The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a virulently anti-biotechnology environmentalist group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They say their goal is to “develop and implement innovative, practical solutions to some of our planet’s most pressing problems.” Despite this noble goal, however, UCS spends most of their time opposing the very technologies that make this goal achievable.
UCS’s Evolution as a Blanket Anti-Science Group
Founded in 1969 as an anti-war organization, UCS offered staunch opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in hopes of “turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems.” Which in 1969 was about as bold as being in favor of cleaner drinking water. Still, they found some success, even though it took them until 1977 to issue a declaration opposing the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Naturally, being idealists with little sense of history, they demanded unilateral disarmament by the United States, insisting the USSR would then do the same. Then, as now, the Kremlin secretly funded that kind of work, hoping to undermine the US from the inside.
As the cold war drew to a close, UCS switched gears to focus on being against using nuclear power for electricity generation, claiming that nuclear power was too expensive and not over-regulated enough. UCS maintains a list of nuclear accidents that have occurred in the last 60 years, all seven of them. Still, they got one of their own in the White House in 1992, and in 1994 President Clinton and Senator John Kerry drew cheers from the environmental activism community when they insured nuclear energy, including research science, effectively dead in America.
The environmentalist group has been forced to admit that “nuclear accidents have been few and far between,” but nonetheless opposes use of that clean alternative energy. NASA rejected their silliness, concluding in 2013 “that nuclear energy — despite posing several challenges, as do all energy sources — needs to be retained and significantly expanded.”
UCS: Full-Fledged Junk Science Proponents
Over the decades, UCS has evolved into a full-fledged radical environmentalist group. By the early 1990s, they took extreme positions on not just nuclear power but also plant biotechnology, pesticides and numerous related scientific issues.
UCS maintains that there is no scientific consensus on GMOs, because a handful of activist researchers believe that plant biotechnology is under-regulated, false balance they scold when it comes to climate change. They further insist that GMOs have not been effective. What UCS refuses to mention in the same context, but hundreds of thousands of biologists know, is that they fight the implementation of genetically modified crops that prove the technology’s effectiveness. For instance, crops engineered to resist drought, heat and various diseases have all been heavily criticized by UCS in order to prevent any testing, as science writer Ronald Bailey has pointed out.
Every major scientific organization in the world disagrees with UCS’s science denial on GMOs and on numerous other issues. With very few actual scientists, UCS’s “research” papers and participation in environmental shouting matches instead lend weight to the anti-science movement. UCS is adored by the organic industry, which regularly relies on the environmentalist group to try and legitimize their scare campaign against American farming. The organic industry front group Just Label It, for example, used UCS’s work to allege that plant biotechnology doesn’t increase crop yields, again in opposition to the overwhelming consensus. Interestingly, Just Label It lists UCS as one of its funding partners, along with more obvious corporate interests like Whole Foods and National Co+op Grocers.
UCS Fights Corporate Corruption of Science – Unless The Corporations Fund Them
Like all anti-science groups struggling with projection, UCS complains about financial corruption in science. “By spending billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, whines UCS, “corporate interests … challenge scientific consensus, delay action on critical problems, and shape the use of science in policy making.”
Hypocritically enough, the list of corporations that have given to UCS over the years is extensive, and includes notable corporate behemoths like Bank of America, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Ben & Jerry’s, a unit of food and chemical conglomerate Unilever. According to their 2015 form 990, UCS has spent millions of dollars on government lobbying and campaigns to sway public opinion in the last six years alone. One hundred percent of that money was for Democrats and against Republicans. They were rewarded for their work. Numerous top executives at UCS got jobs in the Obama administration, even in groups like Department of Energy and EPA, despite having any qualifications.
With an annual budget of $30 million, UCS is now one of the biggest players in U.S. science denial. According to their 2016 annual report, they received over $5 million in “dark money” – corporations, institutions or foundations they refuse to disclose.