I used to write for an environmental magazine. I quickly found out that whenever you have a controversy over safety, the ultimate question is, "Who has the burden of proof?"
If you have the burden of proof to prove that a chemical is safe, you'll never prove it. Your opponents can simply raise the standard of evidence until you don't meet it.
If you have the burden of proof to prove that a chemical is dangerous, you'll (almost) never prove it. Your opponents can simply raise the standard of evidence until you don't meet it.
So you wind up having to make a judgment call on inadequate evidence. It's not as if there's a scientific argument on one side and ignorant anti-science people on the other.
But I think the Europeans should be able to make their own judgment calls. They're not luddites.
The proposed ban was suspended because researchers have, so far, been unable to find ANY actual causality. Yes, these pesticides are harmful if you mix them into a mouse's drinking water.
If you find that a chemical is harmful if you mix it in a mouse's drinking water, you've found causality -- in mice. That's not definitive evidence that it's harmful in humans, but it is evidence.
But that doesn't mean they are significantly harmful in the way they are actually employed in agriculture.
Yes, but that doesn't mean they're safe either. I think it's reasonable for Europeans to say that they don't want companies to go pouring a chemical in their environment until they've convinced people it's safe.
Even if they are harmful (and it is likely they are to some degree) that needs to be compared against the harm from the alternative chemicals that would be used instead.
Well, which is it? Are they significantly harmful? Or just a little harmful? Or not harmful at all?
What is the economic cost of the chemicals -- in dollars? What is the economic benefit -- in dollars? That's what you need to compare.
The truth is that you don't know. You're just making arbitrary assumptions.
Environmental regulations should be based on a deliberative scientific process, not on which interest group can shout the loudest.
Yes, that's what I say. There is some evidence that chemicals like phthalates can disrupt sexual development in human embryos. They've gone through a deliberate scientific process. They've concluded, "There's no conclusive evidence one way or the other." Then what?
It's perfectly reasonable for environmentalists to say, "We want convincing evidence of safety, the manufacturers haven't prove it, we can live without phthalates, so we don't want it in our environment."
If you think environmentalists are irrational and anti-science, you ought to see some of the industry's economists. I used to read Sam Peltzman's articles. He said that if a drug is successful on the market, it must be effective. You don't need scientific evidence. If a drug sells for $100, it must be worth $100, otherwise consumers wouldn't buy it.
Conservative economists (when they testify for the chemical industry) believe that the free market is perfectly efficient, so if they can make money doing something, it must be good.