A joint fact-finding process intended to gather and evaluate data on GMOs and related pesticides on Kauai has officially begun, with yesterday's announcement of the panelists invited to serve.
They are Adam Asquith, Lee Evslin, Gerardo Rojas Garcia, Sarah Styan, Kathleen West-Hurd, Douglas Wilmore, Kawika Winter, Louisa Wooton and Roy Yamakawa.
It's a pretty good mix, though Louisa is the weak link, seeing as how she took such a rabid position in support of Bill 2491 and lacks a scientific background. Still, I suppose she is the counter to Sarah and Gerardo, who work for the seed companies, but actually do have science backgrounds.
I give kudos to facilitator Peter Adler for including seed company representatives on the panel. It would be insane to try and suss out what's going on without the participation of people who can share information about the seed companies' practices.
It was also curious to see Carl Berg named as an “informational liaison” because he is affiliated with Surfrider, which is one of the parties appealing the judge's ruling overturning Bill 2491/Ordinance 960.
The county-and state-funded joint fact-finding group is set to convene in March for an anticipated eight meetings.
As I've previously reported, the group is charged with sorting out facts — something that has been in short supply in the emotionally-charged GMO debate.
But do people even care about scientific inquiry and facts, especially when they run counter to deeply-held (though frequently erroneous) beliefs? A new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center points out some deep schisms between scientists — at least those who belong to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science — and average citizens.
Though 57% of the general public say that GMO foods are generally unsafe to eat, 88% of scientists say GM foods are generally safe. Now that alone shows how powerful the anti-GMO fear-mongering campaign has been, especially since a large percentage of people don't even know what GMO means. Yet 67% of citizens say scientists do not have a clear understanding about the health effects.
And while 68% of the public say it is "generally unsafe" to eat foods grown with pesticides, 68% of the scientists say it is safe.
A whopping 98% of the scientists say humans evolved over time, compared to just 65% of the average citizens. Interestingly, nearly half the people who do not believe in evolution think scientists are also split on the isse.
Scientists also disagree with citizens on the topic of vaccinations, with 86% of the scientists saying parents should be required to have their kids vaccinated and just 68% of the public holding that view.
Among scientists, the public’s knowledge about science — or lack thereof — is widely considered to be a major (84%) or minor (14%) problem for the field.
When it comes to food, 62% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect, while 34% say science has mostly had a negative effect on the quality of food. Similarly, more say science has had a positive (62%) than negative (31%) effect on the quality of the environment today. But, the balance of opinion on this issue has shifted somewhat compared with 2009 when 66% said science had a positive effect and 23% said it had a negative effect.
A majority of AAAS scientists (58%) say that the best scientific information guides government regulations about new drug and medical treatments at least most of the time, while 41% say such information guides regulations only some of the time or never.
Scientists are largely pessimistic that the best information guides regulations when it comes to clean air and water regulations or land use regulations: 72% and 84%, respectively, say this occurs only some of the time or never. And just 46% think the best science is frequently used in food safety regulations and 58% say the same when it comes to regulations about new drug and medical treatments.
In other words, politics frequently trump science when it comes to regulatory decisions. No surprise there.