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Group's blast at research would harm environment

September 28, 1999

In yet another example of a lobby group's grab for a quick headline, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste has trashed the federal fruit research station in Kearneysville, W.Va. Like many of these groups, the council raises an alarm without considering the alternative to spending money in this way.

For example, if fruit production in the United States becomes unaffordable, then it follows that Americans will have to import more from countries which may or may not have the same concerns about consumers' health, or the environment in general.

The alarms raised about the use of certain insecticide and pesticide sprays in this country have prompted researchers to work on developing crops naturally resistant to bugs and diseases. Such research and development costs money, cash we doubt other countries will spend if the cheaper alternative is to kill everything with a spray gun.

The council and others like it also ignore the possibility that if fruit production becomes unaffordable, orchard lands will become housing developments, tracts of homes which need new roads, new schools and other services. The possibility that local governments might seek federal help to pay for some of those amenities does not seem to have occurred to the council's representatives.

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We have the same general gripe with those watchdog groups that come out every year with a list of the worst polluters of a region's air. They grab a headline and give the companies they name a black eye, despite the fact that these firms are in compliance with current clean-air laws. But they never say how they would improve the situation.

To them we say, as we do to all politicians who've made a career out of saying "no" to this or that: If you're going to oppose something, then you've got to be in favor of something else. If you don't want to spend on agricultural research, do you favor importing all fruit from other countries, or skipping research on low-spray fruit in favor of using older varieties that need more sprays? We await the council's reply with interest.

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