Over at the NY Times, Mark Bittman has an interesting column about some research that demonstrates that conventional agriculture could massively reduce the use of pesticides and actually as profitable. What I found interesting was this bit (boldface mine):
No one expects Iowacorn and soybean farmers to turn this thing around tomorrow, but one might at least hope that the U.S.D.A.would trumpet the outcome. The agency declined to comment when I asked about it. One can guess that perhaps no one at the higher levels even knows about it, or that they’re afraid to tell Monsantoabout agency-supported research that demonstrates a decreased need for chemicals. (A conspiracy theorist might note that the journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences both turned down the study. It was finally published in PLOS One; I first read about it on the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site.)
Don’t know about you, but I’m really curious as to why Science and PNAS rejected the paper. There certainly could be technical issues that either were resolved in subsequent submissions or missed by the PLoS reviewers–although Science reviewers miss some pretty obvious stuff too. While I firmly believe selected reviewers should be anonymous due to power imbalances in science, reviews should be made public. As science increasingly becomes a political football (though it has always been that to a considerable extent), as Bittman’s comment illustrates, making the critiques publicly available becomes all the more important.