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Context of 'December 15, 2004: Scientists Warn of Dangers Posed by Pharma Crops'

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Sixty-two leading scientists, including Nobel Prize laureates, university chairs and presidents, and former federal agency directors, sign a joint statement protesting the Bush administration’s “unprecedented” politicization of science (see January 2004 and June 1, 2005). Over 11,000 scientists will add their names to the statement, disseminated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, in the coming years. “When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions,” the scientists write. “This has been done by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees; by disbanding existing advisory committees; by censoring and suppressing reports by the government’s own scientists; and by simply not seeking independent scientific advice. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front. Furthermore, in advocating policies that are not scientifically sound, the administration has sometimes misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.” [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/2004; Savage, 2007, pp. 303-304]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Civil Liberties

A study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that traditional US varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola have become widely contaminated with low levels of transgenic genes. Contamination levels are the highest for canola, the study finds, with six of the six traditional varieties testing positive for genetically modified DNA. Based on the study’s findings, the authors estimate that the level of contaminated seed in the US is probably in the range of 0.05 to 1 percent, which the report notes “would represent huge absolute amounts of seed.” According to the authors, the study shows how easy it is for transgenic genes to escape. It also suggests the possibility that genes not approved for consumption—such as those engineered to produce drugs, plastics, and vaccines—could end up contaminating food crops. [Mellon and Rissler, 2/23/2004 pdf file; Mellon and Rissler, 2/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Union of Concerned Scientists

Timeline Tags: Seeds

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) releases a report warning that the use of genetically modified plants—especially corn and soy—to produce drugs, vaccines, and industrial chemicals poses a grave risk to the world’s food supply. The report takes a close look at the current system for producing and distributing food- and feed- grade corn and soybeans and warns that there are a number of potential entry points where plant-produced chemicals might contaminate the food supply. According to the report’s authors, the US Department of Agriculture should “halt the outdoor production of genetically engineered pharma and industrial crops immediately until a system is put in place that can produce drugs and industrial substances without putting our food system and food industry at risk.” They also recommend that the USDA fund an effort to explore safer alternatives. The report was written by scientists at Iowa Sate University, University of Central Florida, University of California at Davis, University of Illinois, and University of Minnesota, and an agricultural management expert based in Hudson, Iowa. [Inter Press Service, 6/9/2004; Andow et al., 12/2004; Union of Concerned Scientists, 12/15/2004; Washington Times, 12/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Union of Concerned Scientists, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Food Safety

Flowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releasesFlowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releases [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)A February 2006 NOAA document features a flowchart outlining the review process that news releases must go through before they are published. According to the flowchart, the press release is submitted and reviewed by several layers of bureaucracy within the NOAA and the Department of Commerce. As a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists will note, “a successful press release must pass review by several entities that primarily serve political and public relations functions, and scientists do not have a right of final review to ensure scientific accuracy of the final product.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 32 pdf file] In April 2006, Ronald Stouffer, a senior NOAA research meteorologist, will say he “stopped trying to get press releases out” because of the difficulty of explaining the science to the agency’s public affairs officers and because of the complexity of the approval process. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) bolsters allegations that the Bush administration is pressuring climate scientists to produce material that does not contradict its position on global warming. The survey was distributed to 1,600 climate scientists at seven federal agencies. Of those, 279 responded. The survey found:
bullet Forty-six percent of the respondents indicated that they perceived or personally experienced pressure to remove the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from their writings.
bullet Forty-six percent said their writings had been changed or edited by a superior in a way that changed its meaning.
bullet Forty-six percent said they perceived or personally experienced new or unusual procedural requirements that impair climate-related work.
bullet Twenty-five percent of the respondents said they know of scientists who have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change a scientific finding.
bullet 150 climate scientists said they personally experienced political interference in the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents.
bullet Seventy-eight percent of the scientists who indicated that their work involves controversial climate research said that they have personally experienced at least one incident of inappropriate interference with their work. Of those, more than one-quarter said they had experienced six or more such incidents during the last five years.
bullet Sixty-seven percent said their work environment has become less enjoyable over the last 5 years ago. This figure was the highest for scientists working at NASA (79 percent). [Union of Concerned Scientists, 1/30/2007 pdf file; Reuters, 1/30/2007]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Project, Union of Concerned Scientists

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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