Mysterious letter to the editor of the Kelowna Capital News regarding pesticides and cancer: A reply to "Wrong-headed attitude on pesticides called out [Cottam, Kelowna Capital News, February 6, 2012]"
Predictably, the story about Ritter and his statements elicited a response, which came by way of a Letter to the Editor in the same newspaper on February 6, 2012 entitled "Wrong-headed attitude on pesticides called out" and authored by someone named "K. Jean Cottam, PhD" who is apparently from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (which is over 4,000 km east of Kelowna).
Cottam makes a number of interesting claims in her letter. She repeatedly refers to toxicologists (including Ritter) as "rodent specialists". Now, it goes without saying that toxicologists can work with many different species, including rodents, but in no way are toxicologists purely "rodent specialists". Cottam goes on to state that "Ritter is not an expert on human cancer". Whether or not one agrees with Ritter's viewpoint, one finds that Ritter has authored journal articles such as "Report of a panel on the relationship between public exposure to pesticides and cancer" in the journal Cancer (Volume 80, Issue 10, pages 2019-2033).
Cottam claims to be a "retired federal public servant, familiar with the Ottawa pesticide approval scene". Really? Which department did she work in? With a Ph.D., one would expect Cottam to have authored some scientific articles, if she is a scientist. Yet, a search of Google Scholar for "KJ Cottam" reveals the following works:
- "Boleslaw Limanowski, 1835-1935: A study in socialism and nationalism", authored by Cottam, Kazimiera Janina
- "In the Sky Above the Front: A Collection of Memoirs of Soviet Airwomen Participants in the Great Patriotic War", edited by Cottam, Kazimiera Janina
- "Women in War and Resistance: Selected Biographies of Soviet Women Soldiers", authored by Cottam, Kazimiera Janina
- "The Golden-tressed soldier", authored by Cottam, Kazimiera Janina
- "Women in Air War: The Eastern Front of World War II", edited by Cottam, Kazimiera Janina
None of these works has anything to do with pesticide science, and Kazimiera Janina Cottam appears to be K. Jean Cottam, as evidenced by a Google Search (which reveals a number of very interesting sites regarding this individual), and an Office of the Auditor General of Canada report on the "Federal re-evaluation of pesticide 2,4-D" which lists the following individual as a petitioner:
"Kazimiera J. (Jean) Cottam, PhD
Member, Health Dangers of the Urban Use of Pesticides
Working Group at the City of Ottawa
Member, Beyond Pesticides, Washington, D.C."
Digging into Cottam's Letter to the Editor a bit more, we find her making the following statement: "The chemicals found in tobacco number in the hundreds and not in the thousands as Ritter maintains." This is, of course, without justification. Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry knows that until we have single-molecule detection and complete a subsequent mass balance on tobacco, we have no idea how many compounds are in tobacco and/or tobacco smoke. The best we can say at this point is that we have likely identified the major compounds in these materials. Ritter's number is likely far closer to the truth than Cottam's.
As well, Cottam states that "[t]here is no doubt that organic produce is healthier than food contaminated by pesticide residues." To the best of this writer's knowledge, there are no scientific studies that unequivocally show that organic produce is healthier than non-organic produce. Cottam will need to adduce the evidence to support her claim.
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