more on the industrial alignment
The door revolves equally under Bush and Republicans
George Bush, Sr. appointed MONSANTO'S attorney (Clarence Thomas) to the Supreme Court where he helped to adjudicate in the biotech companies favour on the issue of gene patenting of not only genetically modified seed but also conventional varieties in the case of J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International. The decision means firms like Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto can require farmers to sign contracts prohibiting seed-saving of any patented seed and it also allows them to check farmers' crops for violations.
Bob Dole's chief of staff (Donald Rumsfeld) was an ex-president of SEARLE Pharmaceuticals, purchased by MONSANTO.
George Bush Jr.'s new Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman once served
on the board of directors of Calgene, Inc., a California biotechnology
company. Calgene developed the genetically engineered Flavor Saver tomato,
and was purchased by MONSANTO.
Commercially sponsored research is putting at risk the paramount value
of higher education -- disinterested inquiry. Even more alarming, the authors
universities themselves are behaving more and more like for-profit companies. The article focuses particularly on the impact on UCLA Berkeley of the commercial sponsorship of Novartis.
'A Growing Concern' (Part 3) [from 'Mother Jones' - US investigative journalism] http://motherjones.com/mother_jones/JF97/biotech_jump2.html
Here are some excerpts
[Texas entomologist John] Benedict blames the system. "The universities are cheering us on, telling us to get closer to industry, encouraging us to consult with big business. The bottom line is to improve the corporate bottom line. It's the way we move up, get strokes.... We can't help but be influenced from time to time by our desire to see certain results happen in the lab."
Private industry contributes 10 percent of Texas A&M's whopping
$41 million annual agricultural research budget, and Benedict says he knew
contributing money to his research. "All of these companies have a piece of me," Benedict says. "I'm getting checks waved at me from Monsanto and American Cyanamid and Dow, and it's hard to balance the public interest with the private interest. It's a very difficult juggling act, and sometimes I don't know how to juggle it all."
Science for Sale?
Congress has helped pave the way for corporate biotech programs, passing a series of laws in the 1980s that pushed federally funded research at universities into the eager hands of agrochemical companies. Congressional specialty grants, which are designed to let Congress respond to pressing agricultural concerns, are generally awarded to researchers who already have industry sponsors in place...
Under a banner of global competitiveness, this new relationship between academia, business, and government encourages universities to waste no time converting their science into patent rights. Previously, such research had been considered public property. Any patents that emerged typically were held by government. Indeed, so ingrained was this public ethos that when Jonas Salk was asked who owned the patent to his polio vaccine, he responded incredulously, "The people, I would say. Could you patent the sun?"
Today, however, universities are quick to license patent rights to companies for profit-making. These same companies, meanwhile, award grants to university entomologists and geneticists to conduct research on future products.
Often, critics say, it doesn't take a great deal of money to entice a university department or scientist over to the corporate side, particularly in this time of state and federal funding cuts. "Universities are more than ever hunting for corporate money, and while that money may be a small percentage of the overall budget, it's often enough to influence the direction of public science,'' explains Kathleen Merrigan of the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, a nonprofit research and education organization based in Washington, D.C. "Corporate money can be the tail that wags the dog." For example:
In 1985, Cornell University agreed to do research on bovine growth hormone (BGH) for Monsanto. Tess Hooks, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario whose graduate work at Cornell dealt with scientific ethics, reviewed the agreement between Cornell and Monsanto.
According to Hooks, the university would test BGH on dairy cows and report the findings to Monsanto, which would present its case to the FDA. The government agency would then decide if the hormone -- which increases a cow's milk production -- created any health risks to cows or milk consumers. But before Cornell received the $557,000 grant from Monsanto, Hooks says, it essentially had to agree to hand over control of its research to the biotech company.
... At North Carolina State University, a miniscandal erupted three years ago when several professors were found to be moonlighting as paid consultants to Rhone-Poulenc, Monsanto, and American Cyanamid -- at the same time the professors were evaluating the companies' biotech products for the university. One distinguished weed science professor, Harold Coble, appeared in a Rhone-Poulenc marketing brochure singing the virtues of the company's genetically engineered cotton plant and its companion herbicide, bromoxynil. "There isn't a downside to the BXN," he says in the brochure...
...in some cases it is difficult to tell where public research ends and the company's marketing begins.
Take, for example, the August 25, 1996, letter from Ron H. Smith, an entomologist at Auburn University, that Monsanto faxed to Mother Jones in support of its Bt cotton. "Weeks from now," Smith wrote, "when the last bale of the 1996 cotton crop is harvested...producers finally will have time to pause and reflect on the revolution that has gripped their profession. The results, so far, have been astonishing.... The proof, as they say, is in the pudding -- or, in this case, the [farmer's] pocketbook."
Although the letter bore Smith's signature, an Auburn public relations
official actually wrote it for him. When asked if he received any funding
from Monsanto for his research, Smith replied, "No, not directly." However,
Mother Jones found university records indicating that Monsanto gave $500,000
to Auburn University between 1991 and 1996; $26,000 was earmarked for projects
listing Smith's name. When asked again, Smith confirmed the information,
saying he had misunderstood the original question.
Excerpts: "Michael Taylor was hired by the Food & Drug Administration, and became the second most powerful man there, Monsanto's attorney - he wrote the standard operating procedure. In other words, if you see cancer, ignore it. Margaret Miller and Suzanne Sechen, Monsanto's scientists, were hired by the FDA to review Monsanto's own research."
"To this day, FDA thinks -it's on your web page - that 90% of the bovine growth hormone is destroyed by pasteurization. But what Paul Groenewegan did working with Ted Elasser and Brian McBride, two Monsanto scientists, was he pasteurized milk for 30 minutes at 162ºF, and when I read that - I said, wait a second, milk is pasteurized for 15 seconds at that temperature - not 30 minutes. They intentionally tried to destroy the hormone, they only destroyed 19% of it - somebody lied."
For another brief account of the many dubious aspects surrounding the way this GE product has been researched and approved (for instance, three UK scientists who anaylzed data on rBGH for Monsanto claim the company has tried to block publication of their research) go to: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1527/text4.html"
A quote on rBGH from a congressman: "the FDA allowed corporate influence
to run rampant in its approval."
...Research work is being hampered by the privatisation of knowledge, genetic resources and the techniques for their use.
...experience shows that the price of privatised "genetic progress" is and will be exorbitant.
...giving up our rights in living things means giving the genetic-industrial complex a free hand to guide technical progress into the paths that will bring it the most profits rather than those that will be most useful to society. Rambling on about progress in general while ignoring how things are done in practice smacks of deception. As does invoking some alleged "social demand" in justification of the scientific choices made by the authorities. Public opinion is massively against GMO[s]. So there is no "social demand" for GMO[s]; the term is simply being used as a smokescreen for the demands of the genetic-industrial complex.
By cutting themselves off from society in the name of objectivity and technology, biologists are falling victim to their own narrow concept of causality and their "a-historicity" - easy prey for investors. But the way for researchers to work for that better world that the vast majority want is for them to open themselves up to the scrutiny of their fellow citizens. That means scientific democracy.
The genetic-industrial complex is trying to transform political questions into technical and scientific ones so that responsibility for them can be shifted on to bodies it can control. Its experts, dressed in the candid probity and the white coat of impartiality and objectivity, use the camera to distract people's attention. Then they put on their three piece suits to negotiate behind the scenes the patent they have just applied for, or sit on the committees that will inform public opinion - quite objectively, it goes without saying - and regulate their own activities. It is a serious thing when democracy no longer has any independent experts and has to depend on the courage and honesty of a few scientists and researchers, as it must, for example, in the nuclear industry.
Such abuses are beginning to elicit a timid reaction. American biological journals, for example, are asking their contributors to declare their personal or family interests in biotechnology companies and their sources of funding (18). This is the minimum level of transparency that should be asked of anyone who takes the floor or sits on committees of supposedly independent experts. We would then become aware of the genetic-industrial complex's many and various ramifications.
In short, do we want to allow a few multinationals to take control of
the biological part of our humanity by granting them a right - legal, biological
or contractual - over life itself? Or do we want to preserve our responsibility
and our autonomy? Will farmers' organisations continue to allow ruinous
techniques to be imposed upon them or will they debate what would be in
the farmers' and the public's interest with renewed public research and
a network of breeder-agronomists? Finally, what are the intentions of "public"
agronomic research - which for decades has been privatising the material
of life economically, and now biologically?
In trying to get rBGH to market, Monsanto and government agencies became involved in a number of scandals. Anyone who has ever wonder how big business does business should find the following instructional:
Example: Three British scientists who anaylzed data on rBGH for Monsanto charged that the company has tried to block publication of their research. Erik Millstone, Eric Brunner and Ian White said the company blocked publication of their 1991 paper on the hormone's links to increases in somatic cell (pus and bacteria) counts as a result of mastitis.
Full article at : http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1527/text4.html
A fairly short article but includes the following: "...members of the FDA panel that reassessed the risks of Rezulin, and the money they had received from its manufacturer; manufacturers of FDA approved drugs that force their funded researchers, through threatened loss of funding, to suppress or delay publication of negative evidence concerning the drugs they test; and FDA's primary fatty-acid expert on an FDA panel that ignored recommendations of experts at NIH and WHO and advised FDA to ban DHA in infant formula. The expert had worked for Ross Products, a formula company opposed to the addition of DHA. Found in breast milk and used in formula worldwide, DHA is important to vision and brain development. Meanwhile, FDA expresses no concern about the GE ingredients ubiquitous in infant formula.
In May... the 25 million dollar research contract between Novartis,
a leading producer of GE food seeds, and plant geneticists at UC
Berkeley, giving Novartis 30 to 90 days to review research publications...
one of these UC Berkeley plant geneticists was to sit on a panel convened
by NAS to assess risks and benefits of specific genetically modified food
Gene therapy has repeatedly been used as part of the hype for GE and, by association, GE crops. As Robin McKie recently reported in the Observer: "It has been hyped as our saviour, the panacea that will rid mankind of disease." [Sunday January 2, 2000, Gene researchers face crisis as man's saviour turns killer]
But now its promotion looks less than convincing and for similarly dubious reasons to those affecting GE crops, as this interesting article from the Washington Post makes clear. Here's an excerpt:
"Increasingly, talk was of patents rather than patients. By the time Gelsinger died in September, some corporate researchers were already battling the NIH in bids to keep serious injuries or deaths in their studies from becoming public.
The University of Pennsylvania, where Gelsinger died, is in many ways representative of the new world of gene therapy. It has allied itself with several financially interlinked biotechnology companies. These firms stood to gain financially if the Gelsinger study had proved successful, including one founded by the leading geneticist in that study.
The Penn team has said that financial considerations had no impact on patient care decisions in the study and had nothing to do with the multiple violations of patient protection rules that federal investigators have uncovered -- including the team's failure to properly inform the Food and Drug Administration about the side effects in volunteers that, if reported, would have forced a halt of the experiment. But some experts believe that the Penn violations are evidence that the field of gene therapy has strayed from its initial promise of public accountability."
Certainly there is no doubrt about the stiff industry resistance to any regulatory rigour. According to a Reuters article:
"Industry objects. "A reporting system that entails the reporting of all serious adverse events in an expedited manner is inappropriate and unnecessary," the Biotechnology Industry Organization said in a statement.
It said such adverse events -- which can range from a temporary rise in liver enzymes to a deadly stroke -- are often not caused by the treatment and reporting them before they are fully understood could unnecessarily release trade secrets and also confuse people."
Gene Therapy Death Puzzles Scientists, Regulators
Reuters Online Service Friday, 10. December 1999
A directory of some of the members of the biotech brigade.
The New England Journal of Medicine -- January 8, 1998 -- Vol. 338, No.2
Conflict of Interest in the Debate over Calcium-Channel Antagonists
Henry Thomas Stelfox, Grace Chua, Keith O'Rourke, Allan S. Detsky
Abstract available at http://www.nejm.org/content/1998/0338/0002/0101.asp
or via contents page at http://www.nejm.org/content/1998/0338/0002/TOC.asp
The study's conclusion is that a strong association is demonstrated
between authors' published positions on product safety (in this case calcium-channel
antagonists) and their financial relationships with the relevant industry.