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Governance And Germ Guardians

(Excerpt from Rowledge, Darrel – No Accident, Public Policy and Chronic Wasting Disease in Canada) “Better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than have an ambulance at the bottom.” (Origin uncertain, Malins 1895) In all of recorded history, few factors rival the influence of infectious diseases. Massive epidemics have so ruthlessly, so indiscriminately, and so dramatically laid waste entire populations that questions about their nature, causes, spread, and, especially, questions of appropriate response, have beguiled leaders for millennia. 10, 11, 12 Such was the irony of an invisible force of unfathomable power! Utterly incomprehensible for all but the last blink of history, diseases seemed to comport as well to superstition or faith as to reason: Unseeable microscopic pathogens…? Acts or anger of the gods…? One was surely as fantastic as the other. Today, in our increasingly globalized community — with now more than a century of proof of “germ theory,” and countless hard-learned lessons about invasive organisms — there is no more important responsibility in all of government than that of defining responsible public policy to deal with infectious diseases, parasites, pests, or contaminants. A single unintended instance can cause massive, irreversible harm… killing thousands or even millions of people or other animals, and inflicting enormous costs—on people, communities, economies, and ecosystems. Even relatively tiny instances such as the recent SARS epidemic, which sprang from Asian game farms to kill 800 people in 2002—2003, cost $136 billion.13 Of the 432 cases in Canada, 44 people died.14 Given that stark reality, the wisdom of the “precautionary principle” is irrefutable. Such “look before you leap,” “better safe...