This article will answer the ethical discourse of DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), a well-known pesticide due to its effectiveness and cheap price, as well as its negative effect on human health. The discourse raises an ethical question about a corporation that purchases land in Mexico, then uses DDT from the US to grow crops, and then exports the crops to the US. This question arises due to the DDT ban in the US. The country banned the use of DDT but did not ban the manufacture of DDT. So corporations that aim for larger profit may choose to purchase land in Mexico and grow crops there using cheap DDT from the US and ultimately sell the crops to the US.
Ethical Discourse of DDT Ban in the US and its Use in Mexico
Firstly, we have to agree that DDT is an example of a chemical boomerang. The term was coined by Børsen (2005) to explain a chemical compound that was developed to solve problems but also contains unforeseen negative effects, such as dangerous contamination. These problem-solving chemical substances strike back to cause new problems that require further problem-solving.
In the case of DDT, the residues from spraying it in agriculture can linger for decades in the food chain, which pose a high health risk for human and wild animals as well (Sarkar et al., 2021). Companies should have a clear point of view about how they would treat the dilemma. One of the easiest perspectives to use would be to see it in the name of serving human welfare, which looks at the ethically good as those acts that increase human well-being (Brusseau, 2012).
Using the utilitarian point of view, the utilization of DDT as a pesticide in Mexico is no different from its utilization in the USA. Its net benefit for the human being is always negative. The benefit of cheap and effective pesticides will be eclipsed by the loss in medical expenses, or even deaths, related to the use of DDT.
Even if the company is lacking an ethical or moral compass and only want profit, the business model would not be financially sustainable at all. Selling a DDT-exposed harvest would bring more and more difficulties as countries that banned the import of such crops keep increasing. Most countries have regulations controlling the use of DDT and products that use DDT and consumers’ green awareness will keep rising.
So, the short answer is no. The corporation should not buy land in Mexico, use DDT from the USA, grow crops, and export them to the USA along with its DDT residue. It smells bad on the ethical side, and it’s a bad investment on the business side. The corporation should just invest in safer alternatives to DDT, which can be in form of target-specific pesticides and more holistic agricultural approaches. Those alternatives exist and are ready to be applied.
Ethical Duties of the Stakeholders Regarding the Potential Danger of Using DDT
The corporation has the duty to explain the dangers of using DDT in a clear manner to every stakeholder and let them decide what is best for them. The corporation also has the duty to explain why DDT is still produced and used in their agricultural operation as a pesticide. Further, as scientific evidence keep mounting against the use of DDT, the corporation also has duties to gradually decrease the use of DDT until the operation is DDT-free.
The corporation should provide health insurance for the workers, but it should also be aware that it is not a justification to put those workers in constant health danger. They should not have an attitude of monetizing all things, or cost-benefit analysis, counting the effort and expense, and comparing it to the benefits received (Brusseau, 2012). When human lives are at stake, the economic benefits should be restrained.
The neighboring landowners should also be informed about the use of DDT as they might oppose it and cause further conflict. Lastly, consumers should be made aware of the DDT use in their products. The corporation should express its corporate responsibility to a higher ethical standard.
Ethical Duty of the US DDT Manufacturers
A pesticide, such as DDT, might be banned for agricultural use, but may still be available on the official market for another reason. In this case, the compound is used for vector control to combat malaria.
Børsen and Nielsen (2017) argued that the modest use of DDT specifically to fight malaria can be ethically justified until better alternatives are available. However, they also noted that they do not identify any persuasive ethical arguments for the use of DDT in agriculture since alternatives to DDT exist. Fighting malaria is perhaps the only reason why DDT still has the license to be produced.
It is the ethical duty of DDT manufacturers to inform their potential customers about the various danger posed by using DDT in agriculture. It is categorized as a highly hazardous compound (Sarkar et al., 2021). They should also share information about countries that already ban the use of DDT in agriculture.
In the case of malaria, the manufacturers have an ethical duty to educate their users about the safest way to use DDT as mosquito control, especially in residential areas. Further, the manufacturers should have a strict policy that forbids the sale of DDT for agricultural purposes. They should also express high corporate responsibility, especially in such a problematic industry.
Less Obvious Environmental Protection Laws
Environmental protection laws are less obvious since people can have a different underlying attitudes toward environmental protection. There are even attitudes toward free use, which depicts the natural world as entirely dedicated to serving immediate human needs and desires (Brusseau, 2012). The ethical discourse of DDT is an ongoing discussion. However, the more people gained green awareness, the more likely that the government will pass better and more strict regulations.
Global businesses have started to set the principles of sustainable development into operation through such innovative actions as life-cycle analysis, extended product responsibility, carbon neutrality, and technology cooperation. Nationally and internationally, businesses and NGOs have worked together to establish voluntary codes of environmental conduct to promote sustainability (Lawrence & Weber, 2020). These can be a sign to have better global regulation related to environmental protection.
References Børsen, T. H. (2005, April). Teaching Ethics to Science and Engineering Students Report from a follow-up symposium to the 1999 World Conference on Science. World Conference on Science, Copenhagen, Denmark. https://webarchive.unesco.org/20161130101620/http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/files/8735/11289332261TeachingEthics_CopenhagenReport.pdf/TeachingEthics_CopenhagenReport.pdf Børsen, T., & Nielsen, S. N. (2017). Applying an Ethical Judgment Model to the Case of DDT. HYLE - International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, 23(1), 5–27. http://www.hyle.org/journal/issues/23-1/boersen.pdf Brusseau J. (2012). Business Ethics. Retrieved from: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-ethics/index.html Lawrence, A., & Weber, J. (2020). Business and Society: Stakeholders, Ethics, Public Policy (16th ed.). McGraw Hill. Sarkar, S., Gil, J. D. B., Keeley, J., Möhring, N., Europäisches Parlament Generaldirektion Externe Politikbereiche der Union, & Jansen, K. (2021). The Use of Pesticides in Developing Countries and Their Impact on Health and the Right to Food. European Parliament. https://doi.org/10.2861/28995
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