As a scientist, I am stunned by the factors that are driving policy-making at every level today—from Capitol Hill, to the boardroom, to the kitchen, decision-makers are increasingly influenced by a constituency whose credibility should at best be questioned and at worst be dismissed absolutely. According to wikipedia, the scientific method “is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical, measurable evidence, subject to the principles of reasoning.“ Evidence and reasoning are in short supply in the debate over rbST. Activist advocacy groups are using fear-based and emotional arguments that are having an impact on our society.
The Organic Consumers Association and their Public Citizen spin-off protégé Food and Water Watch are currently at the front of the anti-rBST activity currently swirling around milk producers, processor and retailers. Like the Luddites before them, these groups are opposed to change. But unlike the Luddites, for whom change was an implied threat to their livelihoods, the livelihood of these groups actually depends on change. Any advances in science or chemistry are a boon to their efforts, as they need something to oppose in order to stay relevant and keep their fund raising efforts alive. Today it is the FDA approved- and proven-safe-over-a-decade rbST, tomorrow —what?
These “anti” activist organizations are groups whose full-time efforts are devoted to opposing approved technologies that improve our lives, economically and otherwise. They are funded by foundations whose assets run into the billions of dollars. B. Billions. These foundations have a clear agenda, and they give generously to those who share their goals. All the recipients have to spend their money on is advocacy. I should find another word, because advocacy implies that you are “for” something when these groups are really anti-everything. They embody a “take-away” strategy rather than pursue a noble effort that pursues a mission of “adding to” society.
Imagine the impact a corporation with a billion dollar public relations or marketing department could have? Even Starbucks, with all of their socially-responsible caché appears to be incapable of withstanding the five-year onslaught from these groups.
And where is the evidence and reasoning, the voices of sanity and reason within the scientific community? Where are the voices of dairy producer groups in the public discussion? These activists do threaten your livelihood. As easily as lawmakers can pass legislation that is burdensome for our farmers, they can turn their eye to research, development and production, and impose restrictions that will put companies out of business, and reduce research funds for scientists like me. I appreciate that part of the silence in the scientific community is really just perception based on the reality that reporters simply do not want to talk about the science. But isn’t that what citizen journalism is all about? Using alternative media as a vehicle for both getting and giving out information, like this blog. I urge other scientists to join me, because if consumers and others were informed about the science and the scientific evidence base that supports the use of rbST, instead of with fear, there would be no debate at all.