[A version of this article appeared on July 27 at The Friendly Atheist.]
By Bo Gardiner
In a 2013 speech, Jill Stein calls for the imprisonment of GMO producers based on discredited claims, ignores the environmental damage that would produce, and says the difference between the major parties is mere “window dressing” [Source: YouTube].
I’m a strong progressive with socialist leanings, but more than anything else, I’m an environmentalist working for biodiversity – it’s my life’s passion. I campaign hard for Greens running in local elections. While a government environmental scientist, I successfully blew the whistle more than once on politicized agencies’ illegal actions to permit corporate pollution. I pushed my agencies hard to put science over politics and stop dragging their feet on climate change. While working for a nonprofit conservation group, I managed successful statewide biodiversity campaigns, criticizing politicians and government agencies who were obstacles. In my personal life, I’m a naturalist and organic gardener, who lectures about gardening for wildlife.
For these reasons, I would not dream of voting for Jill Stein, and will be voting for Hillary Clinton for President. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t if you’re looking deep enough.
For weeks I’ve been following the debate as to whether she’s a pseudoscience proponent, thinking there was truth to those saying she’s being unfairly characterized as anti-vax and anti-science. No more. In a new and extremely disappointing statement last week, Stein responded to the concerns she’s anti-science when asked about claims she’s an anti-vaxxer:
What I say to those people is that we need regulatory agencies we can trust. I’m definitely not anti-vax; what I have raised is the issue that we need an FDA that’s working for us, that’s not working for the pharmaceutical industry. I think that makes some people uncomfortable, so they’re trying to smear me as being anti-vaxxer. I’m not anti-vax; I’m just saying we need good, reliable data so that the American people know what we’re doing. I mean, it’s like saying the FDA, who has leadership from Monsanto, should tell us what kind of food is safe? No, you get Monsanto out of there, you get the pharmaceutical companies out of there, and then we can trust.
Stein insults progressives like me by claiming the real reason we’re concerned that she’s promoting vaccine distrust is that we’re part of a conspiracy to smear her. Is she being honest in not understanding our sincere concerns over her accusations that the U.S. vaccination program is untrustworthy and corrupt, such that doctors who vaccinate do so without good data and don’t know what they’re doing?
Or why we’d be concerned that her accusations rest not on evidence, but known untrue myths and vague unspecified claims of conspiracies that need only irrelevantly reference Monsanto, who has nothing to do with vaccines? When you stitch together all her vax statements, Stein’s message is clear: vaccinations are “generally” a good thing, at least elsewhere like Canada, but in the U.S. cannot be trusted. Stein is actively discouraging Americans from vaccinating their families.
There is only one word for this message, and it’s not pro-vax. It’s anti-vax.
It is true that the American Green Party plans to remove these italicized details from its platform which calls for:
the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and, as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.
But this doesn’t actually change the platform one bit, it merely obscures the details of what it promotes. If you have to remove the explanation of a plank to make it palatable to progressives, perhaps wordsmithing isn’t what it needed.
Much as I share the other ideals Stein and the Greens espouse, the organization seems rooted in the past, unable to recognize that encouraging science awareness, not paranoia, is crucial to solving climate, health, food and other modern crises. Equally troublesome is their continued reliance on the fallacy that there’s little difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Case in point, this little-noticed 2013 speech by Stein in which she describes the difference between the major parties as “window dressing.” Both sides, she claims ludicrously, “absolutely agree on the devastation being heaped” on climate, food, jobs, education and housing. In it she calls for the imprisonment of GMO producers using debunked claims about environmental and health effects, and the supposed suicides of hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers.
At a 5/25/2013 Green Party event at the St. Petersburg (Florida) Museum of History, Stein said:
The price of seeds has tripled in the hands of Monsanto… tripled! And the requirement for pesticides goes up. This is extremely expensive. Why does it go up? Because they create pesticide-resistant weeds. This is just a self-perpetuating cycle for pesticides. GMOs are pesticide-tolerant and their selling point is: “Oh, we can just throw on pesticides now to get rid of the weeds, piece of cake, makes it really easy,” but it doesn’t work that way. It’s actually creating pesticide-resistant weeds, which then require more pesticides, which create more resistant weeds, so it’s a neverending cycle, which is great if you’re a supplier of pesticide, which – guess what — Monsanto is. This is all a marketing scheme for Roundup. [Applause]
So we need to disrupt that marketing scheme. It puts farmers out of business. It has caused over two hundred thousand farmers in India to commit suicide. They go into debt and they have no way to out of it. So these guys are corporate criminals, they’re climate criminals, and they are food criminals, and they ought to be in jail, not [applause, unintelligible].
If we can hold tobacco companies accountable and fine them millions and millions of dollars for the health damage they have done, we could certainly hold GMO companies accountable for the pesticide, environmental, food security and health damage they are producing.
And then finally, it corrupts our democracy. These guys have spent a quarter billion dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying in the last decade. A quarter billion dollars in order to buy the policies that permit them to make a killing. And literally, they are making a killing. They spent another quarter million dollars in the last two years alone on advertising to convince people that GMOs are harmless. But you know what, it hasn’t worked, because 91% of people want to put a label on all GMO foods so we can stop eating them [applause, unintelligible].
Her well-fed white audience can afford to hyperventilate over such exaggerations, but I’m sure you know by now that most of the world and the planet cannot. Perhaps the most obvious point anti-GMO activists leave out is that banning GMOs would mean the conversion of thousands more square miles of land to agriculture, creating more pesticides, more waterway-killing fertilizers, more carbon emissions. And of course the myth of the mass farmer suicides in India due to GMOs has been debunked. In other words, Stein is willing to sacrifice biodiversity on the altar of bourgeois, pseudoscientific food purity.
Then of course there’s hers and the Greens’ inflexible stand opposing nuclear power, which almost certainly will have to be part of the solution to accelerate weaning off fossil fuels before we do further irreparable planet-wide damage. The climate and oceans can’t afford to wait till better solutions are widely available.
Moments after this fearmongering, Stein apparently sees no irony in accusing fellow progressives of fearmongering for worrying that Greens will yet again deliver us a Republican president:
So don’t let them them intimidate you with that fearmongering. That’s what it is, it is a fear campaign that’s been engineered to keep you from standing up and using your power. We do have the the power, but you know what? We’ve gotta be able to stand up for it and not back down when they say “Oh, but you’re going to make terrible things happen.” The reality is, the politics of fear has made all those terrible things happen…
We’ve gotta be able to stand up and use [our power]and not blink. When we’re on the firing line, we’ve gotta stand up and say that’s why we’re here, and recognize that the difference between the lesser and greater evil is really window dressing. It’s window dressing. There may be some differences – this isn’t to say there are none – but those differences are not big enough to save your life, to save your job, to save the climate, to save our food system, to save our colleges and our local schools and our housing. They absolutely agree on the devastation that’s being heaped on all those areas.
I think this is what’s worst of all, dismissing the vast difference between the positions of the two major parties on science issues of critical global importance, like climate change, ocean protection, national environmental regulation. Telling Americans this difference is “window dressing” signals a highly disturbing disregard for both science and the environment.
These are right-wing and libertarian talking points. I cannot and will not accept a Green Party urging common cause with these groups.
Perhaps if Greens directed more energy toward mastering issues well enough to be more successful at the local level, instead of trying to skip straight to the top every four years with insufficient knowledge and experience, they could start doing more good than harm to America.