Greenpeace and ‘the awful reality of anti-science activism’

The Austrian research portal “Addendum” released a bombshell video regarding the facts, figures, and positions regarding GMO foods. In this report that attempted to explain the reality of both the technology, economic implications and public discourse, the site sat down with both current and former Greenpeace activists, leading them to reveal the awful reality of anti-science activism.

Whoever was under the illusion that organizations the likes of Greenpeace are actual environmentalists who pursue the improvement of human health and biodiversity, will suffer a severe shock from the exchange included in the Addendum video. Sebastian Theissing-Matei, spokesperson for Greenpeace in Austria gave these answers:

Interviewer: In organic shops, I can buy that were produced with radiation of chemicals (sic). Does it make sense to allow one thing, while demonizing the other [GMO foods]?

Theissing-Matei: This is indeed a certain unsharpness which is born historically –  we have to be honest about it.

Interviewer: Shouldn’t Greenpeace also fight against certain types of apples that are being sold in organic shops and that were produced through radiation?

Theissing-Matei: As said, these are types that historically have existed for much longer. There is an unsharpness in the law, no doubt. We always concentrate on the things that are currently political debates.

Interviewer: Should the arguments of Greenpeace not be based on reality, meaning the danger or non-danger and possible utility [of technological progress], and not only on based on what is being discussed in the media?”

Theissing-Matei: We are a political organization. Of course we try to act in the best interest of the environment, but momentarily the political debate is whether or not new methods for genetic modification should be placed under current legislation of genetic modification.

green 8 8 18

Greenpeace has more or less consistently refused to accept grants from governments (including the European Union), which does not endanger any of their funding by that token. It would have to be pointed out that the billion-dollar NGO has, in Europe in particular, benefited from financial support from green political parties, which themselves are entirely government-funded.

As for the political debate that the Austrian Greenpeace spokesperson addresses, it is interesting hearing such a thing from this particular organization. As far back as 1996, Greenpeace was seen protesting the arrival or a transport ship in the harbour of Hamburg, Germany, containing “the first set of genetically modified soybeans in Germany”. The protest had shown its effects: The then German minister for research demanded that producers label all of their foods if they have been genetically modified. So people talk about an issue that Greenpeace raised, and now this is the only topic it can address. Greenpeace is, in a beautiful fashion, fulfilling its own prophecies.

By any means, it is one thing to oppose genetically modified food in 1996 than it is more than 20 years later. The recent Nature-published meta-analysis on genetically engineered maize on agronomic, environmental and toxicological traits shows clearly that insect that do not feed off of maize are not effected, and that genetically modified maize shows considerably lower concentrations of cancer-causing mycotoxins. But for Greenpeace, it’s not the scientific evidence that counts, but the fear it can spread as an effective business model. This is confirmed in the same Austrian report, by former Greenpeace activist Ludger Wess, who is now a science writer who was one of the first journalists in Europe to cover the emerging biotechnology and high-tech industries:

“Greenpeace was actually open-minded towards the idea of genetically modified foods. They said: “If it’s true that plants become resistant to insects, then that’s great because we’ll use less insecticides. So we’re for it.”

After getting back from a science-conference on genetically modified maize in 1989, Wess returned to Greenpeace:

I came back, armed with a whole suitcase of papers, and after having a lot of conversations with scientists, and they were all able to defuse my worries. I wasn’t convinced anymore that it would be a danger to human health. I told them [Greenpeace]: we cannot continue to claim that genetically modified foods are bad for human health, it’s simply not true. I was told that Greenpeace would still continue to make that claim, because only if people are in fear over their health or the health of their children, they’ll open their wallets for donations. Everything else, they said, isn’t suitable for campaigns.

Greenpeace has a history of being more interested in publicity than actual constructive debate and informed discussions. Be it violently blocking petrol stations in Luxembourg, aggressively disrupting the work of an oil rig, or even painting a massive roundabout in Berlin yellow, with water-polluting paint, and causing car damages and thousands of euros of cleaning costs: Greenpeace is an attention-seeking, anti-science activist group, that uses the environment as an excuse to propagate its illiterate bias against anything that advances human health and nutrition.

Current donors of this organization need to ask themselves the question whether they want to support this self-admitted political organization, which has no regard for the truth.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @wirtzbill.

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

When environmentalists oppose science

In the era of self-driving cars, big data and increasingly sophisticated bio-medical advances, the age-old question of how regulation can keep up with technology is more relevant than ever.

Scientific advances touch every aspect of our lives, often in ways we rarely think about. Today, we live longer, healthier, more productive and more enjoyable lives because of our access to products that were unimaginable for most of human history. So it’s important to get the right balance when regulating our modern world, to both keep us and our planet safe, while fostering innovation that benefits society.

The debate over regulation often devolves into a debate about “too little” versus “too much” regulation, split along the ideological divide. Too little regulation, goes the argument, and we are exposed to too much risk. Too much, and we don’t advance.

This binary approach, however, represents the dark-ages of regulatory policy. It was more frequently relevant when our tools to measure risk were primitive, but today’s technology allows much more precise ways to evaluate real-world risks. With less uncertainty, there’s less of a need to cast a broad regulatory net.

Regulation not warranted by countervailing risk just doesn’t make sense. That’s why a pseudoscientific approach, dubbed the “precautionary principle,” behind much of today’s regulation is so pernicious. This dogma dictates that it’s always better to be safe than to ever be sorry. The approach is politically effective not only because it’s something your mother says, but because it’s easier to envision potential dangers, remote as they may be, than potential benefits. Uncertainty, it turns out, is a powerful tool for those who seek to live in a world without risk.

But what happens when regulators can get a reasonably good handle on benefits and risks? Some potential risks have been eliminated simply because the basis for the concern has proven to be unwarranted. For more than two decades, the artificial sweetener, saccharin, came with a cancer warning label in the U.S.But it turned out that the animal experiment which led to the warning was later found to be irrelevant to humans, and the warning was eventually removed.

Warning about a product when risks are not well-understood is prudent. But it would be absurd to continue to warn after the science tells us there’s nothing to worry about.

Today, an analogous situation is playing out in the EU, where activists are using outmoded tests not just to place warning labels on silicones, a building block of our technological world, but to ban them outright.

The playbook is predictable: as the scientific basis for a product’s safety grows, opponents go to increasingly great lengths to manufacture uncertainty, move the goalposts and capitalize on scientific illiteracy to gain the political upper-hand.

We’ve seen these tactics employed in opposition to everything from growing human tissue in a lab, to harm-reducing alternatives to smoking, such as e-cigarettes. Now, the effort to manufacture uncertainty is playing out in the debate over the environmental impact of silicones, which are used to in a wide range of consumer, medical, and industrial products.

Fortunately, in the case of silicones, regulators in a number of countries, including Australia, have put politics aside and adhere to appropriate scientific methods to inform their decision-making.

The Health Department’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme published an environmental assessment for certain chemicals used to make silicones, in particular, a class of chemicals called siloxanes. Silicones have unique properties which make them useful in a wide range of applications, including aviation, energy-efficient LED lighting, medical products, and personal care products. But their widespread use and unique properties have raised questions about their effect on the environment, such as whether they bioaccumulate and pose a risk to aquatic life. The report employs a risk-based approach, the very type that European-based precautionary principle advocates oppose.

Here’s where we get back the issue of uncertainty. Advocates for restricting the use of certain siloxanes rely primarily on studies done in laboratories, which don’t replicate how the chemicals respond to real-world conditions, where for instance, they quickly evaporate. (This property is what makes them particularly useful in sunscreens which spread easily and evaporate quickly.)

Laboratory studies are a valuable part of evaluating chemicals because they can identify the potential that a particular substance poses a hazard. But hazard assessments are of limited value without considering real-world circumstances. To do that, scientists do risk assessments, which takes into account factors such as the level of exposure to the hazard in conditions being evaluated.

We like to look at it this way: falling out of a boat and drowning to death is a hazard. However, the risk of drowning in a desert is so low because there’s no exposure, that it a risk not worthy of concern.

This rational approach to hazard and risk was successfully adopted in Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), using real-world exposure information, decided to minimize exposure to a level that didn’t degrade the environment, requiring monitoring from certain industrial sources. In other words, the ECCC didn’t just consider the hazard, they also considered the risk. As a result, Canada did not ban consumer use, but, instead, took steps to reduce environmental exposure from only a narrow group of industrial sources that were potential problems.

With regard to one siloxane, D4, ECCC regulators found that the chemical “is entering or may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity.” But instead of banning its use, consistent with their risk management approach, they required a significant reduction of “D4 releases to the aquatic environment” and encouraged the use of alternatives to reduce or minimize risks.

On D5, Canada’s regulators did something even more practical. Recognizing industry objections to the E.U.-style modeling approach, which ECCC initially used for D5, the Board of Review took real-world exposures of D5 into account. Then they did what all good scientists should be prepared to do: they reversed course after finding that new, more accurate data conflicted with their initial findings. In light of the improved information, the ECCC regulators wrote that “it is virtually impossible for Siloxane D5 to occur in any environmental matrix at concentrations sufficient to produce harm to the environment.”

Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection has been working in concert with manufacturers to measure the degree to which key chemicals used in the manufacture of silicones are released into the environment, as well as what happens to the chemicals in real-world circumstances, rather than through modeling or laboratory studies which don’t necessarily reflect what happens in nature.

Australia’s report is consistent with these approaches, noting that “[t]he direct risks to aquatic life from exposure to these chemicals at expected surface water concentrations are not likely to be significant.”

This is the very type of scientific analysis that European activists disdain. Because for them, environmental protection is not measured by outcomes, but by the severity of restrictions, regardless of the quality of science used to justify them.

We support tough environmental regulation when the best science supports it. But sadly, many of today’s environmentalists see science only as a tool to advance an anti-progress political agenda. When the science contradicts the agenda, the science is the first to fall by the wayside.

In legal circles, they say “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” The opposition to risk-assessments is the scientific equivalent to pounding the table.

The value of the Canadian and Australian approach is that consumers will continue to benefit from improved product performance provided by silicones. The environment will benefit as well, given silicones widespread use in green energy products, from solar panels to wind turbines and even in energy efficient lighting.

Australia’s risk-based approach should be a model for other governments assessing not only silicones, but all innovative products because it ensures the protection of the environment, while at the same time, when the science justifies it, also protecting consumers’ access to incredibly useful products.

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally posted on Catallaxy Files.

mm

About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Coffee doesn’t Cause Cancer and it shouldn’t need a Warning Label

MEDINDIA: Consumer Choice Center (CCC) Senior Fellow, Jeff Stier a long-time critic of Proposition 65, welcomed the news but says the decision’s reasoning doesn’t go far enough to limit the application of the troublesome law.

“The basis for this decision is weak and leaves this ill-advised law largely in place for other equally safe products,” said Stier.

READ MORE

mm

About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Scandale des sèche-mains électriques: une photo sur Facebook n’est pas une preuve scientifique

CAFE BABEL: Après un post sur Facebook, la discussion sur l’hygiène des sèche-mains électriques est de revenue dans le débat public. Petite récapitulation des faits.

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Why is the European Parliament treating science with contempt?

VOCAL EUROPE: It seems as if the European Parliament takes the approach questioning scientific results once they don’t happen to confirm its narrative. After all, what are the presumptive expectations for an investigation into the EFSA and ECHA assessment? Are we to investigate a product as long as it fits our policy-based expectations? What would happen if we applied this to other areas of political debate?

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

La politique de la peur n’a pas sa place dans la régulation des vices

CAFÉ BABEL: Les Etats et les entreprises privées se permettent de pratiquer la politique de la peur, afin d’influencer le comportements des consommateurs. Les deux ont tort.

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Both political and corporate health scares are irresponsible

VOCAL EUROPE: A functional market economy requires informed consumers, who a sufficiently informed about the products and services that they consume.

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Demandons une politique publique basée sur des preuves !

LES ECHOS: Les décisions de réglementation sont trop souvent inspirées par des considérations émotionnelles et non par une approche scientifique. La discussion européenne sur le phosphate dans le kebab en est une preuve.

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

La battaglia per la scienza continua anche in Europa

CAMPAGNE LIBERALI: Riceviamo e volentieri pubblichiamo la riflessione di Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager per il Consumer Choice Center.

READ MORE

mm

About Luca Bertoletti

Luca graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in December 2014. He worked as a Business Economics Analyst for the Italian magazine TheFielder in Milan and as Think Thank Coordinator for the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He is a fellow of Competere Institute in Rome, a columnist for Atlantico Quotidiano, and he sits on the scientific board of New Direction Italia. He has been featured in the New York Times, Radio RAI, RAI 1, El Economista, The National and many other newspapers.

The Döner debate is emblematic for the need for evidence-based policy-making

VOCAL EUROPE: In a recent move by Social Democrats and Greens in the European Parliament, there has been a call to phase-out the use of phosphate in the fast-food product döner kebab.

READ MORE

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.