Republican Policy On Public Health: Wait Til The Bodies Show Up

Posted by | June 22, 2011 12:05 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

You have to keep your eyes on amendments to spending bills in Congress.  Two weeks ago, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) attached one that would require FDA to wait for “hard science” before acting on threats from food, tobacco and medical products.  The FDA explained the problem with this seemingly innocuous language (h/t OMB Watch).

“Public health is all about prevention,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “FDA prides itself in being a science-based agency that wants to use the best available science to protect people. And legislation that would require us to wait until people are hurt in order to take action is counter, in our view, to what public health is all about.

“We deal with scientific uncertainty all the time,” Taylor said. “And I think if we waited until the last science was in, I think the public would find that unacceptable because you’d be waiting until people are hurt.”

The Bush Administration was for “sound science.” Now the House Republicans have upped the ante to “hard science.”  What this willfully ignores is that all scientific conclusions comes with uncertainty.  Saying that we have to wait until uncertainty disappears is the same as saying we should never act.  Of course, never acting is exactly what the Republicans really want.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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