ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  3 March 2001

Thanks to Richard Wolfson for this
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Conspiracy to Silence - Scientists Muzzled at Health Canada
by Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.

Reprinted with permission from the March 2001 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition

There is war at Health Canada. On one side of the battlefield stands Dr Shiv Chopra and other drug evaluators who firmly refuse to approve drugs of questionable safety. On the other side stands the Drug Directorate management-influenced by pharmaceutical companies who wish to facilitate a fast-track of drugs to market.

The battle erupted in 1998 with the evaluation of rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone). When rBGH is injected into dairy cattle, cows produce more milk. Chopra and other scientists uncovered research showing rBGH causes safety problems for animals and humans.  Sparks flew when they would not approve the drug and the Senate Standing Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry investigated the resulting commotion. The Committee called the scientists to testify. After hearing about the dangers of rBGH, the senators recommended that the drug not be approved-a decision Health Canada eventually agreed to.

The Health Canada scientists also told the Committee about other drugs of questionable safety that had been approved against their advice including growth hormones for animals that had been allowed even though the drugs were known to produce deformities in animals and were linked to cancer!

An Attempt to Silence

Health Canada officials were frantic! Corruption in its drug approval process was exposed. How could it silence the dissenting scientists?

On July 23, 1999, two months after Chopra spoke before the Senate his supervisor, Dr André Lachance, suspended him for five days without pay. But at the end of the same year another Senate committee began investigating whether the suspension was retaliation against Chopra for testifying before the Senate. Such retaliation is against the law. This investigation was stalled due to various events, including the disappearance of Dr Lachance, Director of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs-a key witness. Shortly before Lachance was to testify, his lawyer sent a letter stating that he was on stress leave and couldn't appear for questioning!

At about the same time, the Federal Court of Canada investigated and removed a gag order that Health Canada imposed on Chopra in 1998 forbidding him from speaking to the press or in public about concerns regarding the health of Canadians being risked. The court ruled Chopra was justified in speaking to the public because he had first exhausted all possible government channels for voicing his very serious concerns.

Grievance Hearings

The Senate's investigation of the five-day suspension was stalled. In the meantime, Chopra filed a grievance with the Public Service Staff Relations Board (PSSRB) of Canada, claiming he was unfairly suspended. After various delays, including another failed attempt to get Lachance to testify, the PSSRB heard the grievance from November 28 to December 1, 2000.

Government officials said that Chopra was suspended because he spoke critically of Health Canada in March of the previous year at a Heritage Canada meeting. This argument made little sense since Chopra had been making these same allegations for many years, criticizing Health Canada's record on racism. In fact Chopra had actually won a landmark case on the matter in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The Plot Thickens

The grievance hearings took an amazing twist with the testimony of Hugh Hards, Senior Human Resources Advisor at Health Canada, who unwittingly proved that there was a conspiracy on behalf of senior management to muzzle Chopra.

Hards testified that he had attended the disciplinary meeting with Chopra purely as a witness to take notes. New documents surfaced that contradicted several points from his testimony. In fact, these documents showed that Hards had actually recommended Chopra's disciplinary action. More damning evidence showed that Hards had even compiled the questions asked at the
meeting. Copies of e-mails and briefing notes from July 23 showed that after the meeting, he wrote the report that recommended disciplinary action. Hards, a member of senior management, who first said he had little role in the disciplinary meeting or the suspension, in fact, played a key
role in both!

Under cross-examination, he had no choice but to admit that his testimony contradicted the new evidence. He also admitted to altering his notes from the July meeting, after obtaining input from Lachance and another colleague from the Human Resources Branch (who was not even at the disciplinary hearing). Hards' testimony conveniently hid facts that proved senior management conspired against Chopra.

This case illustrates enormous underlying corruption at Health Canada, with senior management dancing to the tune of industry pressure and coercion. Fortunately, Dr Chopra and other government whistleblowers are battling against these pressures in order to safeguard the safety and rights of Canadians.
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Biotech News
by Richard Wolfson, PhD

Reprinted with permission from the March 2001 issue of Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition

Race to Buy Life

Documents uncovered in United Kingdon show that over half a million patents on genes or gene sequences have been granted or are pending.  These include 161,195 patents on human genes or gene fragments, covering virtually every tissue in the body, ranging from lung tissue to light-sensitive pigment in the eye.  Other patents include 152 patents on rice, patents covering 72 HIV genes, 1,331 patents on mice, 501 patents on chickens, and 11 patents on spiders.

The race to patent is motivated by financial gain, because patent owners can charge royalties and fees to anyone using the genes, whether for medical research or for growing patented crops.

Antiobiotic Resistant Gonorrhoea

The UK Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes recommended Monsanto's transgenic cotton not be approved. The cotton contains an antibiotic resistant marker that confers resistance to the antibiotics streptomycin and  spectinomycin.

Scientists are worried that if the plant is released in the environment,The bacterium responsible for gonorrhoea could  acquire the antibiotic resistance gene either directly from transgenic plant materials or indirectly from other bacteria that take up the gene. This could result in strains of gonorrhoea that are immune to treatment by antibiotics.

Hybrid Creatures

Amrad, an Australian company biotech company, has acquired a European patenting on a biotech process for producing embryos containing cells from both humans and animals, including mice, sheep, pigs, cattle, goats and fish.

The patent covers the combining of genes between species and includes the potential to produce a hybrid creature or chimera, with body parts from different species, including man.  Citizen groups are outraged.

Paraguay Adopts Mandatory Labelling

Brazil rejected a shipment of Paraguayan corn on suspicion it contained biotech varieties. Consequently, Paraguay instituted mandatory labelling for geneticaly engineered (GE) corn and cereal exports. Paraguay can't afford to lose the Brazilian market, which accounts for about half of
foreign corn sales.

Liability Lawsuit Against Aventis

A coalition of US farming groups is pushing for legislation to make seed companies liable for any financial losses due to gene-altered crops. A class-action lawsuit has already been filed against Aventis, the developer of StarLink (see Alive #220), accusing the company of harming American
farmers through negligence.

The suit contends that Aventis was negligent in failing to inform farmers that StarLink was only approved for animal feed and needed to be segregated from other corn.  Aventis would be liable for all losses resulting from StarLink contamination, including loses for farmers who did not plant
StarLink, but whose corn was contaminated due to cross-pollination or during grain-handling.  Aventis recently announced plans to sell off its agricultural arm, and focus more on its pharmaceutical business.

No Biotech Feed

British food chains are refusing to sell meat, eggs and dairy products from animals fed on genetically engineered crops.  The development slashes the crops' biggest remaining market in UK and marks another severe blow for the biotech industry.   Even fast food chain such as McDonalds are refusing to use animal products from animals fed on biotech feed.

Farmers Union Calls for Moratorium

Canada's National Farmers Union (NFU), which represents 10,000 farmers nationwide, is demanding a moratorium on GE foods until questions regarding consumer acceptance, health, the environment, and ownership of the technology are resolved.  At its annual convention, Cory Ollikka, President of NFU, said farmers are doubtful of the economic benefits of GE crops and
are disconcerted by the push toward biotechnology.  He said farmers are alarmed by the risks of genetic pollution.  They are also very concerned about GE crops being rejected by food companies and importers.

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign for Mandatory labelling and long-term
testing of genetically engineered food
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, ON  Canada  K1N 6N2
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes.

TP; Sat, 03 Mar 2001 02:45:59 -0500

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