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Too Much Science?
"Blinded by the Light" was the title of a hit song by Bruce Springsteen. However, great pop songs don't often make for great agricultural policy. Which is why a recent commentary in The Manchester Guardian titled "Blinded by the Light of Technology"caught Winston's attention.

The article by Dr. Sue Mayer, Director of GeneWatch UK, a British biotechnology watchdog organization, appears to oppose a science-based policy for regulating bio-engineered crops. Although apparently intending to make a point, the writing simply resulted in Winston being puzzled as to just what was being said. For example, even though the column recognized that science is intended to provide independent, factual basis for decisions, Dr. Mayer states that "science rarely deals in facts."

Dr. Mayer expressed concern that, government officials have "not evaluated the adequacy of science's depth and breadth or the implications of an intellectual and social bias towards a molecular view of the world." While Winston understands and respects concerns that the science in specific instances may be insufficient for making policy decisions, he is a bit perplexed by what is meant by a "bias towards a molecular view of the world."

Winston is even more perplexed by exactly what Dr. Mayer means when she states, "[t]here is a movement growing here, seeking a new way of producing food which less intensive and more connected to people. The GM route does not meet those criteria." However, Winston's confusion turns to concern when the article dismisses the British government's interest in using bio-technology to help alleviate starvation in the developing world as "moral blackmail," clearly the statement of someone who has not missed too many meals in their life.

Although much of the article's language and logic is opaque, two points are clear: 1) GeneWatch UK opposes agricultural biotechology; and 2) the organization is not able to muster a coherent, rational, fact-based argument supporting their anti-technology bias. GeneWatch UK's article reminds Winston of some of the lyrics from Blinded by the Light, such as, "[s]ome brimstone baritone anti cyclone rolling stone preacher from the east. Says Dethrone the Dictaphone hit it in his funny bone and that's where they expect it least." These are nonsense words that may sound catchy but are utterly devoid of semantic content. No wonder Winston thought of them after reading Dr. Mayer's article.
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