To which, Ann says: I'm not sure how to respond to your observation.
It was a quality piece of work, but decidedly one-sided in it's
findings. I hope that I did not imply that Cox' work was "junk
science" - at least as I understand the term - as it wasn't and
Frank said: > That said, I think the fact that research monies are
> from corporate purses must obviously have some distorting effect on the
> process; this doesn't necessarily mean that many people are
> deliberately lying (although some no doubt are).
Ann replies: Quite true. Truthfully, I cannot think of even one
example where I know an individual who published something that they
knew to be false. An exception might be the well known strategy of
an unnamed life sciences company which managed to obscure the
mastitis-promoting effects of an unnamed growth hormone by
publishing individual trials with small animal numbers that
effectively diluted the statistical power of the treated vs. control
comparisons. The unsoundness of their approach was revealed by an
undergraduate student in the UK, who eventually was able to publish a
pooled analysis of their individual trial data revealing a highly
significant increase in mastitis.
What is much MUCH more common is that the very questions
asked, together with the methods used to test them, lead quite
unambiguously to outcomes that support the researcher's values - or
the goals of the funding source.
As one example, I sat on the defense of a young M.Sc. student - a
very nice and likeable young chap whose thesis involved comparing a
wide range of rates, dates, and types of biocide combinations to
control weeds in white beans. I think there were 25 or so
combinations, plus two controls - one with a single cultivation, and
one with two cultivation passes. The student had done a great job
analyzing his data and writing up a strong thesis, concluding that
products X and Y, applied at rates Z and A, at time B, were most
consistently effective in controlling weeds.
However, what he didn't mention was that the control treatments were
at least as effective, or more effective, than almost all of the
chemical combinations at both test sites and years. The data were
present in his tables, complete with statistical comparisons, but the
interpretation of the data showing the value of cultivation vs.
chemical agents, was absent. He didn't lie. He just didn't "see",
because it was outside his value-system. He went on to work for an
herbicide company, as I recall.
Frank said: > Ultimately, while today we may speak of 'good science'
and 'bad science'
> (Junk science, Whore science, and maybe even where socio-economic
> deformation becomes epidemic, Brothel Science), no science is
> Omni-Science; so the use of any novel chemical is something of a gamble,
> the hope being that it will be a sustainable gamble.
Ann replies: I guess my own bias would be why use the chemical in
the first place, when alternative nonchemical approaches are
available, or at the least, should be examined? This reasoning is
more tenuous when you bring up Tupperware etc., but I am on solid
ground when it comes to pest management in agricultural systems. I
discuss this in some depth in some of the talks I've mounted on my
What has really heightened my concern about chemicals, including
binder covers, truck upholstery, and plastic food wraps as well as
farm chemicals, is Theo Colborn's book on endocrine disrupters (Our
Stolon Future). The two really scary aspects that stick with me are
a) the chemicals act at perishingly small concentrations, because
they interfere with hormone synthesis/breakdown/function, and hence,
the traditional "dose-response" mentality of toxicology simply DOES
NOT APPLY, and
b) the effects are intergenerational, often involving the lifetime
body burden of all manner of persistent chemicals - causing you to
inadvertantly bequeath life-long problems (e.g. immune system
dysfunction, reproductive fitness problems, and even depressed IQ) to
your offspring. In other words, exposure to these chemicals acts not
on you, and not now, but on your own offspring many years later.
What could possibly be more compelling, riveting, and distressing to
None of this was known - geesh, we didn't even have words for it -
when Tupperware and Saranwrap came out. How many products are now on
the marketplace and in common, widespread use, that we now know, in
hindsight, should never have been released in the first place? And
what are we doing about it? Having read fairly extensively over the
highly successful strategies already in place to retard USEPA review
of just the pesticides, I no longer count on government to protect my
interests when it comes to high-stakes commercial decisions.
For my own family, I just try to avoid as much exposure as possible.
Examples would include a large organic garden which supports a well
stocked cold room; growing my own chickens and eggs (and calves) from
known feedstuffs and pasture; buying organic milk (in paper rather
than plastic cartons, even though it is more expensive); and
patronizing organic suppliers of products that I do not grow. For
building, I use linseed-based stains rather than chemical
preservatives to protect wood. When remodelling my kitchen, I kept
the old fiberboard cupboards (which because they were old, had
already vented the chemicals which would otherwise be venting into
my families lungs from new fiberboard cupboards) and replaced the
doors and facings with wood rather than synthetic wood surfaces.
Rather than linoleum or other synthetic flooring, I used
These are just a few examples, but perhaps they give a picture of
what can be done to reduce exposure to synthetic chemicals. I know
that it is only a start, as I still live 10 km out of town and drive
into work daily, ride a bike, fly in airplanes, etc. But with as
little as we actually DO know about these things, it really seems
only sensible to avoid them as much as possible. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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