Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nope, No Change Here

Remember how Barach Obama promised to end the intrusion of corporate and political interests on science? Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, we haven't seen that come to pass when it comes to the role of scientists in government, especially when it comes to such agencies as the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, both key to the nation's monitoring of the food supply.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Scientists and inspectors at the federal agencies responsible for food safety say they face political and corporate interference with their work, according to a survey released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonpartisan advocate for unbiased science in government. ...

Almost half of those surveyed said that in the last year they had experienced "situations where corporate interests have forced the withdrawal or significant modification of [an agency] policy or action designed to protect consumers or public health."

And 45% said they had experienced similar interference by members of Congress.

Fifty-four percent said the agencies gave political interests too much weight in their decision-making.

"Typically, once a member of Congress gets involved, the agency does whatever it can to make the situation go away rather than address food safety issues," one USDA employee wrote in an anonymous essay that accompanied the survey questionnaire.

So, this is how outbreaks of salmonella in eggs happen; how tons of bad meats have to be recalled because people have been sickened and died; how peanut butter can be hazardous to our health even if we aren't allergic to peanuts.

It's bad enough that corporate interests can forestall a legitimate investigation into slaughterhouses or egg factories, but it's even worse that lobbyists can access their favorite congress critters and get them to stop agency actions which are necessary for the common welfare.

While I admit that President Obama inherited an executive branch polluted with this kind of problem, I find it hard, if not impossible, to believe that after nearly two years in office the picture hasn't changed, even minimally. How many people have to die before the president follows through on his promise? How many years/elections will it take? Four?

Nope, no change here.

It's business, as usual.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

I stopped eating. So they spoiled the water.

5:19 AM  

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