Managing risk

February 2013
'Risk management' used to mean a systematic and regularly updated identification of any and all risks, followed by implementation of measures to minimise them. As the appalling tragedy of the Fukushima nuclear power-plant explosions has revealed, the 'risks' assessed are no longer those related to human safety, but to commercial interests and political success.

More than 18 months after the accident, the owners f the Fukushima reactors finally admitted their risk assessment had been lax: best-practice back-up equipment was never installed and staff-training in coping with emergencies was minimal. The excuse they offered was that implementing accident measures “would exacerbate ... public anxiety and add momentum to anti-nuclear movements”. As the Institute of Science in Society pointed out:
“risk management is coming more and more to mean reassuring the public that something is safe rather than making sure it actually is”.

The Japanese power company's grossly irresponsible attitude to safety was, of course, only possible due to government collusion.

COMMENT
The knee-jerk reactions which immediately diminish any identified GM risks to 'vanishingly small' while shooting the messenger, and which pour blame on the “negative influence generated by (anti-GM) lobby groups” (Leaver) are a clear indication that the biotech industry is applying the same flawed risk assessment as that used in Fukushima. The government collusion is only too evident in skewing the GM risk assessment in favour of commerce. Although it will be a slow-motion explosion, the human misery and death from engineered genes gone wrong on a global scale will dwarf the horrors of Fukushima.

Looking at the problem from the other side of the commercial fence, gives a very different view of risk assessment: your health-care providers are much less reassuring about GM food. Their focus is on what might make you ill and cost them a lot of money. It's quite lucrative for them if you're anxious enough to protect your own health, and they're quite happy for food-safety lobby groups to help them.

One of the largest managed health-care organisations in the United States, Kaiser Permanente, has advised its members against GM foods. The Company has noted that independent science shows organ damage and reproduction problems in animals fed GM. As any good risk assessor should, it then gives instructions to its US customers on how to minimise the identified risk:
  • Buy organic
  • Avoid foods with non-organic soy, corn and canola or cotton-seed oil
  • Look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal
  • Ask your local market for GMO-free food
  • Download the ShopNoGMO app

OUR COMMENT

You might like to pass Kaiser Permanente's instructions on to any friends or relatives you have in the US.

The instructions in Europe are simpler:
  • Eat organic
  • Read the label
  • Don't buy animal products unless the supplier can assure you they are from non-GM fed livstock (and tell the supermarkets what you're doing)
SOURCES:
  • TEPCO Admits Fukushima Should Have Been Prevented, Science in Society, Issue 56, Winter 2012
  • Kaiser Permanente avoids GMOs, Partners in Health magazine, Fall 2012, www.IslandBreath.org,

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