Anti-science narratives must not be allowed to take root

Our ancestors lived through struggles that are hard to imagine by today’s standards. From putting food on the table to tuberculosis and infections (from which most people died in 1915), life 100 years ago was hellish compared to the developed comfort of the modern day.

With an understanding of the value of personal hygiene, tools to root out disease-carrying animals like rats, and the blessing of modern medicine, humanity has saved millions of people from dying prematurely.

For most of human history, one in four infants did not live past the age of one, a phenomenon spread equally throughout cultures. The numbers were equally high in ancient Rome, ancient Greece, the pre-Columbian Americas, medieval Japan, medieval England, the European renaissance and imperial China.

Fortunately, today that number is only one in 30 infants. As economic freedom spreads globally, so does prosperity, and we expect that infant mortality will be equally low in every inhabited continent in the near future.

Despite facing initial hurdles and scepticism towards scientific advancements, the industrial revolution has brought enormous wealth creation and the improvement and expansion of people’s lives. Life expectancy in the United Kingdom has doubled from just over 40 years in 1850 to over 80 years today.

In the UK, 77 per cent of the public agree that science and technology are making our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable. 94 per cent believe that medical research will improve our quality of life over the coming decades. This also applies to the younger generation, of which 80 per cent are happy with modern farming technologies in the area of genetic modification or gene editing.

However, recent years have also marked the appearance of a number of activists who are trying to sour these numbers. And while the public is supportive of scientific innovations, politicians are reacting to a loud minority and regulating away potential progress.

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has sparked some optimism in that regard, promising “a bioscience sector liberated from anti genetic modification rules … we will be the seedbed for the most exciting and most dynamic business investments on the planet.”

This goes beyond the question of agro-tech or artificial intelligence. As trust in the scientific method fades, so do other fundamentals that we believed should be taken for granted.

In the Netherlands, the Knowledge and Advice Centre for Animal Pest warns in major newspapers that new infestations of rats are looming as the country moves to restrict the use of rat poison from 2023. It has already been banned in outdoor areas, but now indoor use will also be outlawed, as reports Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws.

The examples of people giving up accepted advancements in living standards get odder by the day. In early August, the Guardian reported on a trend of decreasing soap use. While making a case for bacteria-based substitutes, it also equally presents a case for dropping any detergents whatsoever.

Increasingly, you read headlines like: “No Soap, No Shampoo, No Problem”, or “Soap free for seven years“. In all cases, the soap ditchers are presented as people who are potentially ahead of their time, living the alternative and equally credible lifestyle. But much like people who swear by DIY cleaning products, we should be wary of unforeseen consequences of distrust in science.

The same applies to the example of parabens, increasingly believed to be a harmful addition to health and beauty products, particularly those used by women.

However, Health Canada, the Personal Care Products Council, the FDA, the American Cancer Society and the European Union all find parabens to be safe for use in cosmetics. Unfortunately, a number of people will not accept the findings of numerous studies.

Of course, using hygienic and medical utensils in excess is something to be mindful of because it can pose a danger. An excess of antibiotics can lead to immunity issues and more serious health consequences. However, the notion that all modern medical, pest control and hygiene products must be harmful, independent of quantity and informed use, is a very problematic mindset.

Is it really necessary that previously extinct illnesses return because, in an effort to please a woke sense of anti-corporate, anti-consumerist purity, we end the use of soap and have rats crawling once again through our houses?

What are our leaders and politicians doing to defend the values of science, which has given us the life-changing advances in modern medicine since the 18th century and has ended the unscientific herbalism, or traditional medicine, that lead to the death of millions?

We cannot let these anti-science narratives to take root. Instead, we must encourage informed debate and education to combat this modern-day charlatanism.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

Embracing GM is a great way to tackle climate change

Dr Swapan Datta at the International Rice Research Institute. Embracing GM is a great way to tackle climate change
Dr Swapan Datta at the International Rice Research Institute Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

Labour’s pledge to ban private jets over their environmental impact may be pure electoral politics, but it’s also a timely reminder to think about the best approach to tackling climate change and environmental breakdown.

There are two main ways to respond to an emergency situation: set off alarm bells in an effort to neutralise the danger quickly, or take a step back to properly assess the issue without giving in to emotional pressure.

In the case of climate change, the former approach has clearly taken over. The likes of Extinction Rebellion warn of imminent doom, and Alexandrio Ocasio-Cortez predicts the end of the world in little over a decade. Their ‘solutions’, such as trying to decarbonise the entire British economy in a little over five years, also reek of alarmism.

Climate change alarmism has been immensely successful in promoting all sorts of bans, dietary restrictions, and taxes. These measures are far from being a panacea, especially in the long run. Moreover, in order to achieve the desired outcomes, they need to be applied consistently and at all levels of government. It is for this reason that they’re doomed to fail: there will always be free-riders, those who would find a way to stick to their meat-full diet or avoid paying taxes.

Beyond this kind of alarmism, one of the most effective ways to fight climate change is through innovation in agriculture.

Organic farming is appealing because it’s “natural” and therefore, associated with higher food safety, but it can potentially do more harm than good if we choose to stick to it. In 2017, researchers at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland estimated that if the world chose to fully convert to organic agriculture, we would need between 16 and 81% more land to feed the planet.

Over-reliance on limited natural resources, as in the case of organic farming, is significantly more dangerous than taxes. The world’s population is growing, and we need food. Promoting organic promises to provide less of it just at the time we need it most.

The good news is that unleashing the potential of genetic engineering, far from a ‘Frankenstein’ technology, is a powerful weapon in the fight against environmental breakdown. With the help of genome editing, we would be able to decrease our dependence on natural resources and minimise the use of both fertilisers and pesticides. Creating drought and heat-tolerant crops would reduce the need to deforest wild areas to free up more land for agricultural purposes. And we could help tackle overfishing by replacing fish oil with EPA/DHA canola (omega-3 fatty acids).

The benefits of genetic engineering are astounding, but they are very often dismissed because of unproven food safety claims and risks associated with altering the face of agriculture. Scientists have repeatedly rejected the idea that gene-edited foods are less safe than those grown conventionally. The real issue, it seems, is human resistance to change, coupled with ill-informed, unscientific scare stories.

The human cost of this resistance to change can be staggering. Take golden rice: a new book estimates that millions of people have died or gone blind unnecessarily because they were denied access to this miraculous food by a combination of over-zealous regulation and misguided anti-GM campaigning.

This is nothing new, of course. Throughout history, people have been sceptical, or even fearful, of innovation. And yet, it has persisted against all odds and improved our lives in once unimaginable ways. We should stand up to the alarmists and give genetic engineering a chance to feed the world – and help save the planet.

For more facts on Health and Science, check our other articles here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

#Environment needs saving through innovation, not starvation

As the winter times come closer, people resume their arguments about the thermostat at home. While there is great convenience that comes with heating, it also comes at an environmental cost. Environmental protection and development are, undoubtedly, both a necessary and noble cause, and while we may sometimes disagree with the fearmongering or reactionism that comes with eco-politics, it’s a wonderful thing to see consumer preferences gravitate towards greener alternatives, writes Bill Wirtz.

It is through changes in consumer attitudes that force innovations to become safer, more sustainable, and just generally ‘green-er’. The same however also applies to price: as companies attempt to reduce prices, their incentives force them towards the use of less energy. This is what we’ve seen happen to cars, which have seen fuel efficiency double since the 70s, or air travel, which has seen 45% less fuel burn since the 1960s.

The beauty of consumer-driven innovation is that it comes naturally through the marketplace. In the area of food, we’ve seen immense strives towards safer, more affordable, and less energy-consuming crops. With current agro-tech innovations, like through gene-editing, this becomes a promising prospect. However, the political world seems unimpressed with innovation, and more interested in reacting to fear-mongering. Nowhere are the dangerous effects of this felt more than in the developing world. Advanced countries with good intentions ignore the needs and abilities of poorer nations in the name of pretended environmental protection.

Take, for instance, a recent conference, jointly held in Kenya by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Preservation Center. The ‘First International Conference on Agroecology Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa’ aims to implement the policies of ‘Agroecology’ throughout the continent.

The “agroecology” touted by the conference refers to a more ‘organic’ style of farming, one that is free (or, at least, less dependent upon) synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. In many parts of Africa, where this conference had its attention, this could have devastating. It should come as no surprise that agroecological methods of farming are, typically far less efficient than the modern, mechanised alternative (a conclusion reached in a study performed by agroecological advocates).

On a continent that has long been plagued with poor economic growth and, far more seriously, severe famines and food shortages, taking the risk of switching to less-productive methods in the name of the environment would be blind to the necessities of a developing economy. Viewed simply, one could easily label this worldview and prescription as arrogant. If people in developed countries (or anywhere else for that matter) wish to establish an organic, agroecological farm to promote a more environmentally-friendly system, then more power to them. But we simply cannot expect this to apply to developing countries such as those in Africa. Bringing sustainable practices and technologies to the developing world should be achieved through increased scientific innovation, stimulating economic growth and development.

Following Brexit, the UK will be in an ideal position to do this without the restraints of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and biotech regulations, which has made trade with farmers in developing countries, as well innovative crops domestically, impossible to achieve. While the hearts of those arguing for “agroecology” are certainly in the right place, we need to understand that their suggestions threaten the chances of developing economies to grow and develop.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Une nouvelle initiative européenne pro-science mérite le support public

Une nouvelle initiative citoyenne de l’UE organisée par des étudiants exige un processus d’autorisation scientifique rationalisée dans le domaine de l’agriculture. Ils méritent d’être entendus et soutenus.

Le 25 juillet, la Commission européenne a enregistré l’initiative citoyenne “Grow Scientific Progress : Crops Matter !” (“grandir l’innovation scientifique: les cultures sont importantes”). Deux étudiantes sont nommées comme représentantes, à savoir Martina Helmlinger et Lavinia Scudiero. Helmlinger est sur le point de terminer sa maîtrise en “sécurité de la chaîne alimentaire” à l’Institut des sciences et technologies alimentaires de l’Université des ressources naturelles et des sciences de la vie de Vienne, et possède une licence en biotechnologie. Scudiero est diplômée en médecine vétérinaire, elle s’intéresse à la sécurité alimentaire, et elle poursuit actuellement une maîtrise en sécurité alimentaire, le droit alimentaire et affaires réglementaires à l’Université de Wageningen.

Dans l’argumentaire de l’initiative, les deux étudiants soutiennent que la directive 2001/18/CE de l’UE est dépassée, et suggèrent un mécanisme automatique pour la réviser. L’objectif est de rationaliser la procédure d’autorisation de mise sur le marché, désormais longue et coûteuse, et de permettre davantage de progrès scientifiques dans l’UE. Les évaluations individuelles, par opposition aux définitions générales, aident à permettre l’arrivée de nouvelles technologies sur le marché.

Comme l’explique Marcel Kuntz, directeur de recherche au CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) à Grenoble : “L’agro-biotechnologie n’est pas un mode de production agricole, c’est un moyen d’accroître la biodiversité. Ce qui est important, c’est ce qu’on fait d’un produit, pas comment on l’a obtenu.” Kuntz se plaint aussi des attaques contre les scientifiques et que la sûreté des innovations scientifiques est définie à travers un débat politique.

Le débat sur l’innovation en agriculture a été pris en otage par des communicateurs professionnels qui ont tout fait pour calomnier l’innovation technologique. C’est un phénomène médiatique problématique — pour chaque innovation on nous parle longuement des risques potentiels (souvent imaginaires), en oubliant les opportunités énormes.

Cela affecte même les outils de communication des institutions de l’UE, visible dans le débat des OGM. Sur le site web “Legislative Train Schedule” (“calendrier du train législatif”) du Parlement européen, les rapporteurs des directives sont censés expliquer de manière neutre la ligne d’action législative. C’est un outil qui transmet l’information aux citoyens de façon non partisane.

Frédérique Ries, membre belge du Parlement européen, n’a pas pris ce travail très au sérieux. Dans un article sur le site résumant la directive (UE) 2015/412, elle écrit :

“Le Parlement européen a également insisté pour que les États membres, dans lesquels des cultures GM sont cultivées, évitent la contamination transfrontalière en établissant des zones tampons le long de leurs frontières avec les États membres voisins dans lesquels les OGM ne sont pas cultivés.”

La vérité est que des organisations comme Greenpeace mentent sur les OGM depuis des décennies. Ils expliquent que les OGM représentent des “risques inacceptables”, sans mettre en évidence des preuves scientifiques soulignant ce risque. Ils écrivent par exemple:

“Les cultures génétiquement modifiées n’ont pas leur place dans l’agriculture durable. Ils comportent des risques inacceptables créés par le processus de génie génétique.”

Les mêmes ONG qui se sont assurées que l’UE n’utiliserait pas de cultures génétiquement modifiées ont également célébré une affaire devant la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne, dans laquelle il est dit que le génie génétique devrait être traité de la même manière que les OGM. Greenpeace décrit le génie génétique comme “OGM par la porte de derrière”.

Le chef de l’Autorité européenne de sécurité des aliments (EFSA), Dr. Bernhard Url, explique qu’il ne faut pas “tirer sur la science” si on n’aime pas les résultats en question. Il ajoute que “si la science ne devient qu’une opinion de plus, qui peut être négligée en faveur de la superstition, cela comporte un risque énorme pour la société”.

Il a raison. Le génie génétique offre déjà de nombreux avantages à l’amélioration génétique, par exemple en créant des aliments sans allergènes. Imaginez l’immense changement pour les personnes atteintes d’allergies potentiellement mortelles, si nous parvenons à créer des arachides sans allergènes ou du blé sans gluten. Cependant, ces applications dépassent le domaine de l’agriculture. Le génie génétique peut aider à combattre le virus Zika, à prévenir la transmission du paludisme, à guérir la leucémie et montre des recherches prometteuses dans les domaines de la maladie d’Alzheimer, de la maladie de Huntington, du cancer du col utérin et du cancer du poumon.

Le génie génétique risque d’être victime de la même peur non scientifique que les OGM. D’autres continents innovent alors que l’Europe s’enfonce dans un fossé technologique. 

L’initiative Grow Scientific Progress peut aider à aller à l’encontre de cette évolution. L’Union européenne doit s’ouvrir à l’innovation scientifique afin de saisir les opportunités passionnantes de demain.

Publié à l’origine ici:

Greenpeace verbreitet seit Jahrzehnten über GVO Unwahrheiten

Eine neue EU-Bürgerinitiative fordert einen modernisierten Zulassungsprozess wissenschaftlicher Innovationen in der Landwirtschaft. Diese europaweite studentische Initiative verdient es gehört und unterstützt zu werden.

Am 25. Juli registrierte die Europäische Kommission die Bürgerinitiative “Grow Scientific Progress: Crops Matter!” Zwei Studentinnen wurden als Vertreter genannt: Martina Helmlinger und Lavinia Scudiero. Helmlinger steht kurz vor dem Abschluss ihres Masters in Lebensmittelsicherheit am Institut für Lebensmittelwissenschaften und -technologie der Universität für Bodenkultur in Wien und verfügt über einen Bachelor-Abschluss in Biotechnologie. Scudiero hat einen Abschluss in Veterinärmedizin und absolviert derzeit einen Master in Lebensmittelsicherheit, Lebensmittelrecht und Regulierung an der Universität Wageningen.

Die beiden Studentinnen argumentieren in der Beschreibung der Initiative, dass die EU-Richtlinie 2001/18/EG, die sich mit GBO (genetisch veränderten Organismen) befasst, veraltet ist, und schlagen einen automatischen Mechanismus zur Überprüfung dieser Regeln vor. Ziel ist es, die langwierigen und kostspieligen Zulassungsverfahren für landwirtschaftliche Innovationen zu entschlacken und mehr wissenschaftlichen Fortschritt in der EU zu ermöglichen.

Individuelle Bewertungen, bei denen einzelnen Technologien auf ihre Eigenschaften bewertet werden – im Gegensatz zu weit gefassten Definitionen – tragen dazu bei, dass neue Technologien auf den Markt kommen.

Marcel Kuntz, Forschungsdirektor am CNRS, Zell- und Pflanzenphysiologielabor in Grenoble erklärt, dass die grüne Gentechnik ist kein landwirtschaftlicher Produktionsmodus, sondern ein Mittel zur Steigerung der Biodiversität sei. Er fügt hinzu, dass es wichtig sei, was mit einem Produkt gemacht wird, nicht, wie das Produkt gewonnen wurde. Kuntz beklagt sich auch über Angriffe auf Wissenschaftler und “politische Kämpfe”, die definieren, was als sicher gilt und was nicht.

Die Debatte über Innovationen in der Landwirtschaft wurde der Wissenschaft von PR-Profis  aus der Hand gerissen. Diese Kommunikationsprofis aus Politik und Umweltverbänden tun alles, um technologische Innovationen ohne Beweise zu verleumden. Dies betrifft sogar die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit der EU-Institutionen und war jedes Mal sichtbar, wenn die Frage der GVO angesprochen wurde. Insbesondere im Hinblick auf die Schaffung neuer Gesetze kann dies beobachtet werden.

Auf der Website des Europäischen Parlaments “Legislative Train Schedule” sollen Richtlinien und deren gesetzlicher Ablauf neutral erläutert werden. Es ist ein steuerfinanziertes Instrument, dass den Bürgern Informationen auf unparteiische Weise vermitteln soll.

Das ist aber nicht immer der Fall. In Zusammenfassung der Richtlinie (EU) 2015/412, Änderung der Richtlinie 2001/18/EG,  die Mitgliedstaaten ermächtigt GVOs unabhängig von neuen Erkenntnissen verbieten zu dürfen, heißt es:

“Das Europäische Parlament hat auch darauf bestanden, dass die Mitgliedstaaten, in denen GVO-Kulturen angebaut werden, eine grenzüberschreitende Kontamination vermeiden sollten, indem sie Pufferzonen entlang ihrer Grenzen zu benachbarten Mitgliedstaaten einrichten, in denen GVO nicht angebaut werden”.

Die Sprache ist gelinde gesagt tendenziös.

Die Wahrheit ist, dass Organisationen wie Greenpeace seit Jahrzehnten über GVO Unwahrheiten verbreiten. Sie sagen, dass GVO “inakzeptable Risiken” darstellen, ohne auf wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse hinzuweisen, die dieses Risiko untermauern.

“GVO-Kulturen haben in der nachhaltigen Landwirtschaft keinen Platz. Sie bergen unannehmbare Risiken, die durch den gentechnischen Prozess und die Eigenschaften, für die sie entwickelt wurden, entstehen”, heißt es von Greenpeace.

Dieselben Organisationen, die dafür gesorgt haben, dass in der EU GVOs fast komplett nicht-existent sind, versuchen die gleiche Takte beim Genome-Editing. Mit Erfolg. Erst kürzlich erklärte der Europäische Gerichtshof Genome-Editing und GVO also gleichwertig (aus einer Regulierungsperspektive). Greenpeace nannte Genome-Editing “GVO durch die Hintertür”.

Der Leiter der Europäischen Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit (EFSA), Dr. Bernhard Url, meint, dass nur weil einem die Ergebnisse nicht gefallen, man die Wissenschaft selbst kritisieren sollte. Er fügt hinzu: “Wenn die Wissenschaft nur noch eine weitere Meinung wird, die zugunsten des Aberglaubens übersehen werden kann, birgt dies ein enormes Risiko für die Gesellschaft”.

Er hat Recht. Genome-Editing bietet der Pflanzenzüchtung mehrere Vorteile, z.B. durch die Herstellung allergenfreier Lebensmittel. Stellen Sie sich die immense Veränderung für Menschen vor, die von potenziell lebensbedrohlichen Allergien betroffen sind, wenn es uns gelingt, allergenfreie Erdnüsse oder glutenfreien Weizen herzustellen. Diese Anwendungen gehen jedoch über den Bereich der Landwirtschaft hinaus. Genome-Editing kann helfen, das Zika-Virus zu bekämpfen, die Übertragung von Malaria zu verhindern, Leukämie zu heilen und zeigt vielversprechende Forschungsergebnisse in den Bereichen Alzheimer, Huntington, Gebärmutterhals- und Lungenkrebs.

Die Genschere läuft allerdings Gefahr, Opfer der gleichen unwissenschaftlichen Angstmache zu werden wie GVOs in der Vergangenheit. Mal wieder innovieren andere Kontinente, während Europa sich in ein technologisches Mittelalter begibt, und sogar die Entmechanisierung der Landwirtschaft vorantreibt.

Die Initiative Grow Scientific Progress verdient Unterstützung. Die Europäische Union muss sich der Innovation öffnen, um mit den spannenden Möglichkeiten von morgen Schritt zu halten.

Artikel hier veröffentlicht.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

The scientific method is under attack

Assume a scientist were to tell you that a certain mathematical equation is demonstrably correct. You could twist and turn the equation in any possible way, yet you would always come to the same conclusion. Now assume this scientist had spoken at a conference once, and his or her hotel room had been paid by an industry which had a vested interest in the equation being true. A conflict of interest, some would say, yet you could only assume that it resulted in a distortion of his or her scientific work if you could show that the equation was false. No money in the world can change facts.

EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, is currently dealing with accusations of this nature. A European NGO called “Corporate Europe Observatory” (CEO) denounces the working group assessing the safety of gene drives – which is genetic engineering technology – as “compromised”. CEO claims that two-thirds of the working group have “financial links” to industry and organisations with vested interest in the matter of gene-editing.

However, EFSA responded to every single one of the concerns in a professional and detailed matter. The agency did not see a single instance in which the described “links” were of concern. For instance, CEO denounced the fact that Michael Bonsall, Professor of Mathematical Biology at Oxford University, has direct financial links with the British biotech company Oxitec. It turned out that the “direct financial links” were not financial investments with Oxitec, but research activities co-financed by the University of Oxford and Oxitec itself. In essence: these were public-private funded research projects between a private company and EU research grants.

But the work for CEO is done, so much so that EFSA’s devastating answer to their claims even now appears on their website. The scientists were smeared in the media, and no matter how many rebuttals the EU’s food safety agency would issue, much of the damage is already done. The headlines reading “food safety scientists accused of being bought” is all that these activists – who are sworn enemies of industrial agriculture – need.

The fact that gene-editing technologies could have a huge impact in reducing the death toll from diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and the Zika virus, is irrelevant to their quest.

A similar thing happened to French journalist Emmanuelle Ducros. The L’Opinion journalist is known for her columns on agriculture, calling out the unscientific work of environmental activists, and defending the scientific method against anti-GMO, anti-free trade, or anti-pesticide activists. Ducros was dragged through the mud by the French newspaper Libération and social media outrage ensued, all for moderating panels at industry conferences hat have a vested interested in the area of pesticides. Expenses were covered by these same interest groups. It remains a question of its own whether having your train journey and hotel room covered in a work context actually has that much of a powerful influence on your journalistic integrity. Never mind that the essence of what is backed up by evidence and what isn’t should be what determines that which can be reported as a fact.

For environmentalist NGOs, the Jaws (1975) quote “We are going to need a bigger boat” could easily be transcribed into “We are going to need a bigger smear”. The scientific method is under attack by those who do not believe in analysing and comparing evidence, but who claim that a spider web of industry groups have captured all the pro-science voices by bankrolling opinions. As a result, politicians legislate and regulate scientific innovations, and restrict consumer choice.

“What is your evidence?” is replaced by “Who funds you?,” and is killing the scientific debate. The consequences of that will be long-lasting.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

La méthode scientifique est menacée

OPINION. La routine du «qui vous finance?» pratiquée par les activistes écologistes nuira à la confiance de la méthode scientifique, avance Bill Wirtz, analyste pour le Consumer Choice Center.

Supposons qu’un scientifique vous dise qu’une certaine équation mathématique est manifestement correcte. On pouvait tourner l’équation de toutes les façons possibles, mais on en arrivait toujours à la même conclusion. Supposons maintenant que ce scientifique ait pris la parole une fois à une conférence et que sa chambre d’hôtel ait été payée par une industrie qui avait un intérêt direct à ce que l’équation soit vraie. Certains diront qu’il y a conflit d’intérêts, mais on ne peut supposer qu’il a orchestré une distorsion de ses travaux scientifiques que si l’on peut démontrer que l’équation est fausse. Aucun argent au monde ne peut changer les faits.

LIEN: https://www.letemps.ch/economie/methode-scientifique-menacee

Data on Amazon Rainforest Fires Tell a Much Different Story Than Social Media

It is hard to miss the news reports on the fire in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Millions of people are calling for immediate action on social media and, with a limited amount of prior knowledge, there is little surprise that much of what is being reported is inaccurate.

A wide array of celebrities have drawn attention to the problem, mostly through tweets, ranging from superstar sportspeople to famous actors. When asked what Madonna, Christiano Ronaldo, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Emmanuel Macron have in common, you’re probably expecting a funny joke. In fact, all of these people have shared pictures about the fires online that were proven to be much older. In the case of the French president, the photograph he posted was taken by a photographer who died in 2003, making it at least 16 years old.


Our house is on fire. Literally. The Amazon, the lung of our planet, which produced 20% of the world’s oxygen, is on fire. This is an international crisis. Members of the G7, let’s meet in two days to talk about this emergency. #ActForTheAmazon

Even Pope Francis has joined the call to protect the rainforest.

With calls such as “Save the Amazon” or “Amazon emergency,” the relevant thing to do is to put things in perspective. We know that the number of fires in Brazil this year is more than last year, but it is also about the same as 2016 and less than 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012. Data from the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, which works with NASA, shows that 2019 is not out of line. This data is received when analyzing satellite imagery.

While the number of fires in 2019 is indeed 80 percent higher than in 2018—that number you have probably seen reported wildly—it’s just 7 percent higher than the average over the last 10 years. Adding to that, most fires are currently happening on already deforested land in the Amazon.

It remains a popular myth that the Amazon is “the lung of the Earth,” producing “20% of the world’s oxygen.” In Emmanuel Macron’s tweet from above, the president repeats this exact line. In reality, both are inaccurate, and not only because your lungs don’t produce oxygen.

But of course, the number will stay alive as long as there are media stories to be produced, including from the Associated Press (which had to retract it).

In fact nearly all of Earth’s breathable oxygen originated in the oceans, and there is enough of it to last for millions of years. There are many reasons to be appalled by this year’s Amazon fires, but depleting Earth’s oxygen supply is not one of them, writes Snopes.

So, no, you won’t suffocate because of the Amazon fires.

It takes a minute to dawn on people with what temerity we judge Brazilian forestation from a North American or European perspective. Large forest areas comparable to the Amazon do not exist in Germany, France, Italy, or the United States, for that matter, because they were transformed into farmland and used to enrich local communities through effective land use.

In Brazil, 80 percent of the Amazon is protected from deforestation and remains untouched. In the meantime, we also need to note that deforestation has also declined by 70 percent in recent years, and only a fraction of the land can even be used for things such as soy farming.

Portraying the inhabitants of the Amazon region as greedy egotistical savages will only stoke memories of colonialism.

Hovering above Brazilian authority over the Amazon, spreading the need for “immediate action” by misinforming the public when the leaders of the countries in question have put deforestation much further than Brazil ever has, is all quite rich. The will to fight accidental fires (which are set to increase due to climate change) is there. However, the way the debate has been held over the past weeks will disenfranchise political leaders in South America as well as the population who votes for them.

Portraying the roughly 30 million inhabitants of the Amazon region as greedy egotistical savages who need Leonardo DiCaprio to educate them on global environmental challenges will only stoke memories of colonialism. That word is chosen with some care—modern-day environmentalism has grown into a set of rich individuals and countries telling low-income populations that they need to stay poor for the sake of international environmental safety.

The Amazon rainforest fire debate is another edition of “abstinence vs. innovation” (here’s the aviation edition). Global agro-consumption and demand for things such as meat are said to be the cause of the problem, and within this narrative, only cutting consumption can produce positive results. That is not true. Through genetic modification and gene editing, we can identify the problems of today and solve them with the technology of today.

The future of our civilization lies in the ingenuity of scientific research, not in the government-led reduction in consumption.

In 2014, GMOs allowed farmers to use 51 million acres less land to produce the same amount of food, fiber, and fuel. Without GMOs, we would have needed an additional 22 million acres of corn, 19 million acres of soybeans, nine million acres of cotton, and 1.5 million acres of canola. We also know of wonderful scientific advances in the area of meat, where “Impossible Burgers” now deliver meatless and tasty burgers in major fast-food chains.

The future of our civilization lies in the ingenuity of scientific research, not in the government-led reduction in consumption. We need to stop the myths about our very real environmental challenges and address the actual problem with real solutions.

Originally published here.

Korruptionsvorwurf frisst Fakten auf

Umweltaktivisten diskreditieren zunehmend unliebsame Wissenschaftler mit der Frage: „Wer finanziert Sie?“ Sie unterstellen, die Personen seien von der Wirtschaft gekauft. So werden Co-Finanzierungen kriminalisiert und dem Fortschritt Schaden zugefügt.

Dürren und Trockenheit führen bekanntermaßen zu Missernten. Da sich diese Wetterextreme häufen, setzt sich Landwirtschaftsministerin Klöckner für gentechnisch verändertes Saatgut ein. Es gibt aber auch Alternativen. 

Angenommen, ein Wissenschaftler würde Ihnen sagen, dass eine bestimmte mathematische Gleichung nachweislich korrekt ist. Die Gleichung könnte man auf jede erdenkliche Weise drehen und wenden, doch nichtsdestotrotz zum gleichen Resultat kommen.

Nehmen wir nun an, dieser Wissenschaftler hat in der Vergangenheit einmal auf einer von der Industrie finanzierten Konferenz gesprochen: Hotelzimmer und Anreise wurden von Unternehmen gezahlt, die an diesem Forschungsbereich ein ökonomisches Interesse haben. 

Für viele klingt das, besonders im heutigen Kontext, wie ein heikler Interessenkonflikt. Dessen ungeachtet kann kein Geld der Welt Fakten ändern. Eine Verzerrung der wissenschaftlichen Recherche kann nur dann stattfinden, wenn eine Gleichung nachweislich gefälscht wurde oder mit unklaren Daten gepfuscht wurde.

Die EFSA, die Europäische Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit, muss sich derzeit mit Vorwürfen dieser Art beschäftigen. Eine europäische NGO namens Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) verurteilt die Arbeitsgruppe, die die Sicherheit von sogenannten Gene Drives bewertet. 

Mithilfe dieser Gene Drives kann man dafür sorgen, dass sich eine gentechnische Veränderung, z.B. eine gentechnisch erzeugte Resistenz von Stechmücken gegen den Malariaerreger, in einer Population schnell ausbreitet. CEO behauptet, dass zwei Drittel der Arbeitsgruppe der Europäischen Behörde „finanzielle Verbindungen“ zu Industrie und Organisationen haben, die ein besonderes ökonomisches Interesse an der Gentechnik haben.

In einem detaillierten Brief reagierte die EFSA im Juni auf die Anschuldigungen. Die Agentur sah keinen einzigen Fall, in dem die beschriebenen „Verbindungen“ von Bedeutung waren, und nennt klare Beispiele.  

Im Falle Michael Bonsalls, Professor für Mathematische Biologie an der Oxford University, habe es keine „direkten finanziellen Verbindungen“ zum britischen Biotech-Unternehmen Oxitec gegeben, da es sich um Forschungsaktivitäten handelte, die von der University of Oxford und Oxitec mitfinanziert wurden. 

Im spezifischen Fall handelte es sich um öffentlich-privat finanzierte Forschungsprojekte durch ein Unternehmen und EU-Forschungsgelder, was den besagten Wissenschaftler weder zum Mitarbeiter des genannten Unternehmens, noch finanziell von diesem abhängig macht. Öffentlich-privat finanzierte Projekte sind üblich, da die Expertise von Unternehmen nötig ist, um essenzielle Ziele zu erreichen.

Der Schaden bleibt, trotz widerlegter Vorwürfe 

Doch egal, wie viele Widerlegungen die EU-Agentur für Lebensmittelsicherheit vorbringt, ein Großteil des Schadens ist bereits entstanden. Schlagzeilen mit der Aufschrift „Wissenschaftler im Bereich Lebensmittelsicherheit wird Korruption vorgeworfen“ sind alles, was diese Aktivisten, die Feinde der industriellen Landwirtschaft sind, brauchen. Damit wird das Vertrauen in die Wissenschaft unterminiert.

Doch auch Journalisten erleben diese neue Diffamierung, etwa die Französin Emmanuelle Ducros. Die Mitarbeiterin von „L’Opinion“ ist bekannt für ihre Kolumnen, in denen sie Innovationen gegen Anti-Gentechnik, Anti-Freihandels- oder Anti-Pestizidaktivisten verteidigt. 

Ducros ist enormen Shitstorms ausgesetzt, seit die linke französische Zeitung „Liberation“ über sie schrieb. Ducros hatte als Moderatorin auf Branchenkonferenzen der Agrarwirtschaft gearbeitet – die Reisekosten und Unterkunft bezahlte die Industrie. Auch hier tauchten Vorwürfe einer unethischen Praxis auf. Aber journalistische Integrität ist doch nicht mit einer Hotelübernachtung zu kaufen! 

Die in der Wissenschaftsforschung traditionelle Frage: „Was sind Ihre Beweise?“ wird zusehends ersetzt durch „Wer finanziert Sie?“ Damit wird jede wissenschaftliche Debatte diskreditiert, im schlimmsten Falle beendet. Die Folgen davon sind auf lange Sicht verheerend.

Bill Wirtz arbeitet als Policy Analyst für das Consumer Choice Center in Brüssel

Originally published here

Viewpoint: Want to fight climate change? Embrace GMOs, don’t ban them

The fight against climate change has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the UK and globally. And for good reason. However, it is alarming that this noble goal is often used to justify all sorts of bans.

However unpopular it may be, gene modification has many benefits. It improves agricultural performance and reduces the need for chemicals. It also drives down the cost, energy usage and carbon emissions associated with tractor diesel fuel and pesticide spraying. Enabling gene modification would lead to lower prices in the shops and encourage farmers to innovate.

Read full, original article: Don’t ban meat – grow it in a lab

Read more here

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