Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
THE almost month-long European hysteria over British beef
being infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE),
or what is now popularly called the Mad Cow Disease, has
global implications far too profound and as scary as the
Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Never before in history has one
disease raised so many issues at once: national food habits and.
health problems the onus of both protecting consumer interests and saving an industry, the public's access to scientific
information, marketing issues like eco-labelling and brand-
names, methods of intensive farming and tampering with
nature, vegetarianism and organic farming and, not least of all,
the whole concept of a common continental identity, the
European Union... The spread is too wide, too awesome. And
no country can ignore the issue. Neither BSE, nor the black
practices that led to the present crisis are specific to Britain.
They are specific, however, to countries where rightist, anti-
environmental regimes rule.
The European Union has now decided that millions of
cows will have to be culled, and Britain has reluctantly agreed,
after being promised compensation. Several issues have
emerged from these goings on. What is the scientific basis of
such a huge-scale culling? Is it right to kill cattle on mere suspicion, asked a participant in the BBC programme, Question Time, in the last
week of March. On the other hand, does one
have to wait for scientific evidence linking BSE
with Cruetzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) before
ordering culling? Tony Newton, the leader of
the House of Commons, asserted(that the government had urgently asked the House's scientific advisory committee on spongiform
encephalopathy to look into the extent of the
problem and suggest remedies. But his statement, "We have done everything to ensure the
safety of British beef', really clouded the issues.
And the issues were: Why did the, government
scientific not act on evidence which had come as long back as
1988-89? Why did the government not include all shades of scientific opinion in dealing with a problem of this scale? And why
did the government skirt the issue that the root of the problem
is the Thatcherite deregularisation of the economy, which had
Jed to cows being fed animal protein from sheep infected with
scrapie through much of the '180s, in the avaricious race for
faster and larger profits?
What emerged as answers have ruined the image of British
democracy and its scientific establishment. In 1990 Harsh
Narang, an internationally recognised spongiform expert had
told the House agriculture select committee that humans
could contract CJD through eating BSE-infected beef Earlier,
Narang had developed a same-day urine test for BSE infection
in cows. This was a breakthrough, since the agricultural
ministry's presently available tests could be conducted only on
slaughtered cows. But this test scared the farmer lobby, and
the ministry neglected it. Narang had applied for funds to
research his test from the ministry. That sealed his fate. He
now says the ministry suddenly saw an abyss open at their feet.
For, if he conducted random tests from heads collected from
the abattoirs, the true proportion of cattle infected with BSE,
but already heading for the market would become apparent.
So, for a long time, despite clear indications of widespread
contamination, British beef was allowed to be marketed in
Europe. The extent of the damage to come in future is beyond
calculation. Narang was not only denied funds, but over the
next several months, he now says his car tyres were slashed five,
times, his brakes tampered with and his house broken into and
ransacked and research documents rifled through. Mark
Purdey, an amateur scientist also on the wrong side of official
opinion, has even more scary tales of harassment to tell.
Reminds us of a certain monster named Adolf Hitler. The
government, therefore, was hell bent on protecting the farmers lobby at any cost. It was not willing to take
a stand on the slaughtering on its own, and
got the scientific community to do so. But
none of the statements came from the scientists themselves: they were all announced by politicians on the floor of the House. And one
after another, commentators have blamed
politicians of misusing scientists, to the extent
that now the acceptance by the public of scientific opinion has suffered gravely.
The other issue that has to be discussed
urgently at all global for a is just how much
tampering with nature can be allowed.
Feeding herbivores with animal protein is not
been'in nature's design. Cattle have
hybridised. This is pushing past nature's boundaries. But the
overriding concern has been profit. As one commentator says,
"Rightist ideology puts short-term commercial interests above
long-term environmental and health concerns. The government denied its own ecological responsibilities and sought to
privatise environmental risks by transferring responsibility to
The writing on the wall is quite legible now. The problem
is not limited to Britain. The world needs to draw the right
lessons. Science cannot be made the - handmaid of
politicians and business lobbies. And the people should
demand and be allowed to access scientific answers to
environmental and health issue at all times.