s advocate, we can see how DDT is used to prevent malaria or grow more food to feed hungry people. We can argue that there must be organic alternative to DDT, I am sure there is, but those are not as cheap as DDT is and there countries those use DDT do not have resource to afford those alternative.

Before I answer the actual question, I will quickly summarize why DDT was banned on the first place. DDT is very persistent in the environment, and even after stopping the usage, DDT still exist. DDT accumulate in fatty tissues and has found to cause tumors in some animals. And for the same reason DDT is classified to be human carcinogen. PA banned use of DDT in 1972 for these reasons (EPA,n.d.).

The USA has banned the use (but not the manufacture) of DDT, should a corporation buy land in Mexico, import DDT from the USA, grow larger crops, and export them to the USA?

Now that we understand the adverse effects DDT has on humankind or animals, no corporation should use it anywhere on this planet. Buying a land and using DDT there will expose Mexican people to DDT and American people who will consume the grains or whatever is grain using DDT will be exposed to DDT too.

EPA banned DDT in the USA for its effects on environment, people and animals, and if a Corporation buys a land in Mexico, usage DDT there to grow crops and export it back to USA, it is unethical, since they would knowingly affect environment and people in both the USA and Mexico.

What ethical duties does the corporation have to the workers in Mexico, the neighboring landowners, and the USA consumers about the potential dangers of using DDT?

The main ethical duty would be not use anything harmful that is harmful to environment, people and animal. In order to make more profit they might cause cancer among the workers in Mexico, the neighboring land owners, their livestock, the Mexican people who consume the food and the people in the USA who eat the food from those lands. Just to give another perspective, in today’s world of social media, people from all around the world are united on platforms like Facebook, twitter and other social platforms. And if the corporation choose to use DDT in Mexico, there is a fair amount of chance that customers in the USA will find out about that and as a result there will be a irreparable damage to the corporations reputation.

As an ethical corporation, they should educate workers in Mexico, the neighboring landowners and the customers in USA about harms of DDT. And now educating people does not take lot of resources, it is as easy as making some videos and upload those on YouTube or Facebook, or putting some boards near the farmlands.  

In the USA there is a clear trend among customers to choose to eat organic, so if the corporation does not use DDT and use Organic method to grow food instead, there is a higher probability that the corporation will do better in Mexico and in the USA.

Is there an ethical duty of DDT manufactures related to their export of DDT to countries that do not ban its use as the USA does?

If the corporation is ethical then they should not manufacture DDT on the first place, knowing their product is putting the whole planet, the humankind and animals at risk. But the counter argument from the corporation would be, there are countries those allow using DDT, and if we do not sell them they will get it from somewhere else anyway. In this scenario, the corporation (DDT manufacturer) should be ethical enough to educate the countries and customers about harmful effects of DDT. Now, there is a possibility the countries already know about those effects, and still choose to use DDT. This DDT manufacturing corporation should divert there resources to produce some alternative to DDT which won’t be harmful and not costly, so they can offer a viable alternative and yet do not lose business and customers.

Given the fact that since 1996. EPA is trying to ban usage of harmful chemicals such as DDT around the world, it will be only wise to divert resources to research and develop alternative to DDT those are not bad as it is.

References –

Retrieved on 7/7/2018. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/ddt-brief-history-and-status

Dasgupta, S (October, 2012). Health Costs and Benefits of DDT Use in Malaria Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/health-costs-and-benefits-of-ddt-use-in-malaria-control-and-prevention

Kapoor, C(April,2010). Benefits of DDT. Retrieved from http://benefitof.net/benefits-of-ddt/

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