A few years ago, Slate journalist Daniel Engber, wrote a provocative, and I think highly accurate, article describing the corporate strategy of “manufactured uncertainty” that was used for years to question the scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes cancer. Similarly, he argues, some environmental activists use the same approach to challenge the scientific consensus that the GE crops currently on the market or safe to eat and beneficial for the environment. “If private industry can bewitch the government with contrarian science, so, too, can they. ..Doubt is their product, too, in the form of the ‘precautionary principle. ”
He says,”According to this moral and political dictum—which, like all visionary environmental legislation, has been embraced in the past few years by the European Commission and the city of San Francisco—the manufacturer of a new technology carries the sole burden of proving its safety. So if you wanted to introduce a genetically engineered crop into the wild, you’d first have to demonstrate, beyond any possible doubt, that it does no harm. That sounds reasonable enough. But let’s say your crop had the potential to feed thousands or millions of people? If the precautionary principle were law, someone who wanted to stop you from sowing this golden rice would only have to produce the whisper of uncertainty and the suggestion that more studies were needed.”
“Thus the eco-advocacy groups play Big Tobacco’s game: They call for data and rest their case…The Center for Food Safety says of animal cloning, “[N]ot enough research has been done“; of GMOs, they “could pose serious risks“; of food irradiation, it “can do strange things” that “scientists still do not fully understand“; and so forth. These scare tactics may be venerable, but the vigor with which they’re now pursued—and the scientific language used to promote them—owes something to the success of the corporate style.””
I highly recommend this article.