I’m harping on the same string. A month ago, I
how it was not necessary for terrorists to figure out how to poison us.
Our own companies are doing it for them. Now, our
government is doing a heck of a job to make it easier for companies to
poison us, and to get away with it.
As noted by the former WaPo reporter, Ed Bruske, the USDA is no longer
keeping track of pesticide use. Formerly, the USDA published
an annual report a chemical usage in agriculture. It was the
only comprehensive, reliable source of information regarding national
agricultural use of pesticides. Bruske elaborates on his
…Now it emerges that the Bushites also plan to
discontinue the federal government’s database on agricultural pesticide
Anyone–scientists, researchers, public interest groups–wanting to
know how much of a certain pesticide is being spewed into the
atmosphere could in the past turn to the annual Agriculture Chemical
Research Reports. The reports, while hardly the stuff of headline news,
have helped show that genetically modified crops that are supposed to
help farmers achieve weed-free croplands have actually spawned new
types of herbicide-resistant weeds, resulting in more and more
chemicals being sprayed onto the land
I suspect that many of these chemicals are fairly innocuous, and that
for others, the benefits outweigh the risks. Bu there is no
way to know that, without data.
Last year, ostensibly because of budget cuts, the
USDA scaled back the surveys to cover only a few crops. Then early this
year, in a cryptic notice published deep in the Federal Register, the
agency announced that all chemical-use surveys would be suspended until
at least 2010. In other words, the government will no longer be keeping
track of what kinds of pesticides are used on U.S. crops, nor how much.
Elanor (it really is spelled like that) also links to a very
signed by an ad-hoc collective of environmental advocates.
The letter is posted by the Natural Resources Defense
Council; they have a lot more here,
which you can read if you don’t mind getting depressed for the rest of
Knowledge is power; if the people have no knowledge, then they don’t
have any power. The elitists in the White House think that
they are the ones who should make all the decisions. By
keeping everyone in the dark, they ensure that there won’t be another
center of power coalescing to challenge them.
What worries me here? Even more than the potential hazards
from pesticides, I’m concerned about how easily the Administration gets
away with this.
I suppose that one could see the counter-argument. Access to
this information will only empower perky tree-huggers and even peskier
trial lawyers, and annoying ivory-tower types, such as epidemiologists
and occupational health folks. They’ll get their hands on the
information and engage in all kinds of anti-growth, anti-business
Libertarian-type folks might think it makes sense for the government to
stop enabling this kind of activism, since activists really ought to
just mind their own business.
But the issue is far larger than that. Secrecy is a way for
the government to have more power. Selective secrecy is a way
for the government to empower some, while disempowering others.
Or, for those who are able to sway government, to empower
themselves at the expense of others. It is hard to imagine
that anyone really thinks that this is a good idea.