Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why do authorities in supposedly free countries suppress facts?

Before I say anything else, I think I need to reassert two things:

1. Governments are good things, and democratic governments are in the long run the best because they are (or can be) held accountable by their citizens

2. Science and technology are good things and ought to be supported and nurtured, provide they are being led by people with a lively conscience and desire to do good to humanity rather than simply make money or gain greater power to impose their will.

As you and I know, both the assertions above and being challenged by developments in our modern world.

The latest instance has just happened. We are all aware that the safety of GM products is currently not established - and, moreover, that no government or company is investing what needs to be invested in establishing this.

Well, as long ago as January, some GM rice that should never have been approved for commercial planting, was detected to have contaminated normal rice that is for human consumption.

For whatever reason, the company that detected the problem either did not even try, or tried unsuccessfully to alert others to the problem. Bayer became officially aware of the problem only in May but did not notify the US government till the very last day of July. And then it took the US Dept of Agriculture 18 days to inform the public.

This is not the first time that scientific, technological, business and governmental organisations have suppressed the truth- let us recollect Space Shuttle Challenger which blew up before our eyes (and Space Shuttle Columbia which disintegrated before our eyes), and range across DDT and tobacco and breast implants...

So why do companies and governments refuse to recognise the truth about problems in the area of science and technology? Because and because companies are locked into the business of beating other companies to the market and of course in the market - and because governments are locked into the old and out of date business of helping "their" companies succeed against the companies of other countries.

But the brute fact is that the world has moved on. Companies belong less and less to any one country (in terms of shareholders, employees, suppliers or customers), so the world community should simply ban governments from supporting companies based in their countries, whether in terms of research or in terms of tax-breaks or anything else. All countries should be required to undertake a transparent process of tender that is equally open to companies wherever they may be based. The US has gone futhest in this direction but it clearly cannot continue in this direction if the rest of the world does not move too.

However, that is not the reason that companies and government are so reluctant to face the truth about the inadequacies of scientific and technological safety. It is because the entire system for doing so is deficient across the world and needs urgently to be examined on a worldwide basis.

You may also want to see my earlier posts on these subjects, specifically "Did they jump or were they pushed?"

BTW the story regarding the GM rice is "Biotech Firm, Govt. Hid Rice Contamination from Public", and can be viewed at: Sphere: Related Content

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