The Tale of J.R. Simplot's Two-Headed Trout

The corporate propensity for rationalizing the irrational in the pursuit of profit appears to be boundless.

Consider J.R. Simplot, a giant conglomerate whose mining operations in Idaho have grossly polluted creeks with selenium, a highly toxic metal. But Simplot's scientists rationalized the corporation's dirty deed with a 1,000-page study asserting that even though the selenium contamination of creeks was well above levels allowed by environmental law, the water remained "safe" for fish.

Tucked back in the appendix of Simplot's "study," however, were a few photographs that vividly depicted the screaming irrationality of the corporation's safety claims. The most stunning photo was of a two-headed baby trout produced by Simplot's pollution of area creeks. It was not the only sickening deformity caused by the selenium - other trout had facial, fin, and egg disfigurements.

These grotesque mutations led to calls for an independent agency to conduct a full scientific review of Simplot's 1,000-page study. At Sen. Barbara Boxer's request, this was done by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which issued a scathing report in January that bluntly branded the corporate study "biased." For example, Simplot systemically understated the deformity rate of baby fish in the creeks - it's not 20 percent that are deformed, but 70 percent.

Asked about this rather broad discrepancy, a Simplot vice-president could only grump that the Fish and Wildlife review was "totally outside the regulatory process." Well thank goodness for that! As another independent toxicology expert says, "I have seen lots of malformed baby fish, but never one with two heads. We need to be careful here."

Yes, let's. In fact, let's stop swallowing any irrational rationalizations by corporations that pollute for profit.

© 2023 Jim Hightower