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Evidence-based policy advocacy

It was President Truman who wished for a one-armed economist. One who would not qualify every statement, with “on the other hand . . . .” We have taken positions and pushed them hard. That leads to clarity of communication and effectiveness in taking research to policy. But it also creates risk. It’s quite possible that we could be wrong on occasion. Therefore, it is educative to reflect on people who have had the guts to publicly admit they were wrong in their advocacy.

Slate has a good piece that looks at two advocates of banning genetically modified (GM) food and opposing vaccinations as causing autism, who subsequently changed their minds, based on evidence:

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering—what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

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