The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold hearings next week in Honolulu on three cases related to attempts by Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties to further regulate or ban farming with genetically engineered crops. The ordinance from Kauai and the initiative from Maui were as much about the fear of pesticides as they were about concern over GE crops, and their justifications were mostly precautionary principle-induced hallucinations. All three county actions were overturned in district court by federal judges.
Those whose agenda and funding depend on spreading fear about GE crops and pesticides find it is easier to scare people with misinformed stories about pesticides than it is to scare them with concerns over a modern plant breeding technique.
A comprehensive and informative discussion on chemicals could not be timelier: Sense about Science – Making Sense of Chemical Stories is a guide for those not ready to buy the tales of the fear mongers.
Sense About Science is a charitable trust that equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion. Their publications on these important topical issues are excellent resources for those seeking science-based information and for those engaged in the communication of science.
The guide is organized around the six largest misconceptions about chemicals (which are prominently featured in the Kauai ordinance and Maui initiative):
- You can lead a chemical-free life
- Man-made chemicals are inherently dangerous
- Synthetic chemicals are causing many cancers and other diseases
- Our exposure to a cocktail of chemicals is a ticking time-bomb
- It is beneficial to avoid man-made chemicals
- We are subjects in an unregulated, uncontrolled experiment
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Scientists are worried about the growing disconnection between the lifestyle view of chemicals and the chemical realities of the world.
They are worried not just because people are likely to misunderstand what chemicals are and do, but because of the consequences for decisions about lifestyle choices, family health and social policies.
In lifestyle commentary, chemicals are presented as something that can be avoided, or eliminated using special socks, soaps or diets, and that cause only harm to health and damage to the environment. The chemical realities of the of chemicals, that synthetic chemicals are often much safer for human health than so-called ‘natural’ ones, and that unfounded anxiety about chemicals is encouraging people to buy into ideas and ‘remedies’ that make little scientific or medical sense.