Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rachel's: Fighting Back (with your help)

Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2004 11:10:20 -0500
Subject: Rachel's: Fighting Back (with your help)

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December 2004

Dear Rachel's Reader,

The chemical industry is mounting a major campaign against the
precautionary principle. They have hired two attack-dog public
relations firms, Nichols-Dezenhall, and Wirthlin WorldWide, to
discredit precaution in the minds of the public. They started laying
the ground work for this campaign four years ago, and now they are
ramping up their attack. (For some eye-popping documentation, see

They have developed a consistent "party line" that they are repeating
at conferences, at public hearings, and in the media. They use
consistent down-home language to make precaution seem foolish,
unnecessary and dangerous.

They have developed a series of stories that they tell to illustrate
why precaution is a bad idea. Their favorite story is the one in which
the Peruvian government hears that chlorine is dangerous. The
Peruvians act on this knowledge -- they take "precautionary action"
and stop chlorinating their water supply -- which causes several
thousand deaths from cholera.

I heard this story told almost two years face by a professor at
Stanford University, and the same story told this summer by a
professor at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. Neither of
these esteemed scholars checked their facts before telling the story.
If they had, they'd have found out the story was bogus and untrue -- a
piece of fiction intended to scare people away from the precautionary

Now the anti-precaution campaign is gaining traction. Letters to the
editor have begun to appear in newspaper across the country. In the
most recent issues of Rachel's we analyzed some anti-precaution
nonsense planted in the New York Times Nov. 21.

Their plan is simple: they are attacking the precautionary principle
itself as unnecessary and extremist; they are attacking the advocates
of precaution as extremists and uninformed Chicken Littles; and they
are claiming that "risk assessment" is totally precautionary. Not long
ago, I heard a representative of the American Chemistry Council
(formerly, the Chemical Manufacturers Association) tell an audience of
200 people that the chemical industry doesn't need the precautionary
principle because it is already fully precautionary.

So we've got our work cut out for us...

>> more >>>


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