“Golden Rice Opponents Should Be Held Accountable for Health Problems Linked to Vitamain A Deficiency”

Except for the regulatory approval process, Golden Rice was ready to start saving millions of lives and preventing tens of millions of cases of blindness in people around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

It’s still not in use anywhere, however, because of the opposition to GM technology.
via Scientific American

Sure – we can arrest people for interfering with scientists’ right to save the world, because scientists are so expert that they know what they’re doing and can absolutely guarantee that everything will work as promised…so that means if they’re wrong, they can be held liable for manslaughter if anyone dies, right?


Whaddya mean “that’s not how science works”?

Baby born to a mother who had taken thalidomide while pregnant. Image via wikipedia.

Baby born to a mother who had taken thalidomide while pregnant. Image via Wikipedia.

Authority means accountability. If scientists want the one, they should be ready to accept the other.

And that doesn’t even touch the issue of whether they are taking too much license with the environment we all share. I hate saying that, because I am not at all a fan of environmentalists, and I hate sounding like them. To me the question is not environment vs. science, but rather the correct way to handle risk. The history of science is full of projects that crashed first and only learned to fly after examining what went wrong the first three or seven or fifty times. Scientists don’t own the environment. We all do. That is why the correct way to win debates over whether or not there is such a thing as “genetic pollution” or whether cross-pollination issues are potentially of concern is by persuading the voters – not by punishing thoughtcrimes, as this writer advocates, by making people criminally liable for invented crimes just because those people and their hard-to-rebut arguments happen to be politically inconvenient.

…or just because the scientific community doesn’t know how to effectively rebut a valid point?

…or just because the scientific community doesn’t want to even try, because they think people should just obey?

Maybe if scientists want to go back to the good old days – when people still trusted them – they could start with an apologize for their own past lack of accountability (which is why people stopped trusting them, after all). Blind obedience hasn’t worked out very well for too many of us.

Milgram Experiment advertisement. Image via Wikipedia.

Milgram Experiment advertisement. Volunteers were treated unethically. Image via Wikipedia.

The history of science is littered with experiments that were supposed to be safe but wemt wrong. A disturbing number of these science-gone-wrong stories have occurred in the third world. Scientists have a long and ugly history of using developing-world populations as their personal guinea pigs. For example, most people have heard of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment – but how many people know that after it was exposed and shut down, the scientists moved it overseas?

The Commission confirms that despite knowledge that it was unethical, US government medical scientists PURPOSELY infected  “at least 1,300 who were exposed to the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid” to study the effects of penicillin. At least 83 subjects died.”

Reading this article, it seems that wanting to experiment on third world populations is what this is all about. Poverty isn’t caused by lack of resources. It’s caused by corruption and other political problems. We already have more than enough food to feed the world. So don’t fall for the guy using Third World poverty-stricken people as meat shields: this is not about solving the problems of the poor. It’s about the question of whether scientists promising awesome things have the right to bypass that part of the political process where they have to prove their awesome products are safe and worthwhile – to our satisfaction, not their own.

In other words, it’s about self-governance (as opposed to top-down experts telling us what to want, think, feel, need, desire, use, and not use).

And the people who want the right to override our political processes – because they are quote-unquote ‘experts’ – have a history of being ethically stunted people who view the developing world as their own personal sandbox for exploitative experimentation.

But medical ethicists say that even if today’s research is not as egregious as the Guatemala experiment, American companies are still testing drugs on poor, sometimes unknowing populations in the developing world.

Many, like Markel, note that experimenting with AIDS drugs in Africa and other pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries, “goes on every day.”

“It’s not good enough, in my opinion, to protect only people who live in the developed world — but all human beings,” he said.

via ABC

Scientists have relied on bullying to artificially manipulate outcomes – in the case of GMO foods, they have forced people to falsely equate GMO foods with lower-risk foods. Yes, lower risk. There is a risk in GMO foods, and the scientists want us to behave as if there isn’t. That’s the heart of the matter right there – that is what they want, but they are not willing to do what they have to do to earn the outcome; they want to manipulate the outcome dishonestly. They want to deny the existence of real issues that could or do exist. They want to skip the part where they have to persuade us, and their preferred method for doing this is to replace self-governance with top-down bullying – using the three-step “impending doom” song-and-dance beloved of “progressives” everywhere:

  1. Make optimistic promises about how great the results of the proposed policy will be, then treat those promises as if they’re fact. (How could you be against ending world hunger?)
  2. Make dire predictions of impending doom if the policy is not implemented, and act as if criticizing (or even evaluating) the policy equals wanting that horrible doom to fall. (You don’t just want to end world hunger, but you want everyone to starve and die!)
  3. Ignore or, if necessary, deny the consequences if these grossly exaggerated and highly improbable predictions are incorrect.

There is always risk in science – that is why we don’t hold scientists accountable for the deaths their mistakes cause, even though science has caused a steady stream of death and mutilation. We know that science is frequently wrong. The flip side of this is acknowledging that scientists don’t really know, and aren’t honestly in a position to guarantee safety or certainty. Some of the worst atrocities in the history of science come from scientists losing their objectivity – forgetting that they don’t really know. Getting carried away.

It is accurate and correct to perceive GMO products as risky – potentially very risky – to both health and the environment. It isn’t “anti-science” to point out that risk warrants caution. We don’t actually know they’re safe. Note that the people insisting that we should accept they are safe are people who want all the profits while we are stuck with all the risk. (Normally risk and reward go together, but of course it’s always nicer if you can keep the reward and give some other poor slob the risk.)

The honest way to handle it would be to admit that consumers have good reason to prefer non-manipulated foods – and to price GMO foods less, accordingly. But they don’t want to do that. They want to make it so that you can’t tell if a food is GMO or not. They want to replace non-GMO foods with GMO foods.They want to own the food supply.

And, no, the fact that they’re willing to forego profits doesn’t mean anything – not when you’re talking about a product with the power to foster dependency and create market dominance. Remember when Nestle gave away baby formula? WHOOPS!

If their real goal were to prevent vitamin A deficiency, it wouldn’t be hard to dispense vitamin A to all at-risk populations without forcing farmers into accepting crops that may be wonderful or may cause serious problems.