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Clarifying the Complex World of Nutrition Science

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Lies and Deception: How the FDA Does Not Protect Your Best Interests.

Did you know that many retired FDA officials go to work as special advisors to the pharmaceutical and food industries?

It's true. Federal agencies like the FDA—which were created to protect consumers—often behave like branch offices of companies like Monsanto, which they are supposed to regulate. And when the names and dossiers of the individuals who work with allies in Congress and the White House to oppose food safety measures are revealed, the picture becomes even more sinister.

The fact is, it has been widely reported that FDA (Federal Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) officials are frequently rewarded with lucrative jobs at the companies they were regulating.

Conflict of interest

This insidious conflict of interest exhibited by the U.S. food and pharmaceutical industries has been going on for almost half a century. Mark Gold, founder of the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center in Concord, New Hampshire (mgold@holisticmed.com) provides an overview of the situation in his "Analysis of the influence of the Aspartame Industry on the Scientific Committee on Food." 1 

"In the United States, corruption of governmental and scientific committees by the food industry was disclosed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In an article in the journal Science (1972), it was revealed that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Food Protection Committee was being funded by the food, chemical and packaging industries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was relying on the NAS Committee for 'independent' information. The Chairman of the NAS Subcommittee investigating monosodium glutamate (MSG) had recently taken part in research partially funded by the MSG manufacturer. Another member of the Subcommittee became a spokesperson for the MSG industry. (Science 1972) Other members of the Subcommittee had ties to the MSG industry.

Since that time numerous governmental committees have been corrupted by the placement of food industry-funded consultants on these committees." 23

The revolving door

A recent report by the Edmonds Institute lists names of the possible hundreds of men and women who move in and out of "revolving doors" as Federal regulators and directors, commissioners and scientists at the companies they are supposed to regulate.4 

Close relationships between regulators and those they regulate are always a cause of concern because the conflict of interest inevitably results in the quality of regulation and oversight of a technology being compromised … which inevitably results in the promotion of foods and drugs that are frequently unsafe.

The Edmonds Institute has been researching these relationships for some time. Here are some examples:

Margaret Miller … former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, … now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).56 

Michael Taylor, former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA,…still later a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company, … still later Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration, … and later with the law firm of King & Spaulding … now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.56 

Margaret Miller, Michael Taylor, and Suzanne Sechen (an FDA "primary reviewer for all rbST and other dairy drug production applications") were the subjects of a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation in 1994 for their role in the FDA's approval of Posilac, Monsanto Corporation's formulation of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbST or rBGH). The GAO Office found "no conflicting financial interests with respect to the drug's approval" and only "one minor deviation from now superseded FDA regulations". (Quotations are from the 1994 GAO report).

The FDA and Monsanto: Strange bedfellows

Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on rBGH to the FDA so the agency could determine the growth hormone's safety. Margaret Miller put the report together, and in 1989 shortly before she submitted the report, Miller left Monsanto to work for the FDA. Guess what her first job was? Strangely enough, to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto! The bottom line is that Monsanto approved its own report. Miller was assisted by another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen.

But in an article titled "Not Milk: The USDA, Monsanto, and the U.S. Dairy Industry" Ché Green, founder and director of The ARMEDIA Institute, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focusing on farm animal issues in the United States, writes that, "The results of the study, in fact, were not made available to the public until 1998, when a group of Canadian scientists obtained the full documentation and completed an independent analysis of the results. Among other instances of neglect, the documents showed that the FDA had never even reviewed Monsanto's original studies (on which the approval for Posilac {rBGH} had been based), so in the end the point was moot whether or not the report had contained all of the original data." 7 

And as though the FDA didn't already exhibit enough audacity it handed Michael Taylor the responsibility to make the decision as to whether or not rBGH-derived milk should be labeled. (At the time, Michael Taylor, who had previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto, was executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA.)

In 1994, Taylor ended up writing the rBGH labeling guidelines that prohibit the dairy industry from stating that their products either contain or are free from rBGH. Even worse, to keep rBGH-milk from being "stigmatized" in the marketplace, the FDA ruled that the labels of non-rBGH products must state that there is no difference between rBGH and the natural hormone.8 

According to journalist Jennifer Ferraro, "while working for Monsanto,Taylor had prepared a memo for the company as to whether or not it would be constitutional for states to erect labeling laws concerning rBGH dairy products. In other words, Taylor helped Monsanto figure out whether or not the corporation could sue states or companies that wanted to tell the public that their products were free of Monsanto's drug." 9

The current situation

Monsanto is suing Maine-based Oakhurst Dairy for labeling their milk "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones." According to Monsanto, Oakhurst Dairy does not have the right to let its customers know whether its milk contains genetically engineered hormones. What hogwash! Oakhurst says they've been labeling their products like this for four years, in response to consumer demand.

Although rBGH has been banned in every industrialized nation in the world except for the United States, Monsanto continues to claim that rBGH-derived milk is no different from the natural stuff, despite documentation that rBGH milk contains substantially higher levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1.

This poses a serious risk to the entire U.S. population, which is now exposed to high levels of IGF-1 in dairy products, since elevated blood levels of IGF-1 are among the leading known risk factors for breast cancer, and are also associated with other major cancers, particularly colon and prostate.10 

In 1994, Monsanto sued two dairies and threatened several thousand retailers for labeling or advertising milk and dairy products as "rBGH-free." Despite Monsanto's intimidation tactics, more than 10% of U.S. milk is currently labeled as "rBGH-free," while sales of organic milk and dairy products (which prohibit rBGH) are booming.

And just to add insult to injury, in recent months a Monsanto-funded front group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, has launched a smear campaign against organic dairies, including Organic Valley, claiming they are defrauding consumers. 11

How Monsanto's policies have become U.S. policy

Prior to being the Supreme Court Judge who put G.W. in office, Clarence Thomas was Monsanto's lawyer. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (Anne Veneman) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Calgene Corporation. The Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto's Searle pharmaceuticals. The U.S. Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, received $50,000 in donations from Monsanto during his winning campaign for Wisconsin's governor. The two congressmen receiving the most donations from Monsanto during the last election were Larry Combest (Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee) and Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Source: Dairy Education Board)

What can you do?

  1. Contact your state representatives and let them know your views.
  2. Educate yourself about what is really in our food.

Three recommended books:

Eric Schlosser, "Fast Food Nation" New York: Harper Collins, 2002.

Marion Nestle, Food Politics: "How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health." University of California Press, March 2002.

Marion Nestle, "Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism." University of California Press, March 2003.

  1. Eat only organically grown and produced food. Sadly and unfortunately, we cannot trust the FDA or USDA to ensure the safety of our food.

Related Articles

How Sweet It Isn't: The political battle over sugar

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References

  1. Gold, Mark. Independent Analysis of the "Opinion of the European Commission, Scientific Committee on Food:Update on the Safety of Aspartame / E951" (SCF 2002) 
    http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/scf2002-response.htm

  2. Samuels, A. 1999. "The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A Study in Suppression of Information," Accountability in Research, Volume 6, Pages 259-310. Available at: 
    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/l-manuscript.htm

  3. Collins, R., 2000. "Science Conflicted: Restoring Trust in the National Academy of Sciences," Integrity in Science Project, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Also in the Baltimore Sun on August 29, 2000, Full text available at: 
    http://www.cspinet.org/integrity/baltsun_article.html

  4. Edmonds Institute http://www.edmonds-institute.org/door.html

  5. Samuels, A. 1999. "The Toxicity/Safety of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG): A Study in Suppression of Information," Accountability in Research, Volume 6, Pages 259-310. Available at: 
    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/l-manuscript.htm

  6. Collins, R., 2000. "Science Conflicted: Restoring Trust in the National Academy of Sciences," Integrity in Science Project, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Also in the Baltimore Sun on August 29, 2000, Full text available at: 
    http://www.cspinet.org/integrity/baltsun_article.html

  7. Green, Ché, LiP Magazine, July 9, 2002. 
    http://www.alternet.org/print.html?StoryID=13557

  8. Ferrara, Jennifer "Revolving Doors: Monsanto and the Regulators" The Ecologist, Sept,Oct.1998. 
    http://www.psrast.org/ecologmons.htm

  9. Ibid

  10. Monsanto's Hormonal Milk Poses Serious Risks of Breast Cancer, Besides Other Cancers, Warns Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. Cancer Prevention Coalition, 
    http://www.preventcancer.com/

  11. http://www.organicconsumers.org/rbgh/071303_rbgh.cfm

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Margaret Miller never worked for Monsanto. That’s the difference between journalism and you.

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