Christopher Stopes, who was a member of the ACP (appointed as an expert in organic farming) at the time the Committee issued its original statement on the pesticides literature review published by the Ontario College of Family Physicians, has indicated that he wishes to dissent from that statement, and has expressed the following minority view.
There may be valid criticisms to be made of the pesticides literature review of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. Some relevant points are outlined in the response from the ACP. However, in my view, these are not sufficient to significantly diminish the relevance or importance of the Report, as implied by the ACP statement; indeed I believe there is much to commend in the Report.
There is a range of views on the conclusions of the Report, and I do not agree with the statement issued by the ACP. Alternative views are relevant and in my view have not yet been given adequate consideration. They may be very important in formulating appropriate risk management strategies to protect human health.
I concur with the conclusions of the response from the Ontario College of Family Physicians to the ACP statement: "Overall we were saddened by the overwhelming negative tone of your criticisms. We can always demand better reviews and better evidence, but we should ask ourselves whether this is the best way to move policy and practice towards more sustainable approaches to human activity in the long-term."
Comment from Chairman
In situations like this in which the members of an advisory committee disagree on their interpretation of scientific evidence, it is important to establish exactly where the disagreement lies. I have spoken with Mr Stopes, and there are three specific aspects of the ACP statement from which he dissents.
- He believes that the statement gives too much weight to concerns about bias in the selection of results for inclusion in the Ontario review.
- Contrary to what is said in the statement, he believes that exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of individual studies within the Ontario review was adequate to support its conclusions.
- He believes that the review raises new concerns that were not already being addressed, and warrants regulatory action to reduce pesticide use.
All of these differences of opinion relate to technical aspects of epidemiology and the interpretation of epidemiological data. It is important to note, therefore, that the original ACP statement was agreed by all of the members appointed to the Committee for their expertise in epidemiology, medicine and toxicology. Furthermore, it was only agreed after independent advice had been obtained from five other epidemiologists.