White House Honors Scientist, Ignores His Research

Published July 1, 1999

Months after it bestowed the prestigious National Medal of Science on Dr. Bruce Ames, the Clinton administration continues to ignore his pathbreaking work on the relationship between chemicals and cancer.

“EPA continues to launch one cancer scare after another, in blissful ignorance of Dr. Ames’ demonstration that these scares are groundless,” noted Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Ames and eight others received the nation’s highest scientific honor on December 8. He is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California at Berkeley and director of its National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Center.

The Office of Legislative and Public Affairs of the National Science Foundation reported Ames was given the award because “he devised a simple, inexpensive test for environmental and natural mutagens, identified causes and effects of oxidative DNA damage, and translated these findings into intelligible public policy recommendations on diet and cancer risk for the American people.”

Ames’ research has shown that man-made pesticides pose negligible risks to human health, particularly when compared to the chemicals that plants produce naturally to ward off pests. According to Ames, lifestyle choices are a more significant contributor to cancer risk than are pesticides; Americans, he said, should be encouraged to eat a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Ames notes, “to spend $146 billion on EPA regulations, a few billion on cancer treatment research, and practically nothing to get people to eat good diets.”

The Medal of Science was established by Congress in 1959. A 12-member independent committee reviews nominations and sends its recommendations to the President for final selection. The awards were presented in January at a ceremony in Washington, DC.