* Program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists
Margaret Mellon is the Food and Environment Program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an ostensibly independent, nonprofit environmental and national security advocacy organization comprised of more than 100,000 members whose stated purpose is to build a “cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world.” The UCS takes public stands, purportedly buttressed by scientific research, regarding a variety of political and health-related issues. For example, it opposes genetically engineered foods, condemns SUV vehicles, and proposes measures aimed at combating what it deems the imminent dangers of global warming. It also opposes the vast majority of American foreign policy decisions, calls for a unilateral reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles, and derides American efforts to develop a National Missile Defense (NMD) system. The UCS disseminates to lawmakers and news outlets its opinions about each of these matters, with the intent of ultimately influencing public policy.
As head of the Food and Environment Department at UCS, Mellon has been a vocal critic of genetically engineered foods and the use of antibiotics in livestock. “It’s time to stop looking at agricultural biotechnology through rose-colored glasses,” says Mellon. “This is a novel technology that poses serious risks to the environment.” As one UCS document adds, “The overuse of drugs on factory farms creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult to treat. These bacteria can make food-poisoning episodes last longer, or recovery from surgery less certain. As bacteria become more resistant, people can no longer be sure that prescribed drugs will actually work.”
In 2003, bills aimed at prohibiting the use of eight classes of antibiotics in livestock used by fast-food producers were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate; the bills were founded on research compiled by the UCS. After these bills were introduced, however, the UCS admitted that its claims on these matters were largely speculative. While the UCS has tried to frighten consumers about the alleged dangers of genetically modified food, both the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency have affirmed that such food is completely safe for consumption.
Margaret Mellon has appeared frequently in the media to spread her message about the foregoing issues. She has been a guest on such varied and high-profile forums as ABC World News Tonight, CNN, and National Public Radio. Her writings have also been published in The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Prior to her work for the UCS, Mellon was an advisory board member at the Center for Food Safety, which, like the UCS, opposes genetically engineered foods, food irradiation, and the presence of antibiotics in food. The Center operates as a clandestine sponsor of natural and organic food companies that benefit from negative press directed at modern food technologies. Mellon was also the program director for the Environmental Law Institute, which has published what it calls “policy prescriptions” intended to instruct U.S. military leaders on the environmental consequences of war.