power o f influence-wielding corporation s lik e Lockhee d Marti n (manufacturer of the RTGs and the US government's largest military contractor), as well as the agendas o f bureaucracies like the Department o f Energy (which has taken on the role of promoting nuclear power). Grossman also makes a compelling case that these 'benign' uses of nukes are part o f a concerted effort to gain public acceptance for the military's eventual use of nuclear weapons i n space. He quotes General Joseph W. Ashy, commander-in-chief of the US Space Command, who says, "Some people don't want to hear this... but - absolutely - we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space when
[orbital assets] become so precious that it's i n our national interests."17
Grossman is no doubt correct on all these counts. But there are more fundamental reasons as well. There is the hubris of scientists generally, who presume the right to gamble with the future of the planet, and defend that right by appealing to the higher god of scientific progress. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, for example, admitted that the costs and risks of Cassini troubled him so much that he would cancel the programme "i f i t were not so important to planetary science".18
Also to blame is the highly compartmentalized thinking so central to reductionist science. As the focus o f scientific inquiry narrows, the ability to see the bigger picture, to take into account the debit as well as the credit side o f the balance sheet, is diminished. One defender of Cassini proudly claimed that scientists studying the atmosphere of Venus have been instrumental i n "discovering" the greenhouse effect; the role o f science i n causing that effect i n the first place, however, is conveniently overlooked.19
Other defenders closely involved with the project recently justified the launch i n a progressive US publication. 2 0 They concluded by saying, "Cassini presents the world wit h a chance to learn." Indeed i t does - but first we need to re-write the curriculum.
1. Grossman, K. , The Wrong Stuff, Common Courage
Press, Monroe, Maine, 1997, p.90. 2. Ibid, p. 14. 3. Caldicott, H. , Nuclear Madness, Norton, New
York, 1994, p.80, cited i n The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p.13. 4. Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered
Satellites, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Swedish National Institute for Radiation Protection, Paris, 1990, p.21, cited i n The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p. 12. 5. The Wrong Stuff op.cit., pp. 12-13. 6. Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered
Satellites, op.cit., p.22, cited in The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p. 15. l.The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., pp. 15-17.
8. Angelo, J.A., Jr., and Buden, D., Space Nuclear
Power, Orbit Book Co.,.Malabar, Florida, 1985, p. 140, cited i n The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p. 15. 9. The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p. 17. 10. Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, et al, v.
George Herbert Walker Bush, et al. US District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 892682, Motion to Intervene and Memorandum of Points i n Authorities i n Support of Intervention, Oct. 10, 1989; cited i n The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p.90. 11. The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., pp.95-96. 12.Ibid, p.24. Yh.Ibid, p.27. U.Ibid, p.26. 15.Nelson, R.M., and Dawson, S.M., "Countdown to
Cassini: The Left Press Exaggerates the Dangers of the NASA Launch", In These Times, Nov. 2, 1997, p.20. 16. The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p.74. 17. Scott, W.B., "USSC Prepares for Future Combat
Missions i n Space", Aviation Week & Space Technology, Aug.5, 1996, p.51; cited i n The Wrong Stuff, op.cit., p. 104. 18. Tuzzi, L. , "Goldin Subjects Cassini to Cost, Risk
Reductions", Space News, March 14, 1994, cited i n Grossman, K. , "Risking the World: Nuclear Proliferation i n Space", Covert Action Quarterly, Summer 1996, p.56. 19. "Countdown to Cassini: The Left Press
Exaggerates the Dangers of the NASA Launch", op.cit., p. l 20. Ibid, pp. 18-20.
Food Slander Laws i n the US: The Criminalization o f Dissent Following the United States Department of Agriculture's August decision to close down a meat-packing plant in Nebraska because of burgers tainted with e-coli, editorials appeared in newspapers across the United States calling for significant changes in government oversight of the nation's meat production. But had the media, or food safety activists, so much as hinted that America's beef was not safe prior to the outbreak, they could have been sued under laws currently in the making in 13 states known as "Food Disparagement" laws.
In recent years, with the globalization and industrialization of food production and the emergence o f the BSE and e-coli crises, the public has become even more concerned about food safety and other health-related agricultural issues. Recent polls i n the US have found 80 per cent of all consumers expressing concern about issues such as pesticide and antibiotic residues,
genetic engineering, animal feeding practices and bacterial contamination. Hardly a month goes by without the media publicizing the latest food scare. Concern over food safety has now begun to affect the purchasing habits o f America n consumers, creating a demand for healthier food and a multibillio n dollar market for organic products. Consumer backlash to tainted meat and produce has cost American agribusiness billions o f dollars i n lost sales and has hampered the introduction o f new industrial food production technologies such as genetic engineering and food irradiation. Dissent and politi cal activism around food politics have steadily increased over the last five years. Eating and the purchase of food have become a political act for millions
The Ecologist, Vol . 27, No . 6, November/December 1997 EDITORIAL S
o f Americans, and American agribusiness is, not surprisingly, alarmed.
Quietly but persistently, large agribusiness and biotechnology interests have begun their counter-attack. Among other efforts to marginalize dissent, they have pushed through anti-activist "Food Disparagement" laws i n 13 US states, and are now targeting an additional 20 states. While i t is likely, according to legal experts, that these anti-free speech "food slander" laws are a violation of the Constitution, they have already been successfully used to intimidate food safety advocates and the media.
differ slightly, they contain common elements. The laws allow the food industry, farmers and food manufacturers, to collect damages arising out of disparaging statements or the dissemination of false information on the safety o f food products. Most of the laws leave open the possibility for punitive damages.
To make real the threats posed by these laws, the food industry decided
During the nationally televised Apri l 1996 programme, Lyman of the US Humane Society pointed out that "cow cannibalism" - the feeding of cows and other rendered animal protein to cattle was common i n the US, and that the practice is believed to have led to the recent outbreak o f "Mad Cow" disease and CJD i n the U K and Europe. Lyman said that he believed the threat for a US
The burden of proof has shifted from the plaintiff as it is in other US
lawsuits, to the defendant.
version of the "Mad Cow" cri sis was very real. Winfrey's response, to thunderous applause from the studio audience, was, "I t has just stopped me from eating another burger."
"These food slander laws are designed to protect industry profits, by preventing journalists and activists from expressing opinions that might discourage consumers from buying particular foods," says John Stauber, director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors the public relations industry.
The first food disparagement law was passed i n Colorado i n 1991. While nearly all the laws i n the various states last year to make an example o f an American icon. I n June 1996, a Texas cattleman filed suit against Oprah Winfrey, America's most popular talk show host, and her ex-cattle rancher now vegetarian activist guest, Howard Lyman, for comments regarding the safety o f US beef i n regard to "Mad Cow" disease. The Texas case was the first lawsuit filed under the food disparagement law.
On the same day cattle prices plummeted, with a 10 per cent drop by the end o f May. The beef industry pulled $600,000 i n advertising from Oprah Winfrey's show, and cancelled all scheduled advertising for the following year and the Texas cattle rancher Paul Engler filed suit under the state's food disparagement law, charging that the show's "carefully and maliciously edited statements were designed to hype ratings at the expense o f the American cattle industry." Engler
In Educating the Public on the Dangers of Food Irradiation, Food and Water are Charged with Committing "Food Slander". The Vermont-based organization Food & Water, heavily involved in its campaign to stop Hawaii from adopting irradiation to treat its exotic tropical fruits, has received a threatening letter from one of the food industry's top legal firms, Olsson, Frank and Weeda, warning them to "cease and desist" from their "irresponsible actions" of educating the public on the dangers of exposing the food supply to radioactive waste. What these hired legal thugs apparently found most appalling was that the non-profit organization had undertaken to go directly after corporations rather than waste their time lobbying the politicians and regulators whom the food industry has already conveniently bought.
irradiation, has become increasingly frustrated with Food & Water's continued successes, particularly in being able to influence many of its member corporations that show any interest in irradiation by pummelling them with thousands upon thousands of phone calls and letters from concerned citizens.
Olsson, Frank and Weeda was hired for the job by the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), the nation's top lobbying association for the produce industry. UFFVA, a major supporter of food
Since receiving the letter, Food & Water has run very strong full-page advertisements in Hawaii's leading newspapers and produced and ran a 60-second advertisement on major network television stations in Hawaii. And since there aren't any known corporations that are currently planning to utilize the proposed Hawaiian irradiator, they have decided to make their current target one of UFFVA's top members, the Dole Food Corporation, to send a strong signal to UFFVA that such outrageous and unconstitutional tactics will not silence them.
The campaign has fortunately attracted a great deal of media attention as a result of UFFVA's actions. In addition, should UFFVA decide to go forward beyond a simple "cease and desist" letter and on to court, Food & Water attorneys are not only putting together a defence that they're calling "a legal slam-dunk", they're also relishing the opportunity to get access to UFFVA's books, records and documents, regarding the group's illconceived promotion of irradiated foods. Their hope is not only to uphold their constitutional right to free speech, but also to prove once and for all that the government and industry groups like UFFVA have absolutely no proof that irradiated foods are safe for human consumption.
Ironically, the opportunity to file a counter-suit against UFFVA for the outrageous infringements of their constitutional right to free speech will present itself, which may well result in a substantial financial victory for Food & Water.
The Ecologist, Vol . 27, No . 6, November/December 1997