Magazine article USA TODAY

Soviet Mindset Infects U.S. Government Agencies: Feds All to Lysenkoism

Magazine article USA TODAY

Soviet Mindset Infects U.S. Government Agencies: Feds All to Lysenkoism

Article excerpt

Every day inside the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and Department of Health and Human Services, career scientists labor under political managers who frequently edit, alter, and amend their findings to support politically desired outcomes. This process is known as Lysenkoism. It corrupts and distorts the marketplace of ideas and information to serve the political ends of those in power. Politically favored orthodoxies win out over the pursuit of truth in science--to our detriment.

Trofim Lysenko served as Director of the Institute of Genetics of the USSR's Academy of Sciences from 1940-65. As a young botanist and agronomist of peasant origin, he gained the attention of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin when he addressed a major famine issue. Severe winters in the CCCP destroyed early winter wheat seedlings. Lysenko established that hydrating and chilling the seedlings could preserve them to yield spring harvests. With the political stature achieved due to his popularity with Stalin, Lysenko went on to rule over the Soviet Union's biological and agricultural science, demanding rigid adherence to his pseudoscientific theories, which gained political protection from the government. Scientists who dissented from Lysenko's edicts sometimes were executed. The term Lysenkoism refers to the manipulation of science to support politically desired ends.

As our own Federal government increasingly has interjected itself into private decisions related to science --such as fracking for shale gas extraction; defining what species are endangered and what constitutes wetlands and wilderness; the development of new drugs; the role of certain nutrients in reducing the risk of disease; the types of surfaces and equipment that are least likely to harbor pathogens in food processing; among many others--it has established political orthodoxies which usually are distortions that selectively cull from scientific evidence that which may be argued to be supportive of a desired political outcome.

The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, may deem that fracking imposes unacceptable environmental risks when, in fact, risks to the environment likely are minimal, depending on the techniques employed. …

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