The Washington Times  [Printer-friendly version]
April 7, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification
Church, headquartered in South Korea, owns the Washington Times, an
ultra-right wing voice inside Washington, D.C. and indeed inside the
White House. The Reverend Mr. Moon -- who in 2004 declared himself
the reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- has decided that the
precautionary principle is evil, and he has recruited a team of
writers who attack precaution relentlessly. Stanford University's
professor Henry Miller seems to be a pawn in the Reverend Mr. Moon's

By Henry I. Miller

As self-appointed regulator-wannabe of much of what goes on in the
world, the United Nations has become a profoundly negative influence.
While its best known interventions -- attempts to attain and maintain
international peace and comity -- too often are exercises in lowest-
common-denominator diplomacy that progresses at a glacial pace, the
U.N.'s essays into public health and environmental protection
frequently are wrong-headed, self-serving and disastrous.

Underlying the U.N.'s deficiencies is the inability of its leaders to
apprehend the relationship between wealth creation and public and
environmental health -- and between their own flawed policies and the
inevitable failure of their ambitious Millennium Development Goals.
The U.N. agencies' trumpeting supposed successes and promulgating
lofty goals on World Health Day today serve only as a reminder of the
organization's abject failures.

The complicity of many U.N. agencies in the unscientific, ideological
and excessive regulation of biotechnology -- also known as gene-
splicing, or genetic modification (GM) -- has prevented critical
advances in agricultural and pharmaceutical research and development.
Gene-spliced products could alleviate famine and water shortages for
millions, and even lead to the development of vaccines incorporated
into edible fruits and vegetables. But during the past decade,
delegates to the U.N.-based Convention on Biological Diversity have
negotiated and implemented a regressive "biosafety protocol" to
regulate the international movement of gene-spliced organisms. A
travesty that flies in the face of sound science, this regulatory
scheme is based on the bogus "precautionary principle," which dictates
that every new product or technology must be proven completely safe
before it can be used.

Many other U.N. agencies have gotten into the anti-biotech act. A task
force of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the joint food standards
program of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture
Organization, has singled out only food products made with gene-
splicing techniques for draconian and unscientific restrictions that
conflict with the worldwide scientific consensus that gene-splicing is
merely a refinement, or improvement, over less precise and predictable
genetic manipulation techniques that have been used for centuries.
Thousands of greenhouse and field studies, as well as widespread
commercialization in almost a dozen advanced countries, have shown
that the risks of gene-spliced plants and foods are minimal; their
benefits proven; and their future potential, extraordinary. Globally,
the adoption of gene-spliced crops reduces pesticide use by scores of
millions of pounds annually (as well as the frequency of pesticide
poisonings), and saves millions of tons of topsoil from erosion.

The 2001 U.N. Environment Program's Persistent Organic Pollutants
Convention, which stigmatizes the insecticide DDT as one of the
world's worst pollutants, is a regulatory atrocity. It places
virtually insuperable obstacles in the way of the use of the chemical
by developing countries, many of which are plagued by malaria, West
Nile virus and other insect-borne diseases.

Not only do U.N. officials dismiss scientific evidence that
demonstrates the effectiveness and relative safety of DDT, they also
fail to take into consideration the inadequacy of alternatives or to
appreciate the distinction between its large-scale use in agriculture
(which has been discontinued) and more limited application for
controlling carriers of human disease.

A complete prohibition on DDT usage is tantamount to withholding
antibiotics from patients with infections; it is mass murder, and the
U.N. is a co-conspirator in the deadly campaign against the chemical's

Another example of the U.N.'s willingness to adopt extreme positions
occurred at last year's annual World Health Assembly, the policy-
making body of the World Health Organization, at which the delegates
adopted a resolution that supposedly reflects concern about potential
bacterial contamination of powdered infant formula. According to the
WHO, two low-weight babies died in 2004 in hospitals in France, and
one in New Zealand, supposedly from formula contaminated by bacteria.
The stories are tragic, but even if true, hardly constitute an

The resolution proclaims that infant formula is not sterile and "may
contain pathogenic microorganisms" that allegedly have been a cause of
infection and illness in pre-term and low birth-weight infants, and
"could lead to serious developmental [damage] and death." It calls for
a warning label and for health-care workers and parents, particularly
those caring for infants at high risk, to be informed about the
"potential for introduced contamination" and the need for safe
preparation, handling and storage of infant formula. Finally, it
concludes that babies should be breast-fed exclusively for six months
and calls for precautions in preparing formula for those at high-risk,
such as pre-term, low birth-weight or immune-deficient infants. But
infant formula already had carried explicit information about storage,
preparation and handling. The resolution appears not to have been
motivated by legitimate concerns about the product in question, but
rather by the anti-corporate bias that pervades the U.N. and its
supporters. The label's misleading warning about dangerous pathogens
discourages the use of formula in situations where it is needed. How
ironic that the slogan for this year's World Health Day is, "Working
together for health," because the U.N.'s actions are rife with
contradictions and conflicts that not only are harmful to health, but
also make a mockery of the organization's own overblown Millennium
Development Goals. One goal, for example, aims to reverse the spread
of malaria and several other infectious diseases by 2015, while the
U.N. Environment Program bans DDT, an effective and inexpensive
intervention against malaria.

The most ambitious objective, "to eradicate extreme poverty and
hunger" by 2015, certainly cannot be accomplished without innovative
technology -- which, in turn, cannot be developed in the face of
excessive regulatory barriers and bureaucracies. The Food and
Agriculture Organization calls on one hand for greater allocation of
resources to agriculture, and then makes those resources less cost-
effective by gratuitous, unscientific over-regulation of the new

An important way to "reduce child mortality," another goal, would be
to produce pediatric vaccines cheaply in gene-spliced edible fruits
and vegetables, but there is near-hysteria at Codex, the U.N.'s food
standards agency, over conjectural food-safety problems with this

The secretary-general of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization
announces that "integrated water-resources management is the key to
achieving the Millennium Development Goals of securing access to safe
water, sanitation and environmental protection," while other U.N.
agencies are making virtually impossible the development of gene-
spliced plants that can grow with low-quality water or under drought

T.S. Eliot could have had the U.N. in mind with his observation, "Hell
is the place where nothing connects."

Regulation is a growth industry at the U.N., but the approach taken
regularly defies scientific consensus and common sense. The result is
vastly inflated R&D costs, less innovation, and diminished
exploitation of superior techniques and products -- especially in
poorer countries, which need them desperately.

I think we need yet another Millennium Development Goal: Stop
genocide-by-regulation at the U.N.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution,
headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.

Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc.