Multiple factors determining policy decisions on science


THIS is what I always tell my students: “Decisions on science are not solely made based on scientific facts but politics, emotions, ethics, religious norms and trade issues.”

To understand this better, read the article on how nuclear energy reduces the CO2 footprint which we publish on page 3 of this issue.

France reduced its CO2 emission from 500 grams per kWh to 70 grams after going nuclear in 1973. But this has not convinced many other countries to follow suit including Malaysia.

Other sectors in science, such as genetically modified foods (GM) and new breeding technologies suffer the same fate. While France made science-based decision on power generation, the country banned GM crops. And here is one reason among the many.

The green activists made a deal with President Nicolas Sakorzy to trade off GM technology for nuclear energy. The deal was either nuclear energy or GM crops. It was a blackmail tactic of the greenies and the French government bowed to the pressure.

I do hope in science, sound decisions will prevail over ideology, emotions and bad press. In Malaysia, we have policies that are not possible to implement like the Amended Food Safety Act that calls for labelling of GM foods. It has been on hold since 2010 because it is almost impossible to enforce it. I remember when I was involved in the consultation process on labelling of GM foods – the proposal from Ministry of Health was – zero threshold. However, I countered that it will not be possible to implement and enforce. I presented a paper on this. Today, even with three per cent threshold, we are not labelling GM foods yet.