Friday, July 7, 2017

Sauce for the Goose . . .

is sauce for the gander. An article in the government funded "Bay Journal" in which a government funded journalist decries the private funding of science: Industry-influenced research: a new level of caveat emptor
There is a price to pay, it turns out, for our lush and weed-free lawns and gardens. For example, lawn fertilizers are no different than animal waste in terms of the surfeit of nitrogen and phosphorus they add to stormwater runoff. They contribute to the same problems of algae growth in the Bay as do runoff from chicken plants and cattle standing in streams.

But there is an even darker aspect of this, concerning the flow of information about the chemicals we apply to our environs. Americans can generally be trusted to make sound decisions about their environment and their health if they are given accurate information. Which perhaps explains why the chemical industry is so eager to skew that informational flow.

In mid-March, the New York Times reported the story of unsealed court documents showing how Monsanto has tried to steer public knowledge about glyphosate, the main ingredient in the popular (and effective) weed killer Roundup.

There is suspicion that this ingredient causes cancer, although there’s no certainty on this point. The court documents unsealed by San Francisco Judge Vince Chhabria involve a lawsuit brought by people who have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and claim it is the result of exposure to glyphosate.

The most eye-opening line in the story is this: “In one [unsealed email] William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, told other company officials that they could ghostwrite research on glyphosate by hiring academics to put their names on papers that were actually written by Monsanto.”

Monsanto insists there’s nothing to it, but the documents support a Times investigation late last year that called into question the validity of industry funded research, where legitimate scientists are commandeered by global chemical industries: “Scientists deliver outcomes favorable to companies, while university research departments court corporate support,” the Times wrote. “Universities and regulators sacrifice full autonomy by signing confidentiality agreements. And academics sometimes double as paid consultants.”
I wonder if the author might extend the same curiosity to the global warming/climate change community, where funding is dominated by the federal government.
University researchers are given $250-an-hour consulting jobs by industry, and then produce studies whose findings are, wouldn’t you know, remarkably in accordance with industries’ position that their products and practices are all safe as can be. The industries then point to these studies as proof that their products are harmless to people and the environment — neglecting to mention that they essentially paid for the favorable results themselves.
No mention of the fact here that much of the research on pesticides and  pharmaceuticals will not, and cannot be funded by government. It's simply not in the governments wheelhouse to prove that these products are safe and effective.
This practice is not new and not limited to chemicals. The University of California-Davis, for example, noted that “tobacco companies funded epidemiological and biological research that was designed to support claims that secondhand smoke [caused] little or no harm.” These industry studies, UC Davis says, are often laundered through peer-reviewed scientific journals to give them an aura of legitimacy, when in fact industry reps are sitting on the boards of these publications.
The US is reaching a watershed moment where a majority of the funding for research comes from non-federal sources, for the first time in my lifetime. Never fear, though, a substantial amount of the nonfederal funding is generated by federal demands for information that they have no interest in funding,  more is funded by liberal environmental NGOs.

No comments:

Post a Comment