(Ames is an
active adviser to The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC),
a corporate-supported "watchdog coalition that advocates the use
of sound sciences in public policy." TASSC has about 900 members,
375 of whom are scientists. The rest are executives from the chemical,
oil, dairy, timber, paper, mining, manufacturing and agribusiness
industries -- like "Support comes from companies like Procter &
Gamble, Exxon, Dow Chemical, and Philip Morris -- who are seeking
ways to defend their products in media and the courts. TASSC's Web
site offers examples of what it terms "junk science," alongside
a host of entries defending bovine growth hormone, genetically engineered
foodstuffs, dioxin, electromagnetic fields and endocrine disrupting
chemicals. Ames is also on the Board of Directors for the Marshall
Institute (MI), a well funded and very powerful corporate "think
tank," that substitutes rhetoric for good data. MI is a
pro-business group which claims to present "unbiased"
scientific analyses; it dismisses global warming, champions star
wars defense expenditures and puts out media releases asserting
genetically engineered foods pose little or no risk.)
second corporate strategy, actually a page out of the environmentalists'
own play book, is to reach lots of children. As an environmental
teacher of nineteen years, I've watched this strategy evolve into
a tremendous public relations bonanza, well funded and skillfully
The ramifications are
staggering. Fifty million young people are now in public schools, all soon
to be consumers and voters. The time to shape their beliefs is now. These
materials are professional, obviously expensive to produce, and often they
are free to educators. Corporations realize that schools are desperate for
materials, and what better way to fill this niche but to provide readings,
labs, and quizzes, all touting the corporate view of pesticides.
One great example is
Agriculture and The Environment, published by the American
Farm Bureau. Well organized, the booklet includes activities, questions,
and readings. I was particularly struck by the "Basic Understanding"
sections: "The quality and abundance of our food supply is
due to modern agricultural practices which include the use of pesticides,"
and "Chemicals are chemicals, whether they are naturally occurring
a pattern with these publications: downplay the risks, accentuate
the old reliable phrases ("media scare," "safest
food supplies," "99.99% of the carcinogenic substances
we consume in our diet are natural substances") and create
confusion about reliable data. While the Farm Bureau is entitled
to its opinion, if corporations flood our schools with these freebies,
how will children receive a counterpoint?
spring, a student brought me an article about the hazards of atrazine.
This herbicide, heavily used on corn, apparently is being widely
found in rainwater, wells, and rivers. Concerns range from toxicity
to aquatic organisms to reproductive problems in wildlife. More
sinister is that atrazine is being linked to two forms of human
cancer. When I checked my data against the Farm Bureau information,
I found discrepancies. According to the Farm Bureau, it is not linked
to any risk of cancer. The key point here is the use of repetition.
Concerns are dismissed as zealous, heavy handed regulatory action,
and environmentalists with an agenda.
This approach is also
seen in "Impacts of Eliminating Organophosphates and Carbamate under
the Food Quality Protection Act," produced by the Agriculture and Food
Policy Center at Texas A&M University. The executive summary reads like
a nightmare: "If you want to eliminate these organophosphates the results
include reduced yields, increase of imports with their questionable use
of pesticides, increased pest resistance, and reduced consumption of fruits
of young voters is being counted on to address and solve some of
the most pressing ecological issues facing humankind. Such a task
demands that they have access to credible scientific data, not merely
corporate-produced sales materials. Many teachers do not delve into
these special topics and feel less fluent in issues such as genetically
altered food or the chemistry of organophosphates. This creates
a void for corporate American to fill with science that is more
suited to fill the needs of a three month profit report rather than
the well being of a community, its children, and its resources.
The environmental community
had better go on the offensive. The largest environmental groups should
fund those grassroots groups that are willing to develop and promote sound
science materials for teachers and their students. The prospect of losing
a generation to corporate science is a thought that makes me shudder.
John F. Borowski has been teaching Marine Science, Environmental
Biology and Earth Science for 21 years at North Salem High in Salem,
The National Science Teachers' Convention will be in
San Diego, this March 27-30th, 2002. Over 25,000 science teachers
are expected. And...corporate interests will be there in
force! Real environmental organizations should consider doing a
booth -- it is a great way to reach teachers and their students.
I will be there, with the Native Forest Council. We plan to start
our campaign to expose these corporate interests in our schools.
Teachers and the general public need to know what is going on in
You can contact John Borowski at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also by John