originated: Jaan Suurkula, Chairman of PSRAST
SERIOUS WORLD SITUATION - INDEPENDENT SCIENTIST NGOs GREATLY NEEDED
1. Science increasingly dependent on the industry
2. Corruption systematically used to further corporate interests
3. Great concentration of media ownership
4. Corporate interests overruling safety regulations
5. The world environmental situation is deteroriating
6. Independent scientist NGO's greatly needed
7. Finding sponsors
1. SCIENCE INCREASINGLY DEPENDENT ON THE INDUSTRY
Applied science especially is rapidly becoming increasingly dependent on commercial interests. As we have witnessed in the biotechnology field, scientists dependent on the industry are used to promote industrial interests. See our Editorial, "Dysfunctional science", at http://www.psrast.org/crisisofsci.htm. It argues a/o that we seem to be "on the way towards a 'new pseudo-scientific world order' where the short term interests of powerful industrial interests override global long term ecological and health safety considerations."
Similar concerns are voiced in the recent press release of Institute of Science in Society (ISIS): http://www.i-sis.org/sciencewar-pr.shtml "The New Thought Police - Suppressing Dissent in Science." It concludes a/o "The corporate take over of science is the greatest threat to our survival and the survival of our planet."
2. CORRUPTION SYSTEMATICALLY USED TO FURTHER CORPORATE INTERESTS
In addition, "Corruption has been going up geometrically over the past 10 years" according to Raghavan Srinivasan, World Bank chief procurement adviser, see "Exporting Corruption - Privatisation, Multinationals and Bribery" at http://www.psrast.org/corrupt.htm Multinationals are
systematically corrupting governments in the North as well as the South to further their interests. This includes making them decrease the requirements for expensive but necessary investigations of the environmental or health consequences of their products. Also there has been an obvious trend for governments to cooperate with multinationals in suppressing scientific information that is unfavorable to the industry. One of several concrete examples is the suppression in FDA of warnings of their own experts about GE foods, see "Biodeception" at http://www.psrast.org/fdalawstmore.htm
3. GREAT CONCENTRATION OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP
A third trend is the great concentration of media ownership to a few hands. In the US a large part of the media are owned by about ten companies. A similar development has occurred in many countries (for example in Sweden a single owner controls a major part). Through direct control of the editorial boards as well as by threatening to withdraw advertisements,they are able to control much of the information content see eg "The Threat of Corporate Power" by M. Ewall at http://www.corporations.org/threat.htm and "News Media, Corporate Power and Democracy" at http://chris.shumway.tripod.com/chrisnews/id5.html .
4. CORPORATE INTERESTS OVERRULING SAFETY REGULATIONS
These more and more obvious trends represent a great hazard to the world. We have seen how irresponsibly multinationals have acted in the biotech field, and there are similar examples from other fields.
Some argue that there is a wilful plot where multinationals are
cooperating to assume control over the world. I don't think it is
necessary to incur conspiracy theories and I doubt that the corporations would take the risk that someone might reveal it as this would be devastating to them.
However even without conspiracy, the very nature of multinationals is such as to logically yield a similar result. The responsibility of their managements is to increase the profit, and for that end it is inevitable that they will use their power to "optimize cooperation" with key actors like decision-makers and scientists and to reduce obstacles to their growth like unfavorable press, environmental regulations etc, see "Corporate behavior" at http://rachel.enviroweb.org/rehw449.htm.
Managers that don't use all available possibilities to promote the interests of the corporation run a great risk to lose their job. The result in practice has been that corporations have been successfully acting so as to launch ill-tested if not untested products and new technologies with less and less of
independent media and scientist scrutiny and more and more influence over governmental and international regulatory bodies.
5. THE WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL SITUATION IS DETERORIATING
This is especially serious in a situation where the environmental, health and socio-economical situation of the world is deteriorating with an increasingly rapid pace, without adequate measures taken by the governments to remedy the situation, see the United Nations GEO 2000
"The state of the environment" report http://www.unep.org/geo2000/ov-e/0003.htm. Some of the problems it enumerates are:
* Global emissions of CO2 reached a new high.
* Ozone-depletion is increasing with detrimental environmental effects.
* Species extinction is rapidly increasing at a much greater rate than ever before in the history of the world.
* Water-stressed conditions are rapidly increasing.
* More than half the world's coral reefs are potentially threatened by human activities
* Exposure to hazardous chemicals causing adverse effects - from birth defects to cancer.
* Soil degradation induced by humans is putting the livelihoods of more than 1 000 million people at risk.
"From a global perspective the environment has continued to degrade during the past decade, and significant environmental problems remain deeply embeded in the socio-economic fabric of nations in all regions." (United Nations Environment Programme, 1997).
In several of these problem fields, multinationals have successfully been able to counteract or delay governmental preventive or remedial measures. An actual instance is the recently failed global warming negotiations where the fossil fuel lobby has excerted heavy pressures on especially
the US government to resist restrictions.
Contributory to this has been the confusing information provided by industry funded scientists denying the severity of the situation.
6. INDEPENDENT SCIENTIST NGO'S GREATLY NEEDED
The US National Academy of Science recently has suggested the creation of an International Academy Council (IAC) with the purpose of evaluating new technologies. NAS is an unaccountable body of self-appointed experts that has repeatedly been acting in favour of industrial interests. Their behavior is an inevitable consequence of the problematic commercialization of science. Professor Samuel Epstein together with the Editor of the Ecologist, Edward Goldsmith and Mae-Wan Ho have written a letter to the Editor of Science that was rejected. Here is a mail commenting this:
"The following letter, which gives a good insight into how corporate ("sound") science works in the global arena behind closed doors, has been rejected from Science magazine despite three requests for reconsideration from Dr. Samuel Epstein. The issue at stake is democracy and the social control of science and technology, which is all the more urgent, as technologies become more powerful and uncontrollable. This is not the first time that magazines such as Science, Nature and New Scientist have refused to give voice to (real) scientists dissenting from the corporate ("sound science") view, to which they give undue and apparently unlimited access." (By Stephen L. Tvedten)
For the whole letter including the rejected Science letter, see http://www.safe2use.com/ca-ipm/00-06-04.htm
In such a situation there is a great need for really independent *global* interdisciplinary organizations of scientists that become respected world-wide by governments and the public as credible sources of correct evaluations of the situation. The ambition of PSRAST has been to serve this purpose, se "About us" at http://www.psrast.org/aboutus.htm.
A minimum but important contribution that we already are making is to have an internationally established, well frequented website providing impartial information. We think, that for greatest impact, it is important that this information is primarily written for laymen. If we can find funding and staff, we consider to extend the scope of our website to, as a first step, cover all kinds of genetic engineering. The name would be "Genetic Engineering - Safety Problems." Now genetically engineered trees, insects and fish are beginning to be used. Their release represents new and potentially even more serious environmental hazards than those of plants. When finance allows we want to expand our surveillance to other potentially harmful technologies. Our dream is to have an independent interdisciplinary research institute for evaluating the safety of science and technology applications. - Perhaps in cooperation with other NGO:s with a similar objective, like the Institute of Science in Society with whom we have been cooperating.
7. FINDING SPONSORS
However we have had great difficulties in finding proper funding for sustained activity. It has not been our strength as physicians and scientists to do fund-raising. The ideal would be to find some foundation or some rich private persons known to sponsor organizations wanting to improve the global environmental or health situation.
And please consider sponsoring us yourself. For instructions about sponsoring, see our webpage for sponsors at http://www.psrast.org/sponsor.htm
Jaan Suurkula M.D.
Chairman of PSRAST
Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST)
A Global Network for impartial interdisciplinary evaluation of the safety and value of new technologies