>That is what practicing value free neutral science has achieved. All the
>problems of today cannot be laid at the door step of science but value free
>science has helped moved the agenda to where we are today so in my opinion
>it is part of the problem. Science with out values will not help-our
>science should work or compliment our values.
In midst of these challenging dilemmas it is, I believe, helpful to
reflect on the wisdom of our elders. My father (a chemist) taught me
something at the beginning of my scientific career (over 30 years ago)
that he reconfirmed for me a only a few months ago.
"Science --- true science --- is organised skepticism.
Technology is organised boosterism.
We get in trouble when we confuse the two."
Many people, trained as scientists, are functioning as technologists,
boosting rather than questioning. That was the case with nuclear
energy, and it *is* the case with GMOs. We should, as Vaclav Havel so
ably observed a decade ago, "Restore the real meaning of words, to live
We are so slow to learn. Half a century ago, when the development of
pesticides was at a stage roughly analogous to that of GMOs today,
several true scientists were admirably skeptical. Chief among them was
A D Pickett, in charge of the Dominion Entomological Laboratory
(Canada). Fifty years ago he wrote several things that should be held
in high regard today, given the unfolding of history.
"The practice of spraying may defeat its own purpose since it is common
that over a period of time, as thoroughness increases, the value of
each application becomes proportionately less. It is difficult to say
what complications may eventually develop ... [but] the methods used in
testing the effects of various agricultural chemicals on soils leave
much to be desired."
"As pointed out previously, these effects may exhibit themselves very
slowly and several years may elapse before the final results become
known. ... the present methods used by investigators are entirely too
empirical and should be regarded with acute skepticism. This applies
not only to the work of the scientific staffs of industrial
organizations, but to that of government officers as well."
"There are a number of reasons, most of them economic, why this policy
has been allowed to develop as it has. There are many incentives and
pressues ... but there is little to encourage long-term ecological
studies of the changes in the complex biological that may be brought
about by the application of chemicals. The results are so slow in
coming to light that the problem is side-tracked because no
organization is behind it. ... The farmer should be interested in this
line of approach, but for the most part he too is subjected to economic
pressures to get immediate results, and the problems are too abstruse
for him to comprehend fully." [all from Pickett, A.D. (1949) A
Critique on Insect Chemical Control Methods, The Canadian Entomologist,
Vol 81, No 3, p 7]
Thirteen years later, Rachel Carson had quite cogently outlined the
degree to which Pickett had been correct. Nevertheless, almost 40 years
after Carson's work the devastation continues, as we apply (in the USA
alone) nearly 500 million kg of active material, over 99% of which
misses the target organism, while overall percentage losses of crop to
disease, insects, and weeds is actually *higher* that it was in the
And let's remember in all this that Monsanto's biotech division is
flogging its brainchild to no small degree on the basis that it will
avoid and eliminate all the chemical problems that not so many years
ago its chemical division was saying were the simply the malicious
fabrication of unwashed, un-American rabble.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on *me*. The
skeptics, as my dad pointed out, are the only true scientists out
there. Everyone else must be presumed a booster/technologist until
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: