Just Deserts: The Ultimate Irony
Alan S. Levin, M.D., J.D.
We are witnessing a paradigm shift of monumental proportions in the area of science and medicine. Of this shift chroniclers have stated that "public opinion is replacing scientific studies" in the assessment of safety of products. (Bitter Harvest, London Sunday Times 8/29/99) Prominent examples of this shift are the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of cattle due to the Mad Cow scare in England, the massive European public campaign against the Monsanto Corporation and their genetically manipulated food products, and the world wide attacks on the nuclear power industry for irradiating foods to retard spoilage.
Factually, the evidence that these campaigns are founded in credible science is scant at best. Why then are these campaigns gaining so much momentum? My explanation is simple. The public has lost faith in the health/industrial complex and their governments' assessment of product safety. The public wants to teach certain companies a lesson.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, through one of it's lobby groups (the Chemical Manufacturer's Association (CMA)), the health/industrial complex launched a massive of campaign scientific misinformation to counter evidence presented in law suits regarding Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals. Among others the CMA engaged Peter Huber, an engineer/lawyer, who coined the term "junk science" . Huber wrote prolifically attacking any and all scientists who made claims that the products of the CMA could cause human disease.
Other prominent people enlisted by the CMA include the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein of the New York Federal District Court. Judge Weinstein lectured widely to scientific meetings on how flawed the plaintiffs' science was in these cases. Judge Weinstein's opinions on this subject were widely published in peer reviewed medical journals and lay magazines. He recommended the physicians who believed that Agent Orange could damage the immune system should loose their medical licenses. Judge Weinstein adapted the Frye rule, an old criminal law ruling, to be used in modern litigation in order to keep expert scientific testimony from a jury. With this rule and it's successor the Daubert rule, a judge with an eighth grade education in science now has the power to decree that a Nobel Laureate's science is flawed and must not be heard by a jury.
Although this misinformation campaign has been wildly successful in the American legal system, it's foolishness has not convinced the general public. The general public is broadly aware that dioxin, the offensive contaminant of Agent Orange, is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. The general public is aware that the chemical manufacturers purchased high level scientific and legal influence in order to defeat the Vietnam veterans' claims for damage caused by Agent Orange. The general public is also extremely suspicious of the manufacturer's claims of safety for pesticides, herbicides, breast implants, and other products.
Ironically, as a result of this misinformation campaign, the public has lost faith in everything the CMA proclaims. Even products which may be immensely beneficial to the human race are being branded by the public as dangerous and unsafe. The general public in Europe has just started political and boycott campaigns to ban most if not all products made by manufacturers who indulge in such misinformation campaigns. This campaign will most probably impact the American public in the near future.
In summary, my take on this changing paradigm is that it is a backlash to the CMA's massive spin campaign started in the late 1970s, the ultimate irony. The lesson to be learned comes from Abraham Lincoln. You can fool all of the people some of the time, you can fool some people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Look out CMA, your day is almost over. [Original Source: Unknown]
Al Levin, M.D., J.D.