If you have read my columns about the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement or have heard me speak, then you already know that I think the corporate Neville Chamberlains who buy into this socialist claptrap should be held accountable at the next shareholders meeting and issued a one-way ticket to the unemployment office. That said, I must admit that I recently experienced an epiphany about social responsibility thanks to Spinacia oleracea—that dark green, leafy vegetable that Popeye made famous.
I was visiting my sister in Wisconsin when news broke about the deadly E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated spinach from an organic farming operation in California. It killed a woman in Wisconsin and sickened hundreds across the country. We now know that other deaths have been attributed to the infected spinach, as well.
The victims have already filed law suits against the organic farmer. They will have their day in court. But it occurred to me that the people who died and those who suffered have also been victimized by a shrewd propaganda campaign run by activist groups that oppose the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
For decades, American consumers have been bombarded with messages from activist groups claiming that organic foods are safer, healthier and better for the environment. Today, organic products command shelf space in supermarkets across the country. But the activists never mentioned that using cow manure instead of synthetic fertilizers poses risks, including E. coli contamination. They also failed to tell consumers that drinking raw dairy products and un-pasteurized juice is like playing Russian roulette with some very nasty pathogens. Now, hundreds of people are paying a steep price for being misinformed.
Ironically, many of the same chemistry-bashing activist groups involved in promoting organic agriculture were also responsible for an even more deadly propaganda barrage which succeeded in pressuring weak-kneed government officials throughout the world to impose a nearly complete ban on the pesticide DDT – the most effective mosquito killer known to man. Thanks, in part, to their handiwork, many millions of people – mostly children – have died of malaria in Africa and other mosquito-infested areas. After more than three decades of this human travesty, the World Health Organization (WHO) only recently lifted its ban on DDT.
But that is not the end of this deadly saga. Environmental activists, food purists and anti-technology Luddites have also launched a baseless, scare-them-to-death lobbying campaign aimed at crops produced through biotechnology. The results? Food crops that scientists developed to enhance nutrition and yields, and to reduce the need for pest control, have been denied to millions of people who face malnutrition and starvation as part of their daily lives.
Will Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, and the Environmental Defense Fund, to name a few, accept social responsibility for their unique brand of population control? Don’t hold your breath.
So, here is my spinach epiphany. I believe it is time to hold the activists to the same standards that they have imposed on corporations. As American taxpayers, let’s demand that in order to receive tax-exempt privileges and government grants, activist groups must annually publish social responsibility reports that focus on the true impact of the policies and practices they have successfully promoted. The reports should also contain information about the concrete steps each group has taken to actually improve the environment and enhance the quality of life for human beings. I am not talking about the number of news releases issued, or protests organized or lobbyists sent to pressure government officials. I am referring to quantifiable actions to clean up the environment and help real people. It’s time for facts, not hype.
I do not believe it is asking too much to hold activist groups socially responsible for their actions? Given their track record, more than a simple apology is long overdue.