Tag Archives | GMO

So long to the Seattle March for Science

I am so disappointed with the Seattle March for Science. Not surprised, but still disappointed. t

A few years ago, I rolled up to the parking booth to pay after shopping in Uwajimaya in Seattle. On the side of my car I had a sticker that said “Scientists Against War” and the parking attendant laughed and laughed at it. He asked me how I could have that sticker, as scientists were the people who came up with the nuclear bomb, who continued to work on weapons, and who continue therefore to support war.

Well, I am a scientist, but I don’t make weapons, and am an antiwar activist. We had a good, though brief talk- because we knew that we were both correct. Science is a process and a technique. It is not inherently good or bad: the users of science, and the people the science is used for/against bring the morality to the application of science.

This thought- that science nor its applications might not be perfect- was not allowed to sully the Seattle March for Science (SMfS) or its Facebook group. Solidarity in the belief that SCIENCE IS GREAT might have made a good banner or motivating phrase, but it sure falls short in effectiveness for change.

Donald Trump is blamed for everything, for bad science, or unscience, or ignoring science. Lordy, he is about as bad as could have been predicted. But he is a manifestation, not a cause, of political horror in the USA. Blaming him for everything might seem to build solidarity, but it isn’t true. Water quality has been terrible in Flint for years, for example. How can we approach problems with science if we don’t look at the origins of the issues?

SMfS has evolved its own list of what is allowed to be posted. The plight of the refugees in Europe is horrible, yes- that US and its scientists involvement in war might be responsible, no. The first is Truth, the latter is “political.”

GMO is GREAT, and pesticides are GREAT, and there is no discussion of good things that may be done badly. (Perhaps all corporations are also GREAT, as anything done with any test tube or chemical is science and is GREAT.) I realize that some of the MfS reaction is the way arguments go in the USA, partisan arguments in which no one will give an inch from the line they have drawn as that might imply their whole idea is wrong. And MfS folks can’t seem to admit that not all science is good.

There seems to be no shortage of men telling women just what science is. Someone yesterday posted a request from a woman from Indivisible, searching for an economics/tax professional to speak on a panel about the “TrumpTax scam.” Among the dozens and dozens of anti-Trump postings, it was a very small calm and small requests for an actual expert. One guy answered “This has nothing to do with science. Please refrain from using this page for such posts.” Another guy wrote “Everything can be studied by science- that does not mean it becomes de facto on topic. Trump’s tax dodging isn’t a science matter. You are not looking to talk about economics, you are looking to accuse someone of a scam. I hope you find the person you are looking for, but this isn’t the area to talk about that. Thanks for understanding”-and then an administrator (perhaps the same person commenting, one of the 2 hosts) turned off comments on the post, so no one could even point out how capricious the shut down was. Of course, there are many, many posts on Trumps’ plan to tax graduate students.

In the last couple of years there have been firings and scandals of scientists for sexual harassment. Despite all the women who have weighed in with their own stories, the interpretation persisted that these were aberrations. With the flow of stories from science as well as from politics, journalism, entertainment, and sports, I hope it is clear that the culture of science suffers the same systemic problems as those examples. Science is not special. It can be a marvelous tool, but it only has only as much integrity as we humans bring to it.

And it will require a lot less self-interest to be an international movement, a happening that seems as likely as hitting those C02 goals, and for the same reasons.

 

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GMO labeled food, AAAS, Big corporations, and Citizens United

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“Two States Reject GMO Labeling. Voters in two U.S. states rejected referenda that would have made it mandatory to label genetically modified foods. Measure 92 was narrowly defeated by Oregon voters, while Colorado’s Proposition 105  was rejected by roughly two thirds of voters.”  This is what the 11/12/14 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Policy Alert newsletter.  That’s it. 

We know AAAS does not believe GMO foods should be labeled. (See “Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors on Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods “, October 20, 2012.) Their reason is that GMO foods are safe, that FDA policy says labeling is only required if the absence of the information poses a special health or environmental risk, and that is that.

But his issue is not just about risk, and it is disingenuous of AAAS to pretend it is all risk and science. This is a political and ideological issue, and the AAAS’ political and idealogical statement puts in squarely in the camp with Big Food Companies.

The 2010 Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited funds in elections. The effect of this on spending can be seen in the chart, below, in a January 2014 article  in the Washington Post. City and state campaigns are targets of out-of-state organizations and individuals seeking to influence the vote. 

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And so food companies, worried that shoppers won’t buy GMO products, pour money into state campaigns seeking to avoid labeling of GMO foods.

In the Colorado measure, the Right to Know campaign raised less than $500,000 dollars, and had no TV or radio ads to promote the Proposition 105 campaign. Monsanto  gave more than 4.7 million dollars itself, and Pepsico and Coco-Cola and other food companies gave a total of 1.9 million. 

In Oregon, the Yes on 92 campaign argued that the public has a right to know whether food contains genetically engineered ingredients, and raised 9 million dollars. The No on 92 Coalition raised 20 million dollars with almost 6 million dollars contributed from Monsanto alone.

AAAS, you’d have a lot more credence with people if you would separate the questionable business and unethical actions of companies such as Monsanto from the science when making a statement. The murky pools of vested interests already obscure what the science is. Make clear the science – but also make clear you do not endorse the machinations of large food companies in influencing elections to maintain profits. It would also help the credibility of AAAS and scientists, in general, to address the known health risks of herbicide overuse caused by plants engineered for herbicide resistance. 

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