Many Obama appointees who will be in a position to influence science- and technology-related issues are ideological, radical, and poorly qualified to offer sound, unbiased advice on policy. They constitute a Who’s Who of hostility to modern technology and the industries that use it: Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary of agriculture; Joshua Sharfstein, deputy FDA commissioner; Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator; and Carol Browner, coordinator of environmental policy throughout the executive branch.
None of them has shown any understanding of or appreciation of science. Browner was responsible for gratuitous EPA regulations that have slowed the application of biotechnology to agriculture and environmental problems and Jackson worked in the EPA’s notorious Superfund program for many years. Merrigan relentlessly promoted the organic food industry, in spite of the fact that organic foods’ high costs make them unaffordable for many Americans, thereby discouraging the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables; and because of their low yields, are wasteful of farmland and water. While a staffer for the Senate Agriculture Committee, Merrigan was completely uneducable about the importance of genetically improved plant varieties to advances in agriculture.
Where are the advocates for science and technology? The president’s nominee for science adviser, John Holdren, is a longtime advocate of policies to slow population growth and limit energy use. During the 1980s, Holdren calculated that famines due to climate change could leave a billion people dead by 2020. He now concedes that is “unlikely.” Although Holdren will head the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, he has no history of advocacy for technology.
Mr. Obama’s cheerleading cannot alter the fact that economic recovery will be delayed and attenuated if America’s science and technology are neglected on one hand and hamstrung by overzealous, doctrinaire regulators on the other.