Montague was savage to us on the subject of Roe and EDF's position on risk assessment: "Roe does an end run on questions of ethics, harm, profit, and democracy, and leaves these decisions in the hands of a half-dozen data dweebs who will manipulate their numerical assumptions to reach any political conclusion they want." Montague ridicules Roe's claim, made in Kolata's article, that relief from regulatory requirements will create an incentive for corporations to make available proprietary information necessary to assess risk. As Montague points out, once corporations are allowed to follow voluntary guidelines, they are under no legal constraint to provide truthful data. Monsanto, for example, has a sordid history of fabricating scientific research on dioxin (which the company produced), enabling it to duck thousands of lawsuits from Vietnam vets poisoned by Agent Orange. To trust a corporate scientist to provide truthful information is a foolish exercise.

           Another spirited critic of the panel missing from Kolata's Rolodex is Michael Colby of Food & Water, a Vermont-based group. "Risk assessment," Colby says, "is the best club industry has to beat its way through the throng of victims awaiting redress."

           The panel called for health hazards to be considered in a "broad context." That context is not hard to discern: the climax of a 25-year corporate campaign, a U.S. president, and a high-profile environmental group in the pocket of the corporations, and a clamor for an end to "costly and frivolous litigation," meaning the use of the courts by citizens to obtain redress for grievous wrongs.

           The next move will be the gradual implementation of the panel's program, mostly through administrative changes, undiscussed in Congress and unreported in the press. The world is changing and they don't want you to know.

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