|'Bush a Piker at Manipulating Science' (17/4/2004)|
You may have thought that the US under Clinton was almost every bit as suspect on biotech as Bush. Not so! The Clinton administration was, in reality, marked by 'politically motivated, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-business eco-babble'.
So says Henry I. Miller in an opinion piece 'Bush a Piker at Manipulating Science, Compared to Clinton, Gore' (see below) prominently circulated on the pro-GM Prakash list (AgBioView). Apart from being a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, which champions the free market and limited government, Miller is on the board of directors of both the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and the anti-regulatory Consumer Alert. Miller was also part of the rabidly pro-GM/anti-organic 'No More Scares' group with Michael Fumento, Steven (the Junkman) Milloy and ACSH's Elizabeth Whelan.
He is also an 'adjunct scholar' at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and regularly co-authors pro-GM pieces with CEI colleague Greg Conko, the co-founder and Vice-President of Prakash's AgBioWorld campaign. And we're now told, 'His latest book, The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution, co-authored with Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will be published later this year.'
Clearly something to look forward to, but although Miller is a significant cog in the incestuous network of far right pro-biotech lobby groups in the U.S., Henry can't be dismissed as just another far right flake. For one thing such flakes are as one with key players in the Bush administration, and for another Miller is also a member of the UN's Codex Alimentarius committee on GM foods and was an official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fifteen years (1979-1994), during which time he served in a number of posts involved with biotechnology regulation.
According to Miller's Hoover Institution 'home page' , 'He was the medical reviewer for the first genetically engineered drugs evaluated by the FDA and was instrumental in the rapid licensing [note] of human insulin and human growth hormone. He served in several posts, including special assistant to the FDA commissioner, with responsibility for biotechnology issues; from 1989 to 1994, he was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.'
Henry Miller's vision of the ideal regulator seems to be one who determinedly looks the other way! After all, he argues, genetic engineering is especially safe and precise so that means GM products should actually require less regulatory oversight rather than more. Thus, the US's send-us-some-info-if-you-feel-like-it regulation of biotech - widely regarded as extremely regulatory-lite - is viewed by Miller' as unnecessarily burdensome, officious and heavy-handed.
Henry doesn't, however, blame this supposed over-regulation entirely on the likes of Clinton/Gore and their left-wing cronies. Revealingly, he once told the New York Times that, 'In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do'.
It has been suggested that for Miller bringing a product to market swiftly is more important than ensuring its safety. But as far as Miller is concerned, industry has shot itself in the foot by being over-cautious. He told the New York Times, 'Food biotech is dead. The potential now is an infinitesimal fraction of what most observers had hoped it would be.'
But at least those anti-science, anti-technology, anti-business eco-babbling commissars are out of office!
Bush a Piker at Manipulating Science, Compared to Clinton, Gore
The political silly season has spawned a flurry of attacks on the Bush administration for "politicizing science." To be sure, some of the criticism is justified. It appears political for the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit over-the-counter sales of the morning-after contraceptive, for example.
But the critics seem to have become overnight converts in wanting public policy to be science-based. Not one of them was publicly censorious of the Clinton administration's blatant and heavy-handed abuse of science. Moreover, the primary force behind the condemnation of the Bush administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists, is notorious for its anti-technology zealotry.
When political fortunes change and a new party comes into power in the executive branch, one must expect pervasive changes in the philosophy of government. This is part and parcel of the political process. However, the improper coercion and influence on governmental, science-based activities that we saw during the Clinton administration were outside the recognized rules of the game, and in some cases illegal.
As President Clinton's science and technology czar, Vice President Al Gore chose many high-level appointees to regulatory agencies, and thereby obtained the leverage to politicize the administration's policies and decisions.
And what a collection of yes-men and anti-science, anti-technology ideologues they were: Presidential science adviser Jack Gibbons, whose primary qualification seemed to be mastery of the phrase, "Yes, Mr. Vice President"; Environmental Protection Agency chief and Gore acolyte Carol Browner, whose agency was condemned repeatedly by the scientific community; Jane Henney, appointed FDA commissioner as a payoff for politicizing the agency's critical oversight of food and drugs while she was its deputy head; State Department Undersecretary Tim Wirth, who worked tirelessly to circumvent Congresss explicit refusal to ratify radical, wrongheaded treaties signed by the Clinton administration; and Agriculture Undersecretary Ellen Haas, former director of an anti-technology advocacy group, who deconstructed science thusly, "You can have 'your' science or 'my' science or 'somebody else's' science. By nature, there is going to be a difference."
Never has American government been burdened with such politically motivated, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-business eco-babble. Yet those who now criticize the Bush administration were silent.
As troubling as the substance of the Clinton-Gore policies was, the mean-spirited nature of their practices was as bad. Gore brooked no dissension or challenge to his view of policy or scientific rectitude and went to extraordinary lengths to purge his "enemies" throughout the government. In order to rid the civil service of dissenting views, Gore and his staff interfered in federal personnel matters in ethically questionable ways.
Gore himself dismissed Will Happer, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy, because he refused to ignore scientific evidence at hand that conflicted with the vice presidents pet theories on ozone depletion and global warming.
Gores staff interfered in civil-service hiring and other personnel actions at the departments of state, energy and interior, and at the EPA and FDA. In these departments and agencies, prominent civil servants were moved to less visible positions or substituted with other officials during interactions with the White House for their own "protection." Gore and his staff even positioned "political commissars" at the agencies, to intimidate and sometimes override government experts.
There appears little likelihood that in the foreseeable future science policy will become less politicized or more rational and progressive. There is no important constituency for sound science policy. On the contrary, politicization often represents merely pandering to the fears, which sometimes verge on superstition, of a scientifically illiterate and statistics-phobic public.
Federal regulator-bureaucrats have learned to confer legitimacy on almost any policy, no matter how flawed or antithetical to the public interest.
Skepticism about the motivations and actions of those in government is healthy. But for criticism to be credible, it should be consistent, even if not wholly apolitical. It is instructive, therefore, to ask: During the Clinton-Gore years of egregious excesses and abuses, where were those who now accuse the Bush administration of politicizing science?
Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA from 1989 to 1993. His latest book, "The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution," co-authored with Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will be published later this year.