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DifferenTakes #46: From Explosion to Implosion: A Call for Population Skepticism Print E-mail

DifferenTakes is an investigative series of issue papers, published by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, providing alternative information and analysis on a wide range of reproductive rights, population, environment and social justice issues.

We are pleased to send you our latest issue, "From Explosion to Implosion: A Call for Population Skepticism" by Elizabeth L. Krause.  This issue examines how popular media and demographic reports portray low birth rates in Italy as a threat to national identity.  The logical solution to labor shortages caused by the population 'implosion' is to increase immigration levels, but instead immigrants are stigmatized as a threat to (white) cultural cohesion and social order.

- Betsy Hartmann and Amy Oliver
Co-editors, DifferenTakes

* Also in pdf form HERE
* Also check our new color pamphlet: "10 Reasons to Rethink Overpopulation" at:

From Explosion to Implosion: A Call for Population Skepticism

by Elizabeth L. Krause
A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College • No. 46 • Spring 2007

Fears of global overpopulation pervade the American psyche. In the past several years, however, an unlikely bedfellow has slipped under the covers of the sleeping giant of overpopulation: The new ally stirs under the namesake of “population implosion.” Loud alarms from Europe reverberate elsewhere in a chorus of too few babies and too many immigrants.

In the 1990s, Italian women gave birth to an average of 1.1 to 1.2 children ­ a trend that leading demographers reported as the lowest birthrate of any country in the world and “likely the lowest ever documented in the history of humanity for a large-scale population.”1

Alarmism about declining births became widely accepted as proof of a society gone awry. In November 2002, Pope John Paul II joined the chorus, and in a historic and controversial address to Parliament described the situation as a “crisis of births” that amounted to a grave minaccia, or serious threat, that weighs on the future of Italy.2

In 1995, I embarked on an ethnographic study of Italy’s demographic trend and for two years lived in a sweater-making zone of central Italy. As a cultural anthropologist interested in contemporary issues, I wanted to learn how a society known the world over as family centered was experiencing the trend of record-low birthrates, only children, aging first-time parents, and disappointed would-be grandparents. I participated in daily life as a parent activist, sweater worker, and coffee-group member. I also conducted library research at the University of Florence and pursued archival research in a commune in the Province of Prato.

To frame low fertility as a crisis erases a host of histories. Indeed, the last time the government took a stance against reproductive trends was the 1920s. Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini launched his infamous demographic campaign that taxed bachelors, made abortion a crime against the race, awarded prolific mothers, and attempted to create an Italian “super race” as part of an anti-malarial project of social engineering in the Pontine Marshes south of Rome.3

Ultimately, family-making among Italians is the outcome of a quiet revolution that began nearly a century ago against the rigid pecking order of the patriarchal family. It is a consequence of society’s embrace of an egalitarian model of the family. Today, a generation grapples with gender relations in a context where a “culture of responsibility” weighs most heavily on women. Low fertility reflects the reconciling of family work with wage work in a context where social obligations of trust and reciprocity were and are foundational to the economy. Furthermore, it marks the rejection of the stigma of a rural past, which included attributing innate racial inferiority to certain segments of the population. Distancing oneself from the rural past meant striving toward a new location of social class and all the consumer practices that went with that. Having few children displays middle-class decency. Finally, low fertility signals the contradictory victory of rationality with regard to sex ­ contradictory because it leads to new forms of stigma for those who violate the norms.4

Taken from a critical and gendered perspective, then, the new-fangled alarmism about population implosion might be received with a hefty dose of old-fashioned skepticism. The scientific discourse on fertility decline is anything but neutral. Fear-instilling metaphors dominate the media and demographic portrayals of the dynamic, leading to an unfortunate consequence: themes of dangerous demographies enable racism.

One women’s magazine wrote of “demographic desertification”; a national daily newspaper described Italy as a nation that is “old and without babies,” while another juxtaposed “empty cradles” with a growing “immigrant supply.” More than a decade ago, then-Labour Minister Carlo Donat Cattin, in an interview with the news magazine L’Espresso, called on Italians to produce more babies “to keep away the armadas of immigrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.”5

The weekly opinion magazine New Republic in 1999 forecast that “Italy will be a theme park in a couple of generations.” Similarly, a 2003 BBC report entitled “Ageing Europe is Unprepared” provided one worrying statistic after another for Italy: a village with four births for every 14 funerals; predictions of a 1:1 ratio of productive worker to pensioner by 2050 in a population that will have dwindled from 56 to 40 million.6

A June 2006 issue of Science legitimated this dominant reading of Europe’s current demographic moment, characterizing the situation as a “baby deficit.”7

Overpopulation, population implosion, white people having too few babies, brown people having too many ­ in short, population is something to be controlled. In Europe, but also in Japan and the United States, a dominant message is that reproduction has gone awry.

From a global perspective this obsession with dwindling numbers of people is suspect. Since the middle of the twentieth century, fears of “overpopulation” rather than underpopulation have dominated popular, scientific and academic studies. One might expect Italy to be held up as a model for other countries to follow. Instead, the demographic trend is viewed with great concern.8

The media alone cannot be blamed for distorted depictions of the “crisis.” Worries about low birthrates, aging, immigration, and the societal consequences that are calculated to flow from them can be traced largely to demographic reports. As demographers churn out statistics and interpretations about the trend, the Italian government worries that its nation’s birthrate is “too low.”9

Demographers’ reports exhibit several patterns, which frequently stray from fact, figure or observation into the realm of opinion and morality.10

First, Italian demographers consistently describe the country’s birthrate as bassissima ­ extremely low. For example, a book entitled Children of Italy noted that the “birthrate has undoubtedly sunk to the lowest level in the world.” The metaphor of sinking suggests a threatening process.11

Second, the demographic experts agree the low birthrate constitutes a serious problem. The report Demographic Tendencies describes the birth rate as: “provoking in the population ­ quickly but silently ­ a true and real ‘mutation,’ which has in itself the potential to unhinge the whole social and economic structure of the country.” Similarly, the authors of Atlas on Population Aging classify demographic trends as bringing about “rapid and profound transformations that have radically modified, and in some cases unhinged, the entire structure of the whole society.”12

Renowned Italian demographer Antonio Golini and his colleagues portray pending “deformations” in the age structure that will create a vulnerable society, weakening its ability to meet the needs of its citizens for services, buildings and jobs. They ponder the dangers that transmogrified generational ratios may pose to “adequate social cohesion.”13

Third, many demographers believe that the Italians responsible for the low birthrate ­ those of childbearing age, and women in particular ­ have become irrational. Some demographers take the consequences of this demographic trend to signal a dire finale: the end of Italian culture. When a journalist challenged Golini for waking up “the ghost of Italian extinction,” he said:

“If we have a global view [of population], there is no problem. If the Italian population declines quickly, the immigrants will arrive and Amen. But we cannot stop at this. I study Mayan civilization and just as I regret their disappearance, I can regret it if the Italian or European culture were to disappear.”14

Golini implies that immigrants bring difference and hence pose dangers to Italian national identity on the assumption that immigrants cannot continue Italian civilization. In the few decades since Italy has been registering immigrants, Golini and his colleagues note that their presence “has already created some social tensions to the point of manifesting rejection.”15

The disappearing discourse also appeared, albeit in a humorous rendition, in a 1999 article that quoted the Population Reference Bureau’s Carl Haub, who calculated that the last Italian would be born in the year 3880!

The alarms that demographers sound about the low birth rate rarely strike direct racial chords ­ yet racial intonations can be heard if one listens closely. While demographers are often silent on the subject of race and like to appear objective, their silence can mask the effects that their alarmist claims have on racist feelings and actions.

Race scholars acknowledge that the terms of racism have changed but that racism still matters albeit in new ways. As sociologists John Solomos and Les Beck have observed, race today is “coded as culture.” In a review essay, Paul Reitter explains, “The structures of racist ideology remain operative, in other words, but they now stigmatize cultural ­ not specifically racial ­ groups as innately deficient and dangerous.”16

Bodies once discriminated against through naked racializing discourses are now clothed in cultural discourses that have powerful and harmful stigmatizing effects.

Demographers’ alarms assist in constructing and normalizing Italians as homogenous, “white” and European. They enable racism by promoting a politics of difference that heightens whiteness, not as an objective skin color but as a subjective ideology. This ideology functions as an instrument of power by guaranteeing and naturalizing privilege.17 Furthermore, alarmist discourses encourage a form of demographic nationalism in which the national population is depicted at risk from internal sources ­ low fertility and rapid aging ­ as well as from external ones ­ such as increasing immigration.18

Constant scientific, media and popular reiteration of the demographic “problem,” the “crisis of births,” and demographic “unhinging” does not cultivate sympathy or invite equality for immigrant populations. Immigrants understand who is implicated in this alarm-ringing. Cultivating a world of open frontiers, open hearts and equal footing remains the work of alternative initiatives whose shape is still emerging.
Elizabeth L. Krause is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her ethnographic research examines record-low fertility in terms of the everyday experiences, emotions and memories of mothers, fathers, sweater-makers, former peasants, and counts. The findings expose the cultural politics of class, race, gender, nation and science, and they appear in her book, A Crisis of Births: Population Politics and Family-Making in Italy (Wadsworth, 2005).

The Population and Development Program
CLPP • Hampshire College • Amherst • MA 01002
413.559.5506 •
Opinions expressed in this publication are those of he individual authors unless otherwise specified.


Note: This essay was adapted from “Dangerous Demographies, The Scientific Manufacture of Fear,” The Corner House, Briefing Paper No. 36, July 2006. Particular thanks are due to Sarah Sexton and Betsy Hartmann.

1. A. Golini, A. De Simoni, and F. Citoni, F., (eds.), Tre scenari per il possibile sviluppo della popolazione delle regioni italiane al 2044 (Three Scenarios for Possible Population Development for Italy’s Regions), Rome: Consiglio Nationale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Ricerche sulla Popolazione, 1995, p.1.
2. Itti Drioli, “Le ‘tavole’ del Papa conquiestano il Parlamento,” La Nazione, Quotiadano Nazionale, Prato, 15 November 2002, pp.3-5.
3. Frank M. Snowden, The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. See also, Victoria de Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women, Italy, 1922-1945, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1992; and Elizabeth L. Krause, “Forward vs. Reverse Gear: The Politics of Proliferation and Resistance in the Italian Fascist State,” Journal of Historical Sociology 7 (3), 1994: 261-288.
4. I explore the experiences of low fertility in my book, A Crisis of Births: Population Politics and Family-Making in Italy (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2005).
5. “Italia? Vecchia e senza bambini,” La Stampa, 25 July 1997, p.17. “Culle più vuote, l’Italia cresce solo per l’apporto degli immigrati,” La Nazione, June 27, 1997, p.7. Marco Martiniello and Paul Kazim, “Italy: two perspectives.” Race & Class 1991 32 (3): 79-89, p. 88.
6. Gregg Easterbrook, “Overpopulation Is No Problem ­ in the Long Run,” New Republic, 11 October 1999, p.22. Stephen Sackur, “Ageing Europe is Unprepared,” BBC News, 2 August 2003, accessed August 4, 2003.
7. Michael Balter, “The Baby Deficit,” Science 312: 1894-1897 (30 June 2006).
8. The postwar era witnessed books warning about the perils of overpopulation. Betsy Hartmann criticizes this literature for giving birth to a misdirected ideology in her Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, Boston: South End Press, 1995. The demographic situations of ten countries in Europe are presented in Carrie Douglass, ed.,
Barren States: The Population Implosion in Europe, London: Berg, 2005.
9. The Population Reference Bureau, 2001 World Population Data Sheet,, Accessed June 15, 2002. The 2005 World Population Data Sheet no longer included a category reflecting the government’s view of the total fertility rate. Italy’s TFR by 2005 had risen slightly to 1.3 births. The PRB defines Total Fertility Rate as, “The average number of children a woman would have assuming that current age-specific birth rates remain constant throughout her childbearing years (usually considered to be ages 15 to 49,” (2005: 14). Accessed June 1, 2006. For critical elaborations of the field of demography, see Susan Greenhalgh, “The Social Construction of Population Science: An Intellectual, Institutional, and Political History of Twentieth-Century Demography,” Comparative Study of Society and History, 38(1):26-66, 1996.
10. Elizabeth L. Krause, “Empty Cradles” and the Quiet Revolution: Demographic Discourse and Cultural Struggles of Gender, Race, and Class in Italy,” Cultural Anthropology 16(4): 576-611, 2001.
11. Roberto Volpi, Figli d’Italia: Quanti, quali e come alle soglie del Duemila (Children of Italy: How What and Why at the Dawn of the Second Millenneum ) La Nuova Italia, Bagno A Ripoli (Firenze): 1986, p.31.
12. Antonio Golini., ed., Tendenze demografiche e politiche per la popolazione. Terzo rapporto IRP sulla situazione demografica italiana (Demographic Tendencies and Policies for the Population, Third Report on the Italian Demographic Situation), Milano: Il Mulino, 1994. (Emphasis original). Agostino Lori, Antonio Golini, and Bruno Cantalini, eds., Atlante dell’invecchiamento della popolazione (Atlas on Population Aging), Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 1995 pp.1. 98-99.
13. Antonio Golini, Antonio Mussino, and Mira Savioli, Il malessere demografico in Italia. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2000, pp. 99-101.
14. “Allarme dei demografi: a causa della natalità sotto zero spariranno centinaia di cittadine italiane,” (Demographic Alarms: Due to the Below-Zero Birthrate, Hundreds of Italian Towns to Disappear) L’Unità, (October 29, 1996).
15. Golini et al., 2000, op cit.
16. Paul Reitter, “Racism: Coded as Culture?” The Nation, October 28, 2002, available at, accessed June 7, 2006. See Les Beck, “The New Technologies of Racism,” in D. Goldberg and J. Solomon, eds., A Companion to Racial and Ethnic Studies, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2002, pp.365-378.
17. In 2003, I visited a powerful exhibition in California. See David R. Roediger, “ ‘I Came for the Art’: Exposing Whiteness and Imagining Nonwhite Spaces” in T. Stallings, ed., Whiteness: A Wayward Construction, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California, and Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2003, p.53.
18. Demographic alarmism creates a raucous noise that gives legitimacy to white public space. See Jane H. Hill, “Language, Race, and White Public Space,” American Anthropologist 100(3), 1998, pp. 680-689.

Nicaragua: October 2006 total abortion ban claims first woman's life Print E-mail
 2007; 369:15-16
World Report

Nicaragua tightens up abortion laws

Jill Replogle

Doctors in Nicaragua are outraged by the removal of a legal loophole that permitted abortions for women whose health is at risk. Critics say the amendment, which was fast-tracked through the legislature without a single opposing vote, will endanger women's lives. Jill Replogle reports.

On Nov 2, in a haphazard cemetery in the hills outside the capital city Managua, Jazmina Bojorge Rodríguez was buried in a simple grey casket. She was 19 years old. The funeral procession of fifty or so friends and relatives wound along the dirt road to the cemetery on foot. The coffin-bearers, wearing simple work clothes, passed round cheap rum to ease the pain and strain. Women shuffled along in flip-flops, carrying bouquets of wildflowers and bougainvillea to place on the grave.

Bojorge was 5 months pregnant with her second child when she went to the Fernando Velez Paiz public maternity hospital in Managua, with bleeding, pain, and a fever. She had begun to have uterine contractions

The hospital's ultrasound machine was not working, so she was sent to another hospital to find out if the fetus was alive, which it was. Then Bojorge was taken back to Velez Paiz and put on medication to try and stop the contractions. After 12 h of waiting for the woman's condition to improve, the doctors determined that the fetus had died. They stopped the treatment and waited for Bojorge to abort naturally. However, she began to haemorrhage and she was taken to the operating room for caesarean section. It was too late; the placenta had detached and the uterus was filled with blood. Bojorge died shortly afterwards.

Women's groups and some doctors say Bojorge was the first victim of a recent change in Nicaraguan law, which prohibits abortion in all cases, even if the mother's life is in danger. The law puts Nicaragua among just 2% of countries worldwide that do not permit life-saving abortions.

The combination of her doctors' fear of being prosecuted under the new law, lack of diagnostic equipment, and the delay in taking medical action proved fatal in Bojorge's case, says gynaecologist Ana Maria Pizarro, from the Nicaraguan women's health organisation, SIMujer (Servicios Integrales de la Mujer or Integral Services for Women).

She and other doctors, along with activists for choice and human rights, fear that many other women­especially those who are poor­with complicated pregnancies will follow Bojorge to the grave. “We think this is the beginning of a long chain of maternal deaths”, says Pizarro.

The new law was passed by the Nicaraguan legislature on Oct 26, shortly before the country's Nov 5 presidential elections. Despite appeals from the EU and the UN not to vote on the controversial legislation during election time, the bill was fast-tracked through the legislature, and was passed without a single opposing vote.

Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolaños signed the bill into law 3 weeks later, in the presence of Catholic and Evangelical church leaders, who campaigned heavily for the law.

The legislation does not actually create a new law, but rather removes an article from the country's penal code that permitted abortion for therapeutic reasons. Under this article, which refers to “therapeutic abortion”, the procedure had generally been allowed to protect the mother's health, in the case of rape or incest, or when severe fetal malformation was detected. Abortion for any other reason has been illegal in Nicaragua for more than 100 years.

Doctors face up to 6 years in jail for doing an abortion; women who abort face up to 4 years' imprisonment. President Bolaños had originally asked for an increase in abortion-related penalties­up to 20 years for doing an abortion, or 30 years if the mother on whom the procedure was done sustained psychological or physical damage.

Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, president of the Episcopal Commission of Life and the Family, says the loophole allowing therapeutic abortion had been abused. “Abortions have been carried out that were unnecessary [for medical reasons]”, says Mata. He adds that medical science has advanced and doctors should be able to save women's lives without killing the unborn child.

The law has been hotly debated in Nicaragua over the past decade, with both the Catholic Church and Evangelical Church hierarchies demanding a stronger antiabortion law.

Pro-choice groups have countered with a campaign aimed at convincing the mostly Catholic population that therapeutic abortion is a human right and does not contradict Church teachings.

The debate came to a head several years ago when a 9-year-old Nicaraguan girl, Rosita, was raped in Costa Rica and became pregnant. Her parents, illiterate campesinos, were working in the neighbouring country as coffee pickers when it happened. The family's fight for a legal abortion for Rosita became an international battle between anti-abortion and pro-choice camps.

In the end, Rosita had a legal but clandestine abortion. The names of the doctors who did the operation were kept secret along with the location.

Later, a representative from an anti-abortion group filed a lawsuit against the parents and anyone else that aided or consented to the girl's abortion, including some members of women's rights groups. But the court dismissed the charge.

The Catholic Church, however, excommunicated the girl, her parents and all others involved in the abortion. Prior to this year's Nov 5 presidential elections, the issue again became front-page news. Church leaders held an anti-abortion march on Oct 6, where they presented 290 000 signatures supporting a complete outlaw of abortion.

Along with posters and banners for different candidates, the streets of Managua were overhung with banners that read “don't vote for candidates who support abortion” and, on the other side of the spectrum, “murderers of women, don't vote for them” followed by the names of the three leading candidates for president, all of whom declared their support for a total abortion ban.

Only one candidate, Edmundo Jarquín of the left-leaning Sandinista Renovation Movement, publicly supported the right to therapeutic abortion. He won just 6·4% of total votes. Daniel Ortega­whose entire Sandinista National Liberation Party legislative bench voted in favour of the new law­won the election.

Latin American nations have taken diverging paths on the abortion issue, with some countries enacting increasingly restrictive measures, and others loosening up legislation on the matter. In 1997, El Salvador passed a law similar to the one recently enacted in Nicaragua, prohibiting abortion with no exceptions. An aggressive law-enforcement apparatus in El Salvador makes sure that those who break the law are punished, including aborting women, some of whom are serving prison sentences of up to 30 years. Whether Nicaragua will effectively enforce its recently passed legislation is yet to be seen.

Colombia, by contrast, has loosened up its abortion law earlier this year. The country's constitutional court ruled that abortions were legal to save the life of the mother, in the case of rape or severe fetal malformation. Nevertheless, the new legislation has caused a legal quagmire, with women's groups suing doctors who refuse to uphold the new law, and anti-abortion groups seeking to overturn the high court's decision.

Doctors and other opponents of Nicaragua's new law say the new legislation responds to religious dogma without taking into account the opinions of the medical community. “It's really the start of an inquisition”, says Marta María Blandon, director for Central America of Ipas, a US-based reproductive rights group. “We feel like we don't have a lay state anymore.” She fears the law would keep women from seeking professional help in the case of a spontaneous abortion, for fear of being sent to jail.

As in most other countries where abortion is illegal, the poor will bear the brunt of the law, said Blandon. “People with money can get high quality services, legally or illegally.” It's not uncommon for wealthy women to fly to Miami or nearby countries where laws are less restrictive to have abortions, she says.

Nicaraguan doctors say the new legislation will limit their ability to practise, and could prevent them from treating common, but potentially deadly, complications like ectopic pregnancies. Oscar Flores Mejía, member of the Nicaraguan Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, says the law puts him in an impossible position. If he ignores his professional obligation to give necessary care and does nothing, Flores says, he must sit back and watch the woman die and then face a lawsuit from the family. “And if I act, I go to jail­so I don't have any option but to stop practising my profession.”

Flores says the medical associations­20 different associations have publicly expressed opposition to the new law­will present a constitutional challenge to the penal reform, on the grounds that it is a threat to human life and limits doctors' ability to practise.

Doctor Ramiro López, head of quality control for the public-health ministry, says his office is working on a list of cases in which medical interruption of a pregnancy is necessary to save the mother's life. He says that it may be possible for doctors and mothers with life-threatening complications to plead self-defence and avoid criminal prosecution under the new law.
DifferenTakes #45: Control Freaks: "Homeland Security" and "Interoperability" Print E-mail


DifferenTakes is an investigative series of issue papers, published by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, providing alternative information and analysis on a wide range of reproductive rights, population, environment and social justice issues.

We are pleased to send you our latest issue, "Control Freaks: 'Homeland Security' and 'Interoperability'" by Ben Hayes and Roch Tassé.  This issue analyzes how the post 9/11 homeland security industry in North America and Europe is becoming a powerful and chilling form of population control.  Although presently targeted mainly at immigrants, the drive toward "interoperability" - the harmonization of government systems of surveillance and data collection - ultimately threatens the civil liberties of all citizens.

- Betsy Hartmann and Amy Oliver
Co-editors, DifferenTakes

* Also in pdf form HERE
* Also check our new color pamphlet: "10 Reasons to Rethink Overpopulation" at:

Control Freaks:“Homeland Security” and “Interoperability”

by Ben Hayes and Roch Tassé
A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College No. 45 • Spring 2007

A primary consequence of government responses to 9/11 has been the development of the homeland security industry. In 2006 the global security market is expected to be worth almost $60 billion. By 2015 it is expected to grow to as much as $170-250 billion, depending of course upon levels of global insecurity. The 2007 US Department of Homeland Security budget alone is over $34 billion, two thirds of which is allocated for border security.

Growth in the industry is assured by massive government contracts and generous subsidies for homeland security research and development. The US government has earmarked $25 billion for industry and academia for the period 2006-10 while the European Union (EU) has already allocated $2 billion to its “security research program” for 2007-14 (in addition to member state subsidies). Defense contractors dominate the homeland security market place; IT giants have also been quick to capitalize. In the US, the main players include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Ericsson, Seisint, Accenture and Unisys. In the EU, the likes of Thales, EADS, Finmeccanica, Sagem and the defense lobby group ASD are among those setting the agenda. Sixty percent of the pilot projects funded under the EU security research program for 2004-6 are led by defense sector companies.

Public concern for what critics have dubbed the “security-industrial complex” has so far been muted by the manufactured demand for technology to combat a host of modern-day threats, real and imagined. Nevertheless, informed analysis of the policy frameworks across the homeland security spectrum reveals “solutions” geared more toward to the control of populations than the protection of them. At the heart of this paradox is what industry and policymakers call “interoperability”: the provision of seamlessly compatible government systems.

The brief tour of homeland security and interoperability that follows only touches on tangible developments in Europe and North America. It is important to recognize that money is also being thrown at the stuff of science fiction and state secrecy (nanotechnology and microwave crowd control, for example) and that many governments in the south and east are as enthusiastic as those in the north and west.

From the Battlefield to the Border
The EU is now “defended” from those fleeing poverty and destruction by a formidable apparatus that includes landmines placed along the Greek-Turkish border, gunboats and military aircraft patrolling the Mediterranean and the coast of West Africa, and trigger-happy border guards and barbed wire fences around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. A consortium led by Dassault Aviation, Europe’s largest manufacturer of combat aircraft, is now being funded by the EU to facilitate the introduction of drone (pilot-less) surveillance planes to detect would be “illegal migrants” along its external borders.

In North America, the US Congress approved a bill just weeks prior to the November mid-term election authorizing construction of a fence along a third of the US border with Mexico. In addition, a $2.5 billion contract was allocated to Boeing for the deployment, over a three to six year period, of a “virtual fence” consisting of an array of sensors, motion detectors, infrared cameras, watchtowers and drone planes that will eventually stretch along both the Mexican and Canadian borders. The contract may ultimately be worth as much as $8 billion as the US moves to secure maritime borders as well. Blackhawk helicopters, Citation jet interceptors and Pilatus surveillance planes have begun patrolling strategic areas along the Canadian border and the US Coast Guard has been conducting live-ammunition drills conducted in the Great Lakes in violation of a 90-year-old treaty that forbids weapons on the waterways.

From Immigration Control to Social Control
Integrated border control systems are as much about internal control as external security. “Biometrics,” from the two Greek words for “life” and “measure,” form the basis of new identification (ID) systems and a multi-billion dollar industry, particularly in the EU where it has been agreed that from 2007 people will have to have their fingerprints taken to get a passport. Consequently, after 100 years of only fingerprinting criminals, the majority of the EU’s population will have been fingerprinted within a decade (they will also be carrying a “biometric” EU ID card if the UK government gets its wish). All refugees and illegal migrants in the EU have been fingerprinted since 2000 and, following the lead of the US VISIT program, all visa applicants will be fingerprinted as well (data will be retained whether or not their visa application is successful).

The drive for “interoperability” means this information will soon be held on interconnected police databases across Europe. In 2007 the European Commission will begin development of an “automated fingerprint identification system” and an “entry-exit” system to record all travel into and out of the EU. Police and intelligence services across Europe will have access to the fingerprint data and, by linking the EU visa information and border control systems, all “overstayers” and illegal “aliens” will be the subject of automatic EU-wide “alerts” (de facto arrest warrants). Already, teams of police and immigration officers in the UK are equipped with handheld fingerprint scanners to detect illegal migrants; gradually, the technology will be rolled out to police forces across Europe.

The seeds for similar systems have been sown across the world. In 2004 the International Civil Aviation Organization (a UN body) agreed on an international standard for passports with globally interoperable face recognition systems and RDIF chips in which the “biometrics” (including fingerprints) are to be stored. The US VISIT system provides the foundations for the screening of everyone entering and leaving the country and the retention of profiles on each individual for up to 40 years. This system also relies heavily on biometric identifiers and all individuals entering the US (including Canadians and Americans returning to their country) will soon be required to have biometric identifiers on one sort of travel document or another (passports, smartcards or visas). Canada is preparing to implement a parallel but interoperable system and began field trials of electronic visas with biometric features in October 2006.

Police and security agencies in the US and EU can now also access the “passenger name records” (PNR) – up to 35 categories of personal data – on air travellers prior to their departure. The PNR includes personal details, financial information and even meal choices. In many cases, US authorities have direct access to passenger reservation databases in other countries; more privacy-conscious governments are insisting they be supplied only with the data on inbound passengers. When implemented, the UK’s “eborders” scheme will provide check-in desks with discreet “green” signal for board, “orange” for persons to be subject to security checks, and “red” for wanted persons or known security risks.

“Interoperability” is not just about the “harmonization” of government systems, it is about the globalization of control. It is no coincidence that since 2000 the US has provided the technology and funding for immigration control systems in more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania and the Yemen.

Policing the Suspect Community
In the wake of 9/11, governments have demanded more and more information on their citizens, from telephone to library records. Under EU rules, all telecommunications traffic data in Europe must now be retained by telephone and internet service providers for law enforcement access. In the UK, where the police used to need a warrant to access an individual’s call records, now all they need is a phone number. In Canada, Parliament was about to adopt “lawful access” legislation when it was dissolved for the January 2006 election. The bill called for mandatory intercept capability on the part of telecommunication service providers and for warrantless access to customer data by law enforcement agencies. Security agencies continue to call for those measures and a new bill is expected shortly.

In August 2006 a US Federal Court ruled unconstitutional the President’s self-declared power to authorize the National Security Agency to spy, without warrants, on e-mails, faxes and telephone calls going into and out of the country. That ruling is presently under appeal. North of the border, the very same warrantless interception powers are granted to the Communication Security Agency by Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. The NSA controversy followed revelations in May that the agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided voluntarily by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. That same month, the Attorney General and the FBI Director also called on telecom companies to store data about users’ activities for two years. The US government has also just been found guilty of unlawful surveillance of “SWIFT,” a global bank transfers system based in Belgium, and is formally accused of violating privacy in over 30 countries. The EU, meanwhile, is quietly funding IT companies to equip its security services to do the very same thing.

The UK “children’s index” will potentially monitor every child from birth, including schooling, contact with health and social services, and even “problem” parents. The “Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill,” meanwhile, will mean that one third of the adult working population will be subject to ongoing criminal checks. A new UK national health database will centralize people’s histories of mental illness, alcoholism, drug-taking, HIV status, pregnancy and other potentially prejudicial information. The police and security services and a host of medical professionals will have access to the database, prompting widespread fears about data security. No less alarming is the fact that everyone arrested by the UK police now has their DNA taken (even if subsequently they are not charged with any offense). The UK DNA database already covers one in every 20 people in the UK, a figure that rises to one in five black males. The EU and the G8 are both developing systems for the automated exchange and matching of DNA profiles.

Outside Europe, it is private corporations rather than governments that are at the forefront of collecting data on populations. This data is then being sold on the open market. Contracting out with data aggregating companies allows US government agencies to access and mine massive databases of personal information they would not, under privacy and other laws, be able to maintain themselves. The USA Patriot Act also gave the FBI broader access to records held by all American companies. This applies to the personal information on Canadians whose data is increasingly managed by American companies and/or their subsidiaries.

Full-Spectrum Dominance

Another key area into which homeland security funds are being ploughed is satellite monitoring systems. The EU’s “Galileo” system is being developed on the much lauded premise of providing the world with its first non-military global positioning system. However, two-thirds of the financing for the current deployment stage of the satellites has now been provided by a consortium of Europe’s biggest arms and aerospace companies. They hope to recoup their investment in a market for satellite navigation applications that could grow to a staggering $350 billion by 2020.

A predictable U-turn on the restriction of the use of Galileo to non-military purposes has now been signaled by the European Commission and a plethora of applications under development. This includes the “road pricing system” much vaunted by the UK government that would replace road tax with a “pay-as-you-drive” scheme in which every car journey would then be tracked and monitored by satellite.

The US, of course, already has its eyes in the skies. Its satellite imaging capabilities have been used to support its allegations that Iraq and Iran are developing WMD while the notorious “Echelon” surveillance system monitors global satellite and communications traffic.

In Defense of Freedom and Democracy
In the post-9/11 world, people who use the terms “police state” and “social control” are easily dismissed as conspiracy theorists. But as a “theory of conspiracy,” these developments are entirely logical. In a world that takes no meaningful action to address environmental catastrophe or the separation of the world’s peoples into extremes of rich and poor, “full-spectrum dominance” over dwindling resources and resistant populations makes sense from both a risk management and a military perspective. And while governments and corporations drag their feet on climate change, their risk aversion and military strategies already stretch decades into the future.

Richard Thomas, UK Privacy Commissioner, warned recently that we need to wake up to the reality of the “surveillance society.” What he did not say is what George Orwell understood perfectly well: a surveillance society is not a democratic society. In the latter, the government is accountable to the people; in the former, the people are accountable to the government.

These developments are as chilling as the fears they purport to address. But there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to the need to address the root causes of social problems, to defend their fundamental rights and take back power from governments and corporations. Just as a peaceful world would emasculate the military-industrial complex, a just one would render impotent the security-industrial complex.

Ben Hayes is a London-based researcher with Statewatch and joint coordinator of the European Civil Liberties Network. Roch Tassé is coordinator of the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

The Population and Development Program
CLPP • Hampshire College • Amherst • MA 01002
413.559.5506 •
Opinions expressed in this publication are those of he individual authors unless otherwise specified.

On the “Homeland Security” industry, see:
Ben Hayes, “Arming Big Brother: the EU’s Security Research programme” (Statewatch/TNI, April 2006),
Jay Stanley, “The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society” (ACLU, August 2004),

On civil liberties and surveillance issues, see:
Privacy International,
Electronic Frontiers Foundation,

On the militarization of border controls, see:
Frances Webber, “Border Wars and Asylum Crimes,” Statewatch, 2006.

On ID cards, see:
Electronic Privacy Information Centre,

On travel surveillance and profiling, see:
Privacy International, “Transferring Privacy: The Transfer of Passenger Records and the Abdication of Privacy Protection,”
(February 2004),
The Practical Nomad, Edward Hasbrouck’s blog: “Privacy and Travel” archives,

On telecommunications surveillance, see:
European Digital Rights Initiative,

On global surveillance, see:
Maureen Webb, Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post- 9/11 World (San Francisco:
City Lights, publication forthcoming, January 2007).

DifferenTakes #43: Colonizing the Future:"Scarcity" as Political Strategy Print E-mail


*DifferenTakes* is an investigative series of issue papers, published by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, providing alternative information and analysis on a wide range of reproductive rights, population, environment and social justice issues.

We are pleased to send you our latest issue, *"Colonizing the Future: "Scarcity" as Political Strategy" *by *The Corner House*. In this issue, the authors reveal how in the face of contrary evidence,
population control advocates are shifting their focus from claiming that human numbers are the cause of past and present scarcity to asserting that population growth will be the cause of absolute scarcity inthe future..

- Betsy Hartmann and Amy Oliver
Co-editors, DifferenTakes

* Available soon at:

Colonizing the Future:"Scarcity" as Political Strategy

by The Corner House

A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College . No. 43 . Fall 2006

The past is consumed in the present and the present lives only to bring forth the future. --- James Joyce1

Tomorrow belongs . . . Tomorrow belongs . . . Tomorrow belongs to me! --- Chorus, Nazi drinking song, Cabaret2

A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is but often prompts us to rearrange the past. --- Eric Hoffer3

Whenever global environmental crises, Third World poverty or world hunger are at issue, economists, demographers, planners, corporate financiers, and political pundits (at least in the North) have frequently invoked human numbers, whether gratuitously, cynically or for the most part subliminally. Reports on the economy and politics of Southern countries --- invariably the "problem" of population is deemed a Southern problem --- have begun by citing population figures, even though these may have little or no relevance to what follows. But the figures once cited frame the subsequent discussion, skewing the identification of both problems and solutions. The message remains the same: too many people.

Such Malthusian images and thinking --- too many people outstripping supply --- have not gone unchallenged, however. On the contrary, meticulous political attention to what is actually happening on the ground has invariably located the causes of hunger not in an absolute scarcity --- no food at all --- but in socially-generated scarcity --- not enough food for some people in some places because other people have the power to deny others access to food, land and water.

Such power imbalances lie at the root of the manufactured scarcity that is the hallmark of food poverty, whether yesterday's or today's. An incomplete list of such imbalances might include: the enclosure of commons, lack of access to land, unequal gender relations, ethnic and racial discrimination, sexism, intra-household inequalities, denial of human rights, the political exploitation of famine, agriculturalmodernization, market liberalization, and ecological degradation.

Rooting deprivation firmly and squarely in power relations provides proof --- if proof was needed --- that no matter how much food is produced or water harnessed, how few babies are born or how dramatically human numbers fall, it is the nature of inequity remorselessly to generate "scarcity." Without changes in the social and economic relationships that currently determine the production, distribution and consumption of food and water, there will always be those who are judged "surplus to requirements" and who are thus excluded from the wherewithal to live. The human population could be halved, quartered, decimated even, yet hunger would still remain. So long as one person has the power to deny food to another, even two people may be judged "too many."

One result of detailed sociological studies showing that neither the historical record nor contemporary realities support the view that the numbers of people per se are responsible for scarcity is that fewer and fewer institutions now suggest that today's or yesterday's crises are caused by population growth. Even former bastions of Malthusianism, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization or the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), now acknowledge that politics rather than too many people lies at the heart of continuing famine and malnutrition. As Eugenio Díaz and Sherman Robinson of IFPRI note:

"Providing an adequate aggregate food supply will not eliminate malnutrition and hunger, now or in the future . . . To achieve food security for the entire world population, countries must work to reduce poverty and achieve a more equitable distribution of income."4

But this does not mean that the political use of scarcity has been abandoned---far from it. Neo- Malthusians are increasingly shifting their focus from claiming that human numbers are the cause of past or present scarcity to asserting that population growth will be the cause of absolute scarcity in the future.

The marketing of genetically-modified crops is illustrative, and its messaging resolutely future-oriented. The predicted millions of yet unborn 'extra mouths to feed,' (primarily dark-skinned ones, of course), are used first to establish a foothold for genetically engineered agriculture as a "partial solution" to world hunger --- and then to expand that foothold by smothering discussion of any other alternatives, particularly any redistribution of wealth or power. As a promoter of biotechnology states:

"How do we feed a growing population --- which some estimate will reach 9 billion in the next 30 years --- when most arable land on the planet is already under cultivation? . . . Modern biotechnology is part of the answer. Modern biotechnology is not a panacea, but it can help make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty. Using this new technology, we can feed hungry children, raise incomes, fight disease and protect the environment."5

The structural causes of hunger are now acknowledged, but they are dealt with solely in the context of the present. The future is used to thrust them into the background, casting them as petty distractions of purely academic interest compared to the overwhelming task of boosting future food production. This persuasive power of the future to depoliticize the debate on food poverty and to channel decision making towards a genetically-engineered future is evident in a report from the UK's influential Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which briefly considers redistribution as an option for addressing hunger --- but then summarily dismisses it as infeasible:

"Political difficulties of redistribution within, let alone among, countries are huge. Logistical problems and costs of food distribution also militate against sole reliance on redistributing income (i.e. demand for food) to meet present, let alone future, needs arising from increasing populations in less developed countries . . . What is required is a major increase in support for GM [genetically-modified] crop research and outreach directed at employment-intensive production of food staples within developing countries."6

In the process, questions over the very real role that genetically-engineered agriculture will play in exacerbating the structural causes of hunger --- not least through the privatization of seeds --- are effectively side-stepped.

Other future threats to environment and society are similarly being used to colonize the future and thereby capture the present. In climate change debates, for example, the talk is of future teeming numbers of Chinese and Indians causing whole cities to be lost to flooding through their greenhouse gas emissions --- unless Northern companies are granted property rights in the atmosphere through carbon-trading schemes to continue their own pollution.7

In regards to water, the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century readily conceded in its 2001 report, Vision 21, that current water scarcities do not lie in absolute shortage --- but it went on to argue that future population growth will lead to generalized water scarcity. What the Commission terms the "gloomy arithmetic"8 of future thirsty slum dwellers will condemn us to water wars, unless market discipline and privatization are brought to water use through water pricing:

"Without full-cost pricing the present vicious cycle of waste, inefficiency, and lack of service for the poor will continue. There will be little investment from the private sector, services will be of poor quality and rationed, and there will be little left for investing in water quality and other environmental improvement."9

The Commission's analysis has since been debunked by a succession of reports, most recently by the United Nations Development Program.10 But the "war-room" mentality generated by such predictions of future scarcity-driven apocalypses diverts attention away from the awkward social and environmental histories of discredited policies and projects such as large-scale dams, nuclear power stations and genetically-modified agriculture. We are now told that these are the only ways to meet globally aggregated predictions of supposedly climate-friendly energy demand or food needs.

Such seems to be the power of "scarcity" to colonize the future that even those who ascribe today's scarcities to political conflict frequently set aside the insights of political economy in favor of human numbers as an explanation for future shortages.

In doing so, they grant Malthusianism an explanatory power that they would actively deny to it when applied to the present and the past. Instead of the past being a guide to future action, the future (implausibly) becomes a guide to the present. As the 20th century futurologist Herman Kahn (reputedly the model for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove) stated, "Anyone can learn from the past. These days it is more essential to learn from the future."11 The dictum that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"12 is jettisoned in favor of the ungrounded, and thus politically even more malleable, exercise of "learning from the future." In the process, "scarcity" is rehabilitated. Removed from the messy political realities of the present, it regains its authority as an abstract model, redeploying its mesmerizing powers over those who would privilege theory over lived experience.

Yet future crises are likely to be rooted in the same dynamics in which they are rooted today: political conflict, exploitative distributive institutions, sexism, racism, human rights abuses and environmentallydestructive practices. If society wants to prepare for future resource crises (and there surely will be future scarcity of one kind or another), it would be more prudent to look to the present rather than to some theoretical model of the future. As the future will grow out of the present, a better way of dealing with "future crisis" is not imagining a future Malthusian world that bears no relationship to what exists now or ever has existed, and then imagining how to stave off that hypothetical Malthusian destiny, but rather dealing with current scarcities now on the realistic assumption that what causes scarcity today is going to go on causing scarcity in the future.

Denying Malthusianism a refuge in the future is of critical importance if the past is not destined to be repeated and the present forgotten. But it is also important if "scarcity" is to be marginalized as a political strategy for diverting attention from the root causes of hunger, environmental degradation, conflict and the like.

Indeed, "scarcity," as used in modern economics, is best approached as an endlessly malleable means of legitimizing a particular set of social and political relationships, institutions and policies and of blocking inquiry, rather than as a theory that stands or falls on its ability not only to explain but also to predict. Empirical evidence, coupled with political organizing around other explanations for manufactured scarcity, may temporarily deny political space to those who would use scarcity as a strategy in one arena. But it does not, and will not, prevent its proponents from using it in other arenas where its power has not been weakened --- yet. So long as it remains useful as a means of diverting attention from causes of poverty that might implicate the powerful, it will be recast, adapted and re-used whenever and wherever possible, regardless of the empirical evidence that is built up to counter it.

For granting Malthusianism a space in the future is one of the principle everyday actions through which scarcity-terrorized thinking --- and the power relations and activities that it helps to support --- are reproduced, rejuvenated and allowed (even when debunked by practical experience) to return to haunt the present.

*The Corner House* is a research and solidarity group based in the United Kingdom that aims to support democratic and community movements for environmental and social justice. This piece evolved from a collaborative project with the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights to analyze the continuing power of Malthusian thinking.

The Population and Development Program
CLPP . Hampshire College . Amherst . MA 01002
413.559.5506 .
Opinions expressed in this publication are those of
the individual authors unless otherwise specified.


1. J. Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1916.
2. Cabaret, film directed by Bob Fosse, script by Christopher Isherwood and John VanDruten (1972).
3. Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (New York: Harper and Row, 1954).
4. Eugenio Díaz and Sherman Robinson, "Biotechnology, Trade and Hunger," Biotechnology and Genetic Resource Policies, Brief 2, IFPRI, (Jan 2003),
5. Testimony of David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, to the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC, (July 12, 2000),
6. Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Genetically Modified Crops: The Ethical and Social Issues, (1999), paras 4.8, 4.10,
7. Larry Lohmann (ed), Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, the Durban Group for Climate Justice, and The Corner House, (2006).
8. World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, A Water Secure World: Vision for Water, Life and the Environment, (2000), 15.
9. Ibid, 35.
10. UNDP, Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis, Human Development Report 2006, available at
11. Herman Kahn, quoted in VaTech Hydro, Annual Report 2001, 33,
12. George Santayana, The Life of Reason (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1998).

US: Cancer fears & failure rates force FHI to end pursuit of quinacrine female sterilization Print E-mail

Refer to Feminist Research [Click the icon to read in full]:

and   Committee on Women, Population and the Environment:


Dasgupta, Rajashri. Quinacrine Sterilization in India: Women's Health and Medical Ethics Still at Risk. No. 34 • Spring 2005
and Scully, Judith M. Cracking Open Crack: Unethical sterilization movement gains momentum. No.2 • Spring 2000

Visvanathan, Nalini and Rao, Mohan. Women at risk: Quinacrine sterilisation, a practice that defies accepted international norms, continues in India. Frontline Vol. 14 : No. 19 : September 20 - October 3, 1997

Mulay, Shree. Quinacrine non-surgical sterilisation: troubling questions. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics July -September 2000-8(3)


For further updates send blank email, with subscribe in Subject line, to "Quinacrine Alerts":


RE: Change in FHI's research strategy for female non-surgical sterilization

December 18 2006
Dear Colleagues,
We would like to inform you of a change in Family Health International (FHI)'s research strategy for female non-surgical sterilization. FHI has sought to develop a product that is safe and has an effectiveness approaching that of current long-term contraceptive options, such as surgical sterilization and intrauterine devices (IUDs). To date, our research has focused on two products: quinacrine and erythromycin. Safety concerns generated by results from a recent animal study of quinacrine, combined with the results of a recent systematic review of quinacrine's effectiveness in women, have led us to cease our development of quinacrine for non-surgical sterilization. FHI will continue working on the development of erythromycin for this purpose.

With regard to quinacrine's safety, FHI has completed a battery of genotoxicity tests (in vitro tests and in animals) as well as two rodent carcinogenicity studies, one in mice and one in rats. Genotoxicity testing in cells (prokaryotic and mammalian) verified earlier results of others that quinacrine is mutagenic in vitro, although quinacrine was not clastogenic in vivo, i.e., did not cause chromosomal breaks.1

In the first of the rodent carcinogenicity studies, mice exposed to quinacrine systemically (i.e., as are humans when given quinacrine orally) did not show an increased risk of cancer at the end of the one-year observation period.2 In the recently completed rat study, quinacrine was administered directly into the rat uterus, mimicking the proposed contraceptive use in humans. The rat study showed a dose-related increase in malignant reproductive tract tumors at the end of the two-year observation period.3 The increase in tumors was only significant at the upper two doses, and not at the lowest dose. The lowest dose was approximately twice the human dose level on a mg/kg basis.

The relevance of the in vitro and animal study results to humans is unclear. Quinacrine was used widely in the 1940s for malaria treatment and prevention, and an oral toxicology study in rats found no increased risk of cancer.4 However, fewer data exist about intrauterine quinacrine administration. As previously published, FHI conducted a number of early clinical trials of quinacrine involving small numbers of women in the late 1970s and 1980s.5,,67 Since that time, FHI has conducted two long-term epidemiologic studies of women who received intrauterine quinacrine, either as part of the FHI early trials, or as part of other public or private family planning programs not funded by FHI.8,9 Neither long-term study has shown a significant increase in the risk of cancer. Since these studies had limited power to estimate cancer risk because of the relatively small number of study participants, FHI initiated and is currently completing a five-year, case-control study that should provide additional evidence about any potential association between intrauterine quinacrine administration and the risk of gynecologic cancers in women. These results should be available in mid-2007.

We have reported these recent rat study results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because women already have a variety of other contraceptive options, we believe that the potential risk of cancer outweighs the potential benefits of quinacrine as a method of contraception, and we anticipate that the FDA would reach a similar conclusion. These considerations have prompted FHI to both cancel its plans for a clinical study of quinacrine in women and to stop working to develop quinacrine as a method of non-surgical sterilization.

Ultimately, a "weight of evidence approach," based on the sum of all findings from available safety studies, will be needed to conclude whether intrauterine administration of quinacrine increases a woman's risk of cancer. While FHI will not be proceeding with quinacrine development, we still plan to convene a scientific panel in late 2007 (after results from the five-year, case-control study are available) to review results of all in vitro, animal toxicology, and human epidemiologic studies. The panel will evaluate the potential risk of cancer based on all available data. This evaluation may be useful to physicians and public health authorities if they need to address women's concerns in countries where quinacrine was used for non-surgical sterilization in the past.

Concerning quinacrine's effectiveness, FHI recently completed a systematic review of data on the effectiveness of quinacrine as used in clinical trials over the past two decades.10 Reported pregnancy rates are as high as 12.6 per 100 women, at five years after two insertions of 252 mg quinacrine, one month apart, according to the standard clinical protocol. This level of effectiveness does not satisfy our goals for a non-surgical sterilization product.

Furthermore, recent results of an FHI-sponsored animal study of a potential adjuvant to increase quinacrine's effectiveness were not promising. FHI's systematic evaluation of quinacrine reflects our dedication to (1) thoroughly studying contraceptive technologies to maximize the availability of safe and effective contraceptive options, and (2) conducting research that respects and values women's welfare. In this respect, an essential component of our non-surgical research program has been an ongoing dialogue with women's health advocates. In 2001, we formed a panel of women's health advocates, and they have regularly provided invaluable advice and input to our program. We still believe that a method of non-surgical sterilization that is safe, effective, inexpensive, and easy to administer would expand the array of contraceptive choices, especially for women who do not have
access to surgical sterilization or who prefer a permanent non-surgical method. FHI will continue its efforts to develop such a product, through its current evaluation of erythromycin and consideration of other potential candidates in the future.

For further background information, please see:
International Journal of Toxicology: Volume 25, Number 2 / March-April 2006  Pages: 109 - 118

A One-Year Neonatal Mouse Carcinogenesis Study of Quinacrine Dihydrochloride

Aida M. Cancel A1, Thomas Smith A2, Ursula Rehkemper A2, John E. Dillberger A3, David Sokal A1, R. Michael McClain A4
A1 Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA; A2 Covance Laboratories, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England; A3 J. Dillberger, LLC, Nashville, Indiana, USA; A4 McClain Associates, Randolph, New Jersey, USA


Quinacrine is an acridine derivative under investigation for its use in nonsurgical female sterilization. Safety issues regarding the carcinogenic potential of quinacrine have been raised because it is mutagenic and clastogenic in vitro. The objective of the study was to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of quinacrine dihydrochloride (quinacrine) in neonatal mice treated with single intraperitoneal doses on postpartum days 8 and 15 and observed for 52 weeks. Neonatal Crl: CD-1 mice of each sex were randomly allocated into four treatment groups (0, 10, 50, and 150 mg/kg), dosed twice with quinacrine suspended in carboxymethylcellulose, observed for 52 weeks post dose, and then euthanized, necropsied, and subjected to a full histopathological examination. In male mice, tumor incidence was not significantly increased at any site at any dose level. In female mice, the incidence of benign uterine endometrial stromal polyps was slightly greater at the mid and high dose (=50 mg/kg), as was the incidence of endometrial hyperplasia. The incidence of polyps in these groups was not significantly greater than in controls by pair-wise comparison but was significantly greater (p= .042) by the linear trend test. The authors conclude that quinacrine administered twice to neonatal mice may have enhanced or accelerated the development of endometrial hyperplasia and uterine stromal polyps at higher doses. Because uterine stromal polyps are a commonly observed benign tumor in older mice, the significance of this finding is unclear and will require a weight of evidence evaluation for a conclusion on the carcinogenic potential of quinacrine.

Keywords: Carcinogenesis, Endometrial Stromal Polyps, Neonatal Mouse, Quinacrine, Uterus
For additional information about this study, please feel free to contact us.


David Sokal, MD
Scientist, Clinical Research Division Family Health International
(FHI) PO Box 13950 Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA Office -
direct: 919-405-1466 FHI gen'l phone: 919-544-7040 ext. 232

Karen E. Haneke, MS
Program Manager, Nonsurgical Sterilization Product Development
Family Health International (FHI)
PO Box 13950 Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
Phone: 919-544-7040 ext. 530

1 Clarke JJ, Sokal DC, Cancel AM, et al. Re-evaluation of the mutagenic potential of quinacrine dihydrochloride dehydrate. Mutat Res 2001;494(1-2):41-53.
2 Cancel AM, Smith T, Rehkemper U, et al. A one-year neonatal mouse carcinogenesis study of quinacrine dihydrochloride. Int J Toxicol 2006;25(2):109-118.
3 A manuscript describing the study is being prepared for publication.
4 Fitzhugh OG, Nelson AA, Calvery HO. The chronic toxicity of quinacrine (atabrine). J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1945;85:207-221.
5 Laufe LE, Sokal DC, Cole LP, et al. Phase I prehysterectomy studies of the transcervical administration of quinacrine pellets. Contraception 1996;54:181-186.
6 Zipper J, Cole LP, Rivera M, et al. Efficacy of two insertions of 100-minute releasing quinacrine hydrochloride pellets for non-surgical female sterilization. Adv Contraception 1987;3[3]:255-261.
7 Sokal DC, Zipper J, King T. Transcervical quinacrine sterilization clinical experience. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 1995;51[1]:S57-69.
8 Sokal DC, Dabancens A, Guzman-Serani R, et al. Cancer risk among women sterilized with transcervical quinacrine in Chile—An update through 1996. Fertil Steril 2000;74:169-171.
9 Sokal D, Hieu DT, Weiner DH, et al. Long-term follow-up after quinacrine sterilization in Vietnam. Part II: Interim safety analysis. Fertil Steril 2000;74:1092-1101.
10 A manuscript describing the review is being prepared for publication.

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