We’ve told you before how the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth seek to employ the “Precautionary Principle” as a way to smother scientific progress. In Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper yesterday, Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET) president and neo-Luddite granddaddy Jeremy Rifkin sounds the battle cry for more precautionary nonsense, declaring: “The precautionary principle is deeply at odds with the traditional Enlightenment idea about science.” We couldn’t agree more. Rifkin and his fellow technophobes see the Precautionary Principle as a way to suffocate advances in biotechnology, stifle modern farming, and basically thwart science.
While most people think about food in terms of nutrition and taste, Rifkin proclaims that “eating is the ultimate political act” — and aims to impose his wild-eyed politics on the dinner plate. In his book Beyond Beef, Rifkin wrote that giving up steaks and burgers is “a revolutionary act” heralding “a new chapter in the unfolding of human consciousness.” Rifkin now calls the Precautionary Principle “the most radical idea for rethinking humanity’s relationship to the natural world since the 18th-century European Enlightenment.”
Unfortunately, these aren’t just the ravings of a solitary butter churner. Rifkin’s FOET has served as a training ground for other food scaremongers and anti-biotech radicals, including Ronnie Cummins, John Stauber, and Howard Lyman. National Journal called Rifkin one of the 150 Americans with the greatest influence over federal government policy, noting that he has time and again “skillfully manipulated legal and bureaucratic procedures to slow the pace of biotechnology.”
Had Rifkin’s warped ideology always ruled the day, we wouldn’t have advanced scientifically since the 18th century. Royal Society of Edinburgh professor Tony Trewavas paints a grim picture of Rifkin’s world: “The precautionary principle, which says do nothing until you know everything about anything, is in fact a recipe for total stagnation. We would never have developed electricity, gas or aeroplanes or trains or anything if we had ever taken that principal to heart in life.”
Cass R. Sunstein, author and Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago, dubs Rifkin’s driving philosophy a “paralyzing principle” that “forbids every imaginable step, including no step at all.” In an article for Regulation magazine, Sunstein writes:
[S]elf-interested political actors invoke the principle strategically. For example, European farmers invoke the idea of precaution to stifle American competitors who are far more likely to rely on genetically modified crops … [The Precautionary Principle] threatens to injure future generations and harm rather than help those who are most disadvantaged.