Thursday, October 14, 2004

Science and Politics

The e-Skeptic, a weekly newsletter from the Skeptics Society, has published two articles looking at how the Bush administration has meddled with science in the last four years: "The Politicization Of Science in the Bush Administration: Science-As-Public Relations" and ""Political" Science". Both articles are well worth reading, especially if you think all this talk of politics influencing science only affects academics sitting in their ivory towers.
"One need look no further than the USDA to see how compromised the research and enforcement environment has become. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman was a former food industry lawyer and lobbyist and her staff includes representatives of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other industry groups. So it should be no surprise that shortly after a dairy cow from Canada tested positive for mad cow disease a senior scientist came forward alleging agency pressure to let Canadian beef into the U.S. before a study concluded it was safe. Nor should it shock us that whistleblowers accused an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service supervisor of insisting a cow exhibiting symptoms of the disease be sent to a rendering plant before a technician could perform the tests mandated by agency guidelines. But even the most cynical among us might be baffled by the almost cultish devotion to industry pandering exhibited when the USDA refused to give Creekstone Farms Premium Beef the kits it requested to voluntarily test its cattle so it could export to Japan because it might "create the impression that untested beef was not safe." Creekstone may very well go bankrupt as a result."
On the same note, PZ Myers at Pharyngula has a good summary of a recent Science editorial (subscription required) on the current state of American science.

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