“I was regularly called a shill for the food industry”. Elizabeth Whelan, in NY Times Sep 18, 2014.
Why is this so inevitable? From the inside, it must look like something no one will really notice or pay attention to. Or maybe you just don’t care. Or maybe you are right: no one thinks that just because you take money from the industry that benefits from your “science” you would alter your findings.
And Elizabeth Whelan set out to establish a national organization that would battle what she called “junk science” and excessive government regulation protecting us from chemicals and substances which, she believed, were of marginal risk.
Why oh why oh why did she not resist the temptation? I thought there might be something to her point of view. I thought, it is likely that government bureaucrats would over-react to preliminary test results. It is possible that banning one substance will only increase different risks from the alternatives. I thought, let me read more.
And then, inevitably, it is discovered that the industry, delighted with her point of view, began to fund her organization.
And she accepted the money.
Among other things, American Council on Science and Health has endorsed saccharine, smokeless tobacco, pcbs, and fracking. She ridiculed Michael Bloomberg’s drive to ban sales of huge soft drinks in New York City.
Now, if I had been one of the corporations, I would have kept as far away from her organization as possible. I might even have attacked her for being too cautious, too reticent. I would have urged my fellow corporate buccaneers to lay off, stay back, restrain yourselves– because the minute a person like me finds out that Elizabeth Whelan is paid by the industry that benefits from her activism, her research loses all of it’s value and credibility.
Now, I shouldn’t have to respond to this hypothetical argument from the conservatives: activists from the other side also benefit from their cause– they have nice, paying jobs, junkets, expenses, and so on. But that is like saying that any married woman is the same as a whore because she offers sex to the man who feeds her and keeps her. It is not even remotely the same thing. The “benefit” corporations receive from Elizabeth Whelan’s advocacy is increased material profit for a small number of shareholders and owners. The benefit received by those who support Greenpeace is a healthier, more beautiful world for everyone– not just themselves.
And I guess Dalton McGinty just couldn’t resist either, signing up with a company that makes software for schools– which it sells to the provincial government. I agree with the NDP on this one: MP’s should have to wait five years after retirement before they can take jobs like this. But I think it should be 10.