Saturday | November 18, 2017
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Letters 11-5-13

GMOs: Science isn’t always perfect

This is a response to Susan Miyasaka’s Viewpoint in West Hawaii Today suggesting that Bill 113 is based on emotion rather than science. The viewpoint is misleading because it is irrelevant.

Nothing in our law-making process requires that laws be based on science, the issue is public consensus.

Of course, we all want good laws (perhaps with the exception of vested interests). The problem is with technocratic reasoning, which assumes good laws should be based on science, because all published science is good science. This “good science” idea exhibits what scientists call “survivor bias.” In short, we as humans remember the good science because in the long run we keep it, and forget the bad science because we abandon it, and so imagine that all science is good science. Ms. Miyasaka suggests peer review — by government agencies and other scientists — validates science, a view long ago abandoned in favor of citation counts. Further reading about how bad science happens can be found in the landmark scientific paper published in 2005 “Why most published research findings are false,” and in a recent issue of The Economist. Think about that, at least half of all new science is wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, science is wonderful. Just not as perfect as some would like you to believe.

With respect to GMOs, the question for the public and lawmakers is: which parts of the science are reliable? We can’t know. GMO technology alters the basic chemistry of all living things in ways impossible in nature, and based on the whim of fallible humans. The unexpected will occur. This is one reason scientists have to test the crops. It is simply a matter of time until the unexpected happens. Think about that — unnatural and unexpected changes in the chemistry of life in a field near you.

Where is the public consensus asking scientists to experiment with the stuff of life on our island? Going by the public testimony it is almost nonexistent. Some of the anti-GMO testimony may have been emotional, however, this is no reason to discount such testimony since it demonstrates a reasonable concern understood at a gut level.

In many parts of the world, GMO-free is seen as a benefit. Clearly there are a few vested interests who will benefit from GMO experiments here. But for the remaining 99 percent of us, why take the risk? There’s no reason to.

Robert Flatt

Captain Cook

Ideas to limit NSA’s snooping

National Security Agency, Google, Yahoo and Amazon are capable of amassing lots of data on every one of us.

If it really upsets you, there are ways you can limit them. Shop locally at multiple stores, pay cash, use snail mail or visit your friends face to face, travel as much as possible by foot or wheel, and use only wired phones. Whatever you do, stop posting your life on social media. None of this will completely stop them, but it will leave a lot more blanks to fill in.

Ken Obenski