On 27 Feb 2004 10:21:18 -0800, (basskisser) wrote:
What do you get when those very scientists, a highly respected,
nonpartisan group called the Union of Concerned Scientists, go on to
claim that no other president in modern history has so openly misled
the public or been so flagrantly disrespectful of scientific fact and
mountains of irrefutable research, deliberately and systematically
mutilating scientific data in the service of its rather brutal,
pro-corporate, antienvironment agenda?
Ah, yes. The unbiased Union of Concerned Scientists. Here is even more
information on this unbiased group with all the intellectual integrity
of Harry Krause:
Union of Concerned Scientists
— S. Fred Singer, George Mason University professor and president of
the Science & Environmental Policy Project, in The Washington Times,
August 11, 2000
"The Union of Perturbed Scientists."
— Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, March 9, 1999
"It’s more like the Union of Concerned Lawyers."
— Steven Milloy, www.JunkScience.com
"Aptly named because they can find concerns about anything."
— Bruce Boller, Virginia Military Institute Department of Physics and
Astronomy, The Washington Times, July 7, 2002
Committed to an “open-minded search for truth,” and armed with
“unrivaled scientific expertise,” the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS) “doesn’t say anything [it] can’t back up with solid evidence.”
At least, that’s what its fund-raising letters say. The reality is
UCS embraces an environmental agenda that often stands at odds with
the “rigorous scientific analysis” it claims to employ. A radical
green wolf in sheep’s clothing, UCS tries to distinguish itself from
the Greenpeaces of the world by convincing the media that its
recommendations reflect a consensus among the scientific community.
And that’s what makes it so dangerous. Whether it’s energy policy or
agricultural issues, UCS’s “experts” are routinely given a free pass
from newspaper reporters and television producers when they claim that
mainstream science endorses their radical agenda.
Here’s how it works: UCS conducts an opinion poll of scientists or
organizes a petition that scientists sign. Then they manipulate or
misconstrue the results in order to pronounce that science has spoken.
In 1986 UCS asked 549 of the American Physical Society’s 37,000
members if Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was “a
step in the wrong direction for America’s national security policy.”
Despite the biased wording of the push-poll question, only 54 percent
disapproved of SDI. Even so, UCS declared that the poll proved
“profound and pervasive skepticism toward SDI in the scientific
Like many environmental activist groups, UCS uses the twin motivators
of cheer and fear. A giggly Gwenyth Paltrow and a catty Cameron Diaz
headlined a series of short appeals about energy conservation that UCS
produced. The two mega-stars crow that they turn the water off while
brushing their teeth, switch off the light when they leave their
bedrooms, and keep the thermostat at 65 degrees. “Its time for us to
band together and really make every effort to conserve our natural
resources,” chirps Diaz. That’s the sunny side.
But UCS is more adept at producing horror stories than chick flicks.
They are fear-mongers of the first order -- turning the sober science
of health and environmental safety into high drama for public
consumption. For example, UCS recently warned that by 2100 the U.S.
might suffer 50-80 million more cases of malaria every year if the
Senate fails to ratify the Kyoto treaty. Such racy statistics are
based on clumsy modeling of worst-case scenarios, and assume --
against all evidence of human behavior -- that no countermeasures
whatsoever would be employed. “Not considering factors such as local
control measures or health services,” in their own words. Of course,
you won’t find those caveats in the press release.
Genetically Modified Science
Among UCS’s many concerns, “the food you eat” is at the top of the
list. More than a million dollars went to its food program in 2001.
Genetically enhanced foods -- dubbed “Frankenfoods” by opponents --
have caused worldwide hysteria even though no reputable scientific
institution can find anything to be afraid of. But that doesn’t stop
UCS’s “experts” from playing cheerleader to these unfounded fears.
They warn that biotech foods could result in the “squandering of
valuable pest susceptibility genes,” “enhancement of the environment
for toxic fungi,” and the “creation of new or worse viruses.” They
scream about “Poisoned wildlife” and “new allergens in the food
supply.” Biotech foods, they claim, might “increase the levels of
toxic substances within plants,” “reduce the effectiveness of
antibiotics to fight disease,” “contaminate foods with high levels of
toxic metals,” “intensify weedy properties” and cause the “rapid
evolution of resistance to herbicides in weeds,” leading to
Rigorous scientific analysis led UCS to this list of horrors, right?
Wrong. That was merely a “‘brainstorming’ of potential harms.” So how
likely are any of these to occur? “Risk assessments can be
complicated,” UCS says, and pretty much leaves it at that. In other
words, they have absolutely no idea.
In contrast, more reputable authorities have a very good grasp of the
potential risks of genetically enhanced foods. The U.S. Environmental
protection Agency says that genetically enhanced corn “does not pose
risks to human health or to the environment.” The World Health
Organization says that biotech foods “are not likely to present risks
for human health” and observes that “no effects on human health have
been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general
population.” Even the European Union, which has gone out of its way to
stifle food technology for political reasons, notes: “The use of more
precise technology [in genetically enhanced crops] and the greater
regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional
plants and foods.”
The Food and Environment Program at UCS is headed up by Margaret
Mellon and her deputy Jane Rissler, both of whom hold Ph.Ds and have
held positions at prestigious universities. So what do a couple of
highly trained research scientists, armed with nothing but guesswork,
ideology and a million dollar budget, do? They fight biotech food
every step of the way.
Although UCS claims that it “does not support or oppose genetic
engineering per se,” Mellon and Rissler in fact have never met a GM
food they didn’t mistrust. That’s because they hold biotech foods to
an impossibly high standard.
In 1999, UCS joined the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club,
the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Arizona-Sonora Desert
Museum, and the Defenders of Wildlife, in petitioning the EPA for
strict regulation of corn modified to produce large amounts of the
bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin. Bt is a naturally occurring insect
poison that protects plants from pests like the European corn borer.
UCS’s letter was part of a major scare campaign to convince the public
that Bt corn posed a risk to the Monarch Butterfly.
Both the USDA and the EPA later concluded that Bt corn caused no harm
to the Monarch. This reinforced the findings of federal regulators who
had performed a comprehensive safety review of Bt corn before it was
allowed into the marketplace. UCS remains unconvinced, even though the
safest place for a Monarch larva to be is in a Bt cornfield. Rissler
argued there was “insufficient data” to make such a conclusion.
Of course, “sufficient” data can never exist for zealots like Rissler.
She continued: “Do we assume the technology is safe… or do we prove
it? The scientist in me wants to prove it’s safe.” It’s impossible to
prove a negative, to absolutely demonstrate that there are no dangers
whatsoever for any given product. The scientist in her knows that too,
but she and her colleagues at UCS continue to be guided by the
“Precautionary Principle.” This misguided maxim argues that, based on
the fear that something harmful may possibly arise, we should opt for
The Wall Street Journal editorialized in 2000 that The Precautionary
Principle “is an environmentalist neologism, invoked to trump
scientific evidence and move directly to banning things they don’t
like.” It’s a big hit among anti-technology activists because it
justifies their paranoia and serves to bludgeon technological
Martin Teitel, who runs another misnamed activist group called the
Council for Responsible Genetics, admitted as much in 2001.
“Politically,” Teitel said, “it’s difficult for me to go around saying
that I want to shut this science down, so it’s safer for me to say
something like, ‘It needs to be done safely before releasing it.’”
Requiring scientists to satisfy the Principle by proving a negative,
Teitel added, means that “they don’t get to do it period.”
It should come as no surprise that UCS joined Teitel’s organization
and other die-hard opponents of biotech foods in an activist coalition
called the Genetic Engineering Action Network. While acknowledging
that “we know of no generic harms associated with genetically
engineered organisms,” UCS consistently opposes their introduction to
the market on the basis of purely hypothetical risk.
Confronted with the real-world benefits of biotech foods, UCS simply
changes the subject to its anti-corporate, socialist leanings.
Rissler’s appearance on the PBS show Nova – on a program called
“Harvest of Fear” -- is a case in point. When the interviewer
suggested that “genetically modified crops are arguably much less
harmful to the environment” Rissler responded: “It depends on where
you want to compromise. There’s another issue here with corporate
control of the food supply.”
UCS’s knee-jerk reaction to biotech foods is matched only by its
animus towards agribusiness. A 1994 press release condemning FDA
approval of biotech foods complained that some of the data used by the
oversight agency was provided by private enterprises.
In her zeal to decry increased food production from the corporate
adoption of biotechnology, Mellon has argued that it’s “not clear that
more milk or pork is good.” And UCS supports a radical vision of
“sustainable agriculture.” That means no pesticides or herbicides; no
fertilizer (other than E.coli-rich manure); and eating only “locally
grown” produce. If it’s not clear under this plan where New York City
would get its rice or how Chicago would scrounge up any bananas,
there’s a reason for it. They wouldn’t.
Pigs, Chickens and Cows, Oh My!
Hogging It, a UCS report published in 2001, argues that the use of
antibiotics in farm animals could result in human diseases that are
resistant to conventional treatments. The report received a great deal
of press attention, and UCS is not afraid to brag about it. “We
developed the numbers that everyone uses when talking about… overuse
of antibiotics,” trumpets a fund-raising letter. But how did they go
about developing those numbers? “Rigorous scientific analysis”?
Hardly. While the livestock industry actually calculates the amounts
of antibiotics administered to farm animals using hard sales figures,
UCS guesses at average drug dosages and then multiplies by the total
number of animals. That’s “brainstorming.” Not science.
The real experts, like David Bell, coordinator of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s anti-microbial resistance programs,
aren’t impressed by Hogging It. Interestingly, UCS admits the weakness
of its evidence. The executive summary of Hogging It complains about a
“gaping chasm” in the data. Nevertheless, the authors are proud to
produce the “first transparent estimate” of livestock antibiotic use
Estimate? That’s right. “The numbers everyone uses” are just
estimates. Moreover, UCS measures antibiotic usage in total tonnage.
But is that relevant in any way? UCS concedes that it’s not. The
activist group wants the FDA to track antibiotic usage by “type,”
since most antibiotics used in animals are unlike those used in
Consumer Reports quotes Margaret Mellon saying, “We know nothing. We
are flying blind.” No wonder the American Veterinary Medical
Association and the Coalition for Animal Health also reject Hogging
It’s findings. But none of that stops UCS from scaring the wits out of
the public. Mellon warns of an “era where untreatable infectious
diseases are regrettably commonplace.” That might be worth getting
“Concerned” about, if only it were based on good science.
Address 2 Brattle Square
Cambridge, MA 02238
Website www.ucsusa.org www.actgreen.com
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Officers & Other Supporters
Program Director, Food and Environment Margaret Mellon Food &
Environment Director, Union of Concerned Scientists; Advisory Board
member, Center for Food Safety; former program director, Environmental
Law Institute; co-author, The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops
Deputy Director & Senior Staff Scientist Jane Rissler Deputy
Director & Senior Staff Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists;
media “expert,” Environmental Media Services; former staff scientist,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; co-author, The Ecological Risks
of Engineered Crops
Board Member Peter A. Bradford Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; former chair, New York Public Service Commission; former
chair, Maine Public Utilities Commission; former member, U.S. Nuclear
Board Member Thomas Eisner Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; Professor of Chemical Ecology, Cornell University; former
chair, Endangered Species Coalition; former board member, National
Audubon Society; former scientific council member, Nature Conservancy
Prog. Dir. & Sr. Scientist, Global Environment Peter C. Frumhoff
Global Resources Program Director & Senior Scientist, Union of
Concerned Scientists; former assistant research scientist, Department
of Zoology, the University of Maryland
Board Member Richard L. Garwin Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; former
member, the President’s Scientific Advisory Committee
Chairman & co-founder Kurt Gottfried Chairman of the Board and
co-founder, Union of Concerned Scientists; professor emeritus of
physics, Cornell University; member, Council on Foreign Relations;
author, Quantum Mechanics: Fundamentals; co-author, Concepts of
Board Member Geoffrey Heal Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; professor of Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility,
Columbia University Graduate School of Business; author, Nature and
the Marketplace; former managing editor, The Review of Economic
Board Member James S. Hoyte Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; Associate Vice President for Equal Opportunity Programs,
Environmental Sciences lecturer & Co- Director, Working Group on
Environmental Justice, Harvard University
Executive Director Kevin Knobloch Executive Director, Union of
Concerned Scientists; director, CERES; former Director of Conservation
Programs, Boston Appalachian Mountain Club; former Leg. Dir., U.S.
Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-CO); former Leg. Asst. & Press Sec., U.S. Rep.
Ted Weiss (D-NY)
Director of Government Relations Alden Meyer Dir. of Government
Relations, Union of Concerned Scientists; chair, US Climate Action
Network; Executive Director, League of Conservation Voters; former
dir., Environmental Action; former dir., Connecticut Citizens Action
Board Member Stuart Pimm Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University
of Tennessee; author, The Balance of Nature? Ecological Issues in the
Conservation of Species and Communities
President Howard Ris President & former Exec. Dir., Union of
Concerned Scientists; member, (Clinton Administration’s) Council on
Sustainable Dev.; former prog. dir., New England River Basins
Commission; former sr. policy analyst, Massachusetts Exec. Office of
Vice Chair Adele Smith Simmons Vice Chair, Union of Concerned
Scientists; Sr. Associate, Univ. of Chicago Ctr. for Int’l Studies;
former president, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; former
president, Hampshire College; former professor & dean, Princeton &
Board Member Nancy Stephens Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; CA appointee, Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Board;
executive board member, Earth Communications Office; advisory board
member, the Liberty Hill Foundation; board member, Americans for a
Board Member Thomas Stone Board member, Union of Concerned
Scientists; Chairman & CEO, Stone Capital Group; board member, Ravinia
Festival Association; board member, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith; board member, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra
Board Member Ellyn R. Weiss Board member & former general
counsel, Union of Concerned Scientists; retired partner, Foley, Hoag &
Eliot; former partner, Harmon & Weiss LLP; former Assistant
Massachusetts Attorney General for Environmental Protection
On the 'Poco Loco' out of Deale, MD
on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay!