When protestors descend on our nation’s capital to carp about their cause du jour, it’s little surprise that food-scare activists follow close behind. Ralph Nader’s anti-business Public Citizen used last week’s protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as a “launching pad” to attack shrimp aquaculture. Public Citizen notes that — horror of horrors — the new global economy has “made shrimp affordable to hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide.” Public Citizen’s anti-shrimp smear is similar to other activist campaigns that seek a special eco-tax on shrimp. To reverse this plague of inexpensive seafood, Nader’s legion of professional scaremongers aims to frighten the public away from delectable prawns.
Of what should we be afraid? Not much, according to Andrianna Natsoulas, head of Public Citizen’s anti-shrimp campaign and former Greenpeace employee. She admits in today’s Mobile Register that there is no evidence “that people have developed any problems” from eating farm-raised shrimp. Yet Public Citizen continues to claim grave concern for “consumers’ health.” No matter: the track records of the group’s leaders indicate that keeping people out of harm’s way is the last thing on their minds.
In 2001 Public Citizen launched a decidedly unhealthy campaign to stop companies from using irradiation to eliminate harmful bacteria in meat and other foods. According to Public Citizen’s Mark Worth, dying prematurely from preventable diseases is something we simply need to tolerate: “As human beings, we have to accept the hazards of life, and E. coli and salmonella are part of life. The expectations of preserving life in this country are insanely high.” This despite the unequivocal endorsement of irradiation technology from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
When downplaying the perils of food-borne illnesses doesn’t advance its anti-business agenda, Public Citizen conveniently shifts gears. The group is among the chief players in the mad cow scare game, constantly looking to drum-up fears about conventionally-raised beef. Of course, a recent Harvard assessment that Americans’ risk from mad cow disease is “as close to zero as you can get” never makes it into Public Citizen’s campaign materials.
Given its anti-technology bias, it’s little surprise that Public Citizen is also vehemently opposed to genetically enhanced foods and supports a moratorium on biotechnology in Europe. This despite the European Union’s assessment that biotech products are “even safer than conventional plants and foods.” Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug has warned about the danger of anti-biotech groups like Public Citizen: “Extremists in the environmental movement from the rich nations seem to be doing everything they can to stop scientific progress in its tracks.”