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Science Under Siege - Support Our Scientists

 By  OUR scientists, I mean all those scientists working in the public interest who have been hobbled, nobbled, smeared, dismissed, discredited, had their funding cut or been otherwise silenced, for telling the truth. They have asked that we support them on February 29th.  It may be a bit late now for Aussies and others on this side of Greenwhich, but do it anyway.

 This type of behaviour was going on at least as far back as 1953 when Rachael Carson published her expose about DDT called "Silent Spring" and it has resurfaced most recently  in the villification of Peter Gleick after he exposed the machinations of the Heartland Institute. The  A-Z list on the Union of Concerned Scientists website has plenty of  examples of suppression and intimidation. See also The Union of Concerned Scientist's report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose  which outlines the some of the more common methods:

" Corrupting the Science 

Corporations suppress research, intimidate scientists, manipulate study designs, ghostwrite scientific articles, and selectively publish results that suit their interests.

    Shaping Public Perception 

 Private interests downplay evidence, exaggerate uncertainty, vilify scientists, hide behind front groups, and feed the media slanted news stories.

    Restricting Agency Effectiveness 

Companies attack the science behind agency policy, hinder the regulatory process, corrupt advisory panels, exploit the "revolving door" between corporate and government employment, censor scientists, and withhold information from the public.

    Influencing Congress 

By spending billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, corporate interests gain undue access to members of Congress, encouraging them to challenge scientific consensus, delay action on critical problems, and shape the use of science in policy making.

    Exploiting Judicial Pathways 

 Corporate interests have expanded their influence on the judicial system, used the courts to undermine science, and exploited judicial processes to bully and silence scientists."

Let Us Recount the Ways

Heads They Win, Tails We Lose is full of real-world examples of the ways corporations interfere with science. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Suppressing Research:
Hog Farm Emissions

After pork producers contacted his supervisors, a USDA microbiologist was prevented from publishing research showing that emissions from industrial hog farms contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Corrupting Advisory Panels:
Childhood Lead Poisoning

A few weeks before a CDC advisory panel met to discuss revising federal lead standards, two scientists with ties to the lead industry were added to the panel. The committee voted against tightening the standards.

Ghostwriting Articles:
The Pharmaceutical Industry

A 2011 analysis found evidence of corporate authorship in research articles on a variety of drugs, including Avandia, Paxil, Tylenol, and Vioxx.

The  entries on Atrazine on Sourcewatch  are also instructive. They show leaked corporate emails seeking people to respond to newspaper articles and  instructing investigators to discover the funding, affiliations, character and possible weaknesses of the reporter about to do an interview on the issue. See also the long list of law suits involving Monsanto in wiki

While Professor Gleick's opponents largely belonged to those industries which would suffer financially as a result of changes needed to halt  climate change, Monsanto continues to deny that their agricultural chemicals and genetically modified organisms have an effect on human health and the environment, just as they did all those years ago about DDT. All scientists ask, is that the precautionary principle prevail  and that they be allowed to do honest research before these are released into the environment.  

Unfortunately, the last day of February was also the last day for Australians to make submissions to the review of regulations concerning Farm and Veterinary Chemicals being conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Since this does not appear to have received much attention in our newspapers with all the Leadership tussles going on in Canberra, perhaps we could respectfully demand an extension of the time period.
 " using the science and studies from overseas to their full tent"
Australia has long relied on the findings of Government bodies such as the FDA to do our testing for us. However, due to agency capture, political appointments and reduced funding, the FDA finds itself ever more reliant on research produced by the very companies seeking approval. Read for example what happened with the attempt to ban antibiotics in large scale agriculture because of  risks to public health such as increased antibiotic resistance.

  “And last month, the FDA scrapped its three-decade-long effort to regulate the use of the popular human antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline in livestock. While the FDA says in the announcement that it "remains concerned about the issue of antimicrobial resistance," it also says "contested, formal withdrawal proceedings" consume too much of its time and money. For example, withdrawing nitrofurans from livestock use took 20 years, DES (diethylstilbestrol) took seven years and enrofloxacin took five years and cost $3.3 million….." READ MORE HERE.....
I'm going to say something here which will not make me very popular, but must be said. Why, oh why, didn't scientists band together and speak up long ago, go to the press or seek public support earlier? Many of them are employed in the public interest and while I understand fear and self interest, surely ways could have been found. 
Interestingly, many of the same players involved in The Heartland Institute mentioned previously  - Phillip Morris, Oil Companies and Pharmaceutical companies, have been busy wooing delegates from countries involved in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership in New York which will affect Australians, New Zealanders and many other countries in the region.This is no doubt the kind of outreach program mentioned by Matt McDermott in,
"...Several cables describe "biotechnology outreach programs" in countries across the globe, including African, Asian and South American countries where Western biotech agriculture had yet to gain a foothold. In some cables (such as this 2010 cable from Morocco) US diplomats ask the State Department for funds to send US biotech experts and trade industry representatives to target countries for discussions with high-profile politicians and agricultural officials."

The Big Lie

A misconception often trotted out in support of GMOs and the ever growing arsenal of chemicals is that we are all going to starve if we do not accept this technology, regardless of the cost to ourselves or the environment. According to Greenpeace, this is not only untrue, but these technologies may in fact exacerbate the problem.
"Despite industry claims to the contrary no GMO crop has ever been modified to increase yields or to resist to climate change. GMOs pose a major threat to food security due to their adverse effects on biodiversity, their continuous contamination of conventional crops, the agro -biotech companies’ control over food and agriculture through their control of the global seeds market and their heavy-handed tactics surrounding GMO patenting rights (see: ‘Food security and climate change’ and ‘Who will feed the world’). Our report on the agricultural crisis in Argentina revealed introducing GMOs locked the country into growing commodity crops such as soya for export. The result was that instead of growing food for themselves, people were farming for international markets and the number of people below the poverty line increased dramatically." Read more...

 The Worms are Turning....

Earlier this month China rejected Monsanto's GM rice seeds, India filed a lawsuit against them for selling contaminated egg plant seeds, British activists forced the retreat of Monsanto from the UK and a French farmer succeeded in suing Monsanto for chemical poisoning.   Consumers International which represents 220 consumer organisations around the world won the right for 100 countries to determine their own labelling laws, despite opposition from the USA which considered them an impediment to Free Trade.
 European citizens have largely rejected GMOs, depending on the region (Switzerland, France, Hungary, Germany, Austria and Luxemburg have at least some bans) and very little GMO food finds its way to supermarket shelves. Unfortunately, their US counterparts have not been so lucky. Despite 45,000 objections to a new strain of genetically engineered corn, this application was approved during the news lull over Christmas and, despite being supported by 300,000 organic farmers and seed producers seeking protection against being sued by Monsanto when their seed became contaminated by the giant company's product, the court ruled in favour of Monsanto.
Read more
Two more petitions opposing Dow Chemical's  2,4-D and Monsanto's modified soy beans unfortunately closed yesterday, but here are some more:

  • There are some suggestions on their website, also about contacting politicians and writing to newspapers.
  • You could also donate
  •  Or start your own petition using the  form on the Care2 website
 Other Petitions:

US Petition opposing the appointment of former Monsanto lobbyists to FDA
US Petition Objecting to Scotts/Monsanto partnering with the Northwest Wildlife Fund
US Petition to Stop Monsanto 
Canada Clear Food and Beverage Labelling Petition