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Other People's Mail

5 March 1969
Dr. Carl Djerassi
Syntex Research Center
Stanford Industrial Park
Palo Alto, California 94304

Dear Dr. Djerassi:

Enclosed is a draft of the cover of the March Difficult but Possible Supplement to the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG, to be sent early in April to our 500 or so subscribers as well as several dozen bookstores. The reference to Syntex may be of interest to you.

If inconvenience is caused by our report, I apologize. However the rumor preceded our notice of it, and identifying it as a public rumor rather than public fact may be helpful. Any reply you care to make we are glad to publish along with the rumor and this letter. Whether the rumor be true or false, it is maintained by desire for its truth and will probably continue until it gets what it wants: an effective aphrodisiac on the public market. The human advantages and legal disadvantages of such a drug are doubtless well-considered by you. What I would like to particularly stress, and it is the main purpose of this letter is the public need for a double-function Pill -- a combination aphrodisiac and birth control pill.

To put the proposal in perspective familiar to you but perhaps not to CATALOG readers I'll quote part of Paul Ehrlich's prologue to his book The Population Bomb.

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic programs to 'stretch' the carrying capacity of the earth by increasing food production.  But these programs will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control. Population control is the conscious regulation of the numbers of human beings to meet the needs, not just of individual families, but of society as a whole.

Nothing could be more misleading to our children than our   present affluent society. They will inherit a totally different world, a world in which the standards, politics, and economics of the 1960's are dead. As the most powerful nation in the world today, and its largest consumer, the United States cannot stand isolated. We are today involved in the events leading to famine; tomorrow we may be destroyed by its consequences.

World famine versus heavy governmental controls over sex behavior is no pleasant choice. If technology such; as yours can design around the problem and encourage personal incentives to population control, there might yet be a pleasant choice. The public consequences of a cheap, legal, effective aphrodisiac would no doubt be wild and wooly, putting the psychedelic furor in the shade.  But surely a revolution of pleasure-fiends is preferable to world conflict between starving populations.  It's not that simple, I know, but before the Combination Pill can be realizable, some laws and attitudes are going to have to get out of its way. Clear-choice public discussion may help.

Perhaps the Combination Pill could be called Make Love Not War.

Stewart Brand


Mr. Stewart Brand
Portola Institute
1115   Merrill Street Menlo Park,  California
Dear Mr. Brand:

March 18, 1969

I think that you have given our Syntex technology too much credit.  If we have developed an effective aphrodisiac, our laboratory people have selfishly kept the whole business very quiet.

New drugs are approved-for use on the basis of demonstrated relative safety and efficacy.  The more serious the disease condition, the greater degree of risk is acceptable. There is nothing in the present regulatory system to accommodate the idea of the validity of drug induced pleasure, erotic or otherwise.

Your proposed oral contraceptive and aphrodisiac combination will indeed be a large pill for the FDA and the medical profession to swallow even if it has the favorable social effects you attribute to it.

Yours sincerely,