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August 2, 2007- Let Science be the Benchmark

I know that emotion is part of our human makeup and it’s impossible to take emotion entirely out of our decision making; but I would hope that where science can be the benchmark, we let science rule over emotion.

We have many examples in the world of agriculture where that is not the case, and I was reminded of that a couple weeks ago when I read an exchange of letters to the editor in a rural newspaper. It was another “Not in my Backyard” issue with neighbors fighting neighbors over a proposed wind farm.

As I read the letters from those opposed, it became evident to me there was no scientific basis for their arguments. For example, one letter writer said “The whirling blades will create a strobe-light effect that will cause people to become disoriented and they will be unable to function normally”. I haven’t seen any scientific studies to support that argument. Then there is the claim that the wind turbine blades will kill birds. No science to support that argument either. As a matter of fact, bird collisions with big-city skyscrapers kill more birds than wind turbines. Another letter-writer said in the winter ice will form on the blades and flying ice chunks will injure, even kill people.
Research shows no deaths have been reported from flying ice.

Another example of emotional arguments winning over science is the decades-long campaign by Greenpeace in Europe telling people that biotechnology should be stopped because it’s bad for everybody and everything. Even scientific bodies in the European Union have said there is no science to back that claim, but Greenpeace has successfully kept genetically-enhanced crops from being imported and kept European farmers from being able to take to use the technology. Their emotional arguments are curtailing the ability of many farmers in the world to produce more quality food from less land and, at the same time, save fragile land and wildlife habitat.

Here at home, I’m bothered by the lack of science inside our own food production community in the area of organic food production. The organic food industry is experiencing strong growth and I salute producers who are filling this special market with products that bring higher prices at the store. That being the case, why do some producers feel they must make claims that organic food is safer or more nutritious. I have seen no scientific studies to support those claims, but they are pitting “organic” farmers against “conventional” farmers and dividing the farm community. Until I see the science, I will not get drawn into that argument and I don’t think you should, either.

So where science prevails let it be the benchmark, and leave emotion to loving your neighbor and getting along with people. Let science handle science.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.