by Mickey Z.
June 21, 2003
"Science is always wrong; it never solves a problem without creating ten more."
-- George Bernard Shaw
The June 20, 2003 New York Times offered readers a prime illustration of how those in power manipulate "science" to their needs. In an editorial entitled, "Censorship on Global Warming," the Times chastised the Bush administration for displaying "ostrichlike behavior," vis-à-vis the dangers of global warming and possible human contributions to climate changes. Lamenting the "heavy-handed censorship" of an Environmental Protection Agency draft report on global warming. The Bush administration, says the Times, "seems determined to bury its head in the sand and hope the problem will go away."
"A long section on the risks posed by rising global temperatures was reduced to a noncommittal paragraph," says the editorial. While such outrage is warranted, it's hardly credible when it comes from a corporate media outlet partially funded by petroleum and auto industry ad dollars...an outlet never shy about promoting a predatory corporate agenda.
That same edition of the Times contained an article ("Talks Collapse on U.S. Efforts to Open Europe to Biotech Food") in which reporter David Leonhardt detailed talks between the U.S. and EU over "opening up Europe to genetically modified (GM) foods."
The Bush administration, fresh off ignoring the existing science on global warming, declared Europe's GM food policy ignores the fact that scientific research had shown "genetically altered crops to be safe." Hardly the radical sort, European officials do allow the use of some genetically modified foods, like soybeans, and merely view the long-term effects of altered food to be "uncertain."
Here's where the newspaper of record weighs in...big time.
"Genetically modified food - which can grow more quickly than traditional crops and can be resistant to insects - has caused scant controversy in the United States, where people eat it every day," writes Leonhardt. So what's different in Europe? Leonhardt explains that the environmental movement is "more powerful" there (ah, it's the Luddite tree-huggers again).
Leonhardt's ostrichlike behavior does not stop there. "Scientific research has generally shown that genetically modified foods do not cause health problems," he writes before quoting Don Lipton, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"Countries shouldn't be able to erect barriers for nonscientific reasons," says Lipton. "That's a very important principle in international trade."
Pushing his head ever further into the sand, Leonhardt also evokes the ever-useful "America as hero" tactic: "In a speech last month, President Bush (sic) escalated the dispute by saying that Europe's policy was undermining efforts to fight hunger in Africa." Bush's scriptwriters explain: "European governments should join, not hinder, the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."
Africa swoons from the irony, Europe cringes at yet-another public dispute with The World's Only Superpower(tm), and here in the U.S., we chow down on GM food, secure in the knowledge that our un-elected leaders have that whole global warming thing under control.
If there were an ostrich in the room, I'd apologize...
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.