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MONSANTOpoly, Part 2: Corrupt to the Core


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MONSANTOpoly, Part 2: Corrupt to the Core

Published On June 20, 2013 | By james |

by Marc Belisle

“Follow the money.”

– ‘Deep Throat,’ All the President’s Men

Bush Sr. kept his word to help out Monsanto as described in Part 1: Sowing Dependence.  In 1992, he deployed Vice President Dan Quayle to announce that the US government’s policy on genetically modified foods is that they are no different from other foods and don’t require any special regulation or even labeling.  Americans have been buying foods genetically modified by Monsanto ever since, whether they realize it or not.

Americans also may not realize that they have a government politically modified by Monsanto, through the revolving door.  The threshold between Monsanto’s management, legal and communications teams and the federal government, particularly regulatory agencies, is less of a secret passage and more of an industrial cargo bay.  Since Reagan, dozens of top Monsanto people have held important positions in every administration, particularly in the FDA, USDA and EPA, but also in Justice, Energy, Commerce, Labor, Defense, Homeland Security, the FBI, international trade negotiation delegations, and White House advisory roles, and many have gone back and forth.

Revolvind Door TaylorOne of the key players who revolves around and around is Michael R. Taylor.  According to The Huffington Post, Taylor wrote the policy that Dan Quayle announced in 1992.  Anarticleposted privately whose author claims it was published in The Ecologist but was removed after Monsanto threatened The Ecologist, disclosed the now publically available information that Taylor worked for ten years as a corporate attorney for King & Spalding, a firm advising Monsanto.  There, he wrote a report on ways Monsanto could skirt laws to use Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) without having to label the milk.  In 1991, he left the law firm to work in the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy.  In the documentary Genetic RoulettePublic Interest Attorney Steven M. Druker and author Jeffrey M. Smith claim that after a lawsuit forced the release of 44,000 secret internal FDA memos, it became apparent that while Taylor helmed FDA policy, the FDA hid its own scientific findings on the potential dangers of BGH and other GMOs, overruled its scientists, claimed that “scientific consensus” supported BGH when the opposite was true, and approved BGH to be marketed without labeling, circumventing the FDA’s normal testing regime.  Meanwhile, BGH was being banned in Canada, Japan, Australia and all EU countries.  According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, BGH is linked to colon, prostate and breast cancer.

Taylor wasn’t the only Monsanto hand on the FDA’s deck while BGH was being approved.  According to Think Progress, “The hormone was approved in the US after Monsanto employee Margaret Miller oversaw a report on its safety, took a job at the FDA, and promptly approved her own report. Another Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui, later wrote the USDA’s organic food standards, allowing irradiated and genetically modified foods to label themselves as organic.”

Taylor continues to switch public and private hats to this day.  From 1994 to 1996, Taylor was Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the USDA.  From 1996 to 2000, Taylor worked as Monsanto’s Vice President for Public Policy.  In 2009, President Obama returned him to the FDA as a senior advisor, and in 2010, he wasappointed Deputy Commissioner for Foods.

Monsanto’s response to critics’ charges that it has undue influence on the government is that they “ignore the simple truth that people monsanto_corruption 2regularly change jobs to find positions that match their experience, skills and interests.”  This is true enough, but most people applying for a job couldn’t write in their cover letter: “I worked for you a few years back.  While I was there, I advocated for an uncritical blanket approval of a biologically unprecedented change to the food chain.  In my current job, I implemented that change, which I understand has been quite a boon for your stock shares.  I hope you remember me.”

The overall effect of the revolving door has been to intimidate and sideline those within government outside of Monsanto’s fold who favor a methodical approach to biotechnology.  In the documentary, “The World According to Monsanto,” Dan Glickman, Bill Clinton’s Agriculture Secretary from 1995-2000, says,

“In the early years that I was involved in the regulation of biotechnology … there was a general feeling in agribusiness and inside our government in the US if you weren’t marching lockstep forward in favor of rapid approvals of biotech products, rapid approvals of GMO crops, then somehow you were anti-science and anti-progress.  I think there were a lot of folks in industrial agriculture who didn’t want as much analysis as probably we should have had because they had made a huge amount of investments in the product. … I had a lot of pressure on me not to push the issue too far.  But I would say even when I opened my mouth in the Clinton Administration I got slapped around a little bit by not only the industry but also some of the people even in the Administration.  In fact, I made a speech once … saying we needed to more thoughtfully think through the regulatory issues on GMOs and I had some people within the Clinton Administration, particularly in the US Trade area that were very upset with me.  They said, ‘how could you in Agriculture be questioning our regulatory regime?’”

The huge amount of investments Glickman refers to have certainly paid off.  Monsanto is ranked 206th on the Fortune 500 list.  Its profits last year were over $2 billion, more than a 14% increase in a year, so it has plenty of money to diversify its investments into things like a big chunk of Congress.  In 2012, Monsanto made contributionsranging from $1,000 to $13,000 to 61 House candidates ad 27 Senate candidates.  The total contributions were $384,500.  However, if donations to and from PACs and other proxies are includeddonations may be over $1 million.  Eight legislators own stock in Monsanto and two are former Monsanto advisors.  Additionally, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, Monsanto spent $52.5 million on lobbying.

Monsanto’s investment in Congress matured this March when, without any hearings, Congress passed a bill to prevent a government shutdown that included an unrelated rider.  The NY Daily News explains that the rider

“would seem to place the commercial concerns of Monsanto, the world’s largest producer of genetically modified crops and seeds, above the authority of U.S. judicial system.

In effect, the provision, which opponents call the Monsanto Protection Act, would limit the ability of judges to stop Monsanto or the farmers it sells genetically modified seeds from growing or harvesting those crops even if courts find evidence of potential health risks.”

Imagine if Congress passed an “Auto Protection Act” stipulating that courts couldn’t stop manufacturers from selling cars even if they were shown to have faulty brakes.  According to Mother Jones, the bill was written by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo), who happens to be one of the largest recipients of Monsanto donations.  A 2006 report by Public Citizen says Blunt is “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”

clarence-thomas

SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas

Since you can’t rely on Congress or the White House, if you have a problem with Monsanto, you’ll have to take them all the way to the Supreme Court.  There, your case will likely be decided by former Monsanto lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, who, in 2010, penned the majority opinion inMonsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, a key case that allowed Monsanto to prevent its individual farmers from saving their own seeds.  In the same case, future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan inexplicably advocated on behalf of Monsanto in her capacity as Solicitor General, even though the government was not a defendant in the case.  Thomas has joined the majority in finding for Monsanto in at least two other cases.

Through contributions, lobbying and aggressive staffing rotations in both parties and all three branches, Monsanto keeps the federal government in check and holds it in balance.  But that’s not the limit of Monsanto’s power.  Monsanto has also cultivated a great deal of influence over universities.  A report published in Salon shows that in universities with agriculture departments around the country, Monsanto funds research, funds professorships, donates to schools, and also has revolving door influence in university hierarchy, just as it does in the federal government.  For example, the report states that South Dakota State’s president is on Monsanto’s board of directors.  Professors and students outside of the Monsanto sphere are sidelined just as Secretary Glickman was in the Clinton Administration.  In the report, one anonymous PhD student at a land-grant university was told more than once that she should study something Monsanto would fund.  She wanted to research organic agriculture in farmers markets.  Her academic adviser told her that her “best bet was to write a grant for Monsanto or the Department of Homeland Security to fund my research on why farmer’s markets were stocked with ‘black market vegetables’ that ‘are a bioterrorism threat waiting to happen.’”

The Salon report describes a peer-reviewed study that found that corporate-funded nutrition research is 4-8 times more likely to reach conclusions favorable to the funder.  And the Salon report cites evidence that any scientist who reaches conclusions Monsanto doesn’t like can expect to be told to find new funding.  In Genetic Roulette, authorEric Holt-Giminez argues that Monsanto uses its influence to deny tenure to professors critical of GMOs, and scientist Elaine Ingham describes how after speaking to the UN about dangers posed by GMOs, she was told that if she wasn’t “heart and soul into this technology” then she “didn’t belong at Oregon State University.”  She claims that Monsanto seeks to shred the credibility and reputation of any scientist who criticizes GMOs.

But research on GMOs is extremely difficult to even begin in the first place.  According to Jeremy Bloom, Monsanto systematically blocks funding for research on its crops and denies the use of any of its seeds for research purposes.  The government doesn’t do much research on the risks of GMO crops either.  According to Dean DellaPenna in National Geographic, “only one percent of USDA biotech research money goes to risk assessment.”

Monsanto also allegedly has critical news reports removed from mainstream media.  According to a report,corroborated by Jeffrey Smith in the Huffington Post, a team of investigative journalists, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, working for a Fox News station in Florida had just completed filming an expose on the dangers posed by BGH.  Just before the report was to air, a Monsanto lawyer in New York faxed a letter Researchers with Genetically Modified Cornwarning of “dire consequences for Fox News” if the report aired.  Akre claims that Fox was worried about getting sued and losing advertising.  Wilson claims that his manager asked him if he’d ever tell anyone if the story was pulled.  He says management told them to make certain changes to the report in accordance with the way the lawyers wanted it written, regardless of what their research showed.  Wilson says he refused to make the changes.  The management threatened to fire him, and he threatened to report them to the FCC.  Wilson says that management then offered him hush money.  Akre says, “He was going to offer us the rest of our year’s salary if we agreed not to talk about what Monsanto had done, to not talk about the Fox corporate response in suppressing the story, and to not talk about the story, not talk about BGH, again, anywhere.”  They refused the money and were told to rewrite the story with the lawyers present.  Akre says the lawyers replaced words like “cancer” with phrases like “human health implications.”  Akre says anything critical of Monsanto was either removed or minimized.  The reporters claim they were made to rewrite the piece 83 times.  They believed the lawyers were stalling for a window in their contracts.  Then Fox announced the journalists were fired.  The journalists took Fox to court and were initially granted whistleblower status, but on appeal they lost this status and ultimately lost their legal case on the grounds that falsifying news reports is not against the law.

Monsanto’s influence is astounding.  The corporation wields political, financial, legal and communications power, along with donations, creative staffing, alleged threats, intimidation and bribery, and alleged censorship to great effect.  The evidence shows that, ultimately, Monsanto’s business interests were not simply deregulated.  Since the Reagan Administration, Monsanto has built its own regime of strict regulation over government, academia and media, to ensure that they serve its corporate interests, or are neutralized.  In every relevant sphere of society, critics allege that Monsanto infiltrates institutions, sidelines those outside of its circle, rams through its agenda, blocks research and undermines critical inquiry of its products and actions, threatens its critics and silences dissent.  One reason the Monsantopoly must stack the deck in its favor so thoroughly is because of what would happen if well-funded large-scale research informed the public of what Monsanto’s products do to the environment, farms and farmers.

Next up, Part 3: Seeds of Destruction will look at what Monsanto has done to America’s amber waves of grain.

via

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Worse than Germs–the Chemicals Used to Disinfect Meat


The meat and seafood you buy probably looks and smells fine. But processors may be using unsavory drugs to retard bacterial growth and the drugs do not appear on the label.

Many human antibiotics are used in meat production like penicillin, neomycin and sulfa and Cipro-like drugs. The FDA and medical community are trying to clamp down on the massive use of such drugs on large scale farms because they contribute to resistance of the very the germs they are supposed to kill.

Livestock operators fight antibiotic restrictions suggested by the FDA, doctors and scientific groups because the pills save them money. Without antibiotics, animals would need to be given more room–the packed conditions they live in on many farms today would cause illness and death. Antibiotics also let operators grow bigger animals with less food because the pills cause more efficient intestinal absorption of nutrients. And, unlike bacteria like salmonella, listeria or E. coli, antibiotics in meat are not inactivated by cooking.

Large commercial meat producers also use common cleaning chemicals like chlorine and ammonia to kill the germs endemic to livestock operations. Chickens are routinely given a chlorine bleach “bath” before sold to the public. And who can forget the ammonia puffs that Pink Slime was treated with to kill E. coli? Yuk

Big meat” also irradiates meat, adds nitrites (substances which can form carcinogenic nitrosamines in the body) and adds gasses to retard bacterial growth. Up to 70 percent of commercial meat in stores packages looks appealingly red because it is treated with carbon monoxide. Thanks to such gasses, meat can stay red up to a year but livestock producers deny that spoiled meat that looks red is a health risk. A spokesperson for a firm representing major meat companies says “When a product reaches the point of spoilage, there will be other signs that will be evidenced–for example odor, slime formation and a bulging package–so the product will not smell or look right.” That’s a relief!

Is seafood safer? Sadly, no. The antibiotics, veterinary drugs and pesticides used in aquaculture can make meat production look, well, green. A review of the book Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood on AlterNet says

commercial shrimp production “begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda.” The New York Times , Chicago Tribune and Consumer Reports all have reported disturbing mercury levels in red lean and fatty tuna.

What can we do?   First–be suspicious of commercially produced food, especially when it is sold cheaply. Just because labels don’t list iffy chemicals used in production doesn’t mean they weren’t used. Most seafood in the US is imported from countries in Southeast Asia where drugs that the US bans are permitted. On top of that, lobbyists for the food industry make sure ingredients people want to avoid do not appear on labels. Lobbyists prevented milk made with recombinant bovine growth hormone from being labeled and have succeeded in blocking labels on genetically modified crops. (Look for labels that say genetically modified ingredients are absent.)

The best thing people can do is to buy organically produced meat and seafood. Most grocery stores and big supermarkets now offer an organic section. END

Find out more about underreported food risks in Martha Rosenberg’s new food and drug expose Born with a Junk Food Deficiency (Prometheus Books, 2012)

Watch Martha on a Huffington Live discussing the pharmaceutical industry.

via OpEdNews – Article: Worse than Germs–the Chemicals Used to Disinfect Meat.

via OpEdNews – Article: Worse than Germs–the Chemicals Used to Disinfect Meat.

GM salmon’s global HQ – 1,500m high in the Panamanian rainforest


GM salmon’s global HQ – 1,500m high in the Panamanian rainforest

Supersized genetically modified salmon grown fast and fat and after years of wrangling, are ready for market – but is the market ready for them? And why is the firm hidden away in Panama?

AquaBounty’s GM salmon fish farm in Bajo Mono, near Boquete, western Panama. Photograph: Sheena Rossiter/Avaaz

t is hard to think of a more unlikely setting for genetic experimentation or for raising salmon: a rundown shed at a secretive location in the Panamanian rainforest miles inland and 1,500m above sea level.

But the facility, which is owned by an American company AquaBounty Technologies, stands on the verge of delivering the first genetically modified food animal – a fast-growing salmon – to supermarkets and dinner tables.

The US government this week enters the final stages of its deliberations on whether to allow commercial production of the GM fish, with a public consultation on the issue ending on Friday . Separately, a committee in Congress on Monday took up a bill that would outlaw GM salmon entirely – essentially destroying AquaBounty’s commercial prospects in America. If approved, the salmon could be the first of some 30 other species of GM fish under development, including tilapia and trout. Researchers are also working to bring GM cows, chickens and pigs to market.

In Panama City, government officials are upbeat about AquaBounty’s prospects of getting its fish to market. “From what we know it is very close to being approved. There have been tests for many years and the last thing we heard from the FDA is that there is a very good probability that it is going to be approved in the near future,” said Giovanni Lauri, the director of the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama, Arap.

Aquabounty’s GM salmon fish farm in Boquete, Panama Photo: Sheena Rossiter

AquaBounty must still overcome formidable opposition from supermarkets and consumer organisations, environmental groups and commercial fishermen to sell its fish, however. The prospect of introducing GM fish into the food supply has generated enormous passions, with the FDA receiving 36,000 comments on the fish so far, most of them opposing the move. But after 20 years, AquaBounty’s efforts to bring GM animals to the table are getting closer to reality.

There was little outward sign of history in the making – or of the enormous controversy surrounding GM salmon at AquaBounty’s remote Panamanian location on the banks of the Calderas river in the western highlands of Chiriqui province. At the premises, visitors can see a fading green industrial shed and four large above-ground pools behind a high wire fence. On the site are up to 5,000 salmon,according to Arap officials say.

The only evidence of AquaBounty’s presence is a small round company decal next to the front door of the shack. Signs warn: “No pasar”. The place seems deserted at first, then a guard suddenly emerges when visitors approach the wire fence.

The facility is leased from a commercial fish farm that produces non-GM rainbow trout for export to the US. Access to both farms is by four-wheel drive across a river bed or a rusting footbridge, kept padlocked to keep out intruders. It’s a strange arrangement; the non-GM fish farm also raises organic trout for the upmarket supermarket Whole Foods. But the chain is deeply opposed to genetically engineered salmon, and said last month it would boycott the fish if it came to market.

Luis Lamastus, the owner of the trout farm and AquaBounty’s landlord, has a different view: “These kind of fish are the future.”

It was not entirely clear why Aquabounty chose this out-of-the-way location to raise GM fish for market, or indeed why it chose Panama at all – the company refused to comment for this article.

A genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Photograph: AP

AquaBounty has had a long and difficult journey trying to develop GM fish in the 20 years since researchers at a university in Newfoundland first hit on the idea of making a faster-growing salmon.

The researchers injected growth genes from a Chinook salmon and a seal eel into an Atlantic salmon. The new genes made the fish produce growth hormone year-round, enabling the altered salmon to grow twice as fast as farmed salmon, bringing the fish up to market size in 18 months instead of 30.

But despite the commercial potential, Panamanian government officials at Arap said AquaBounty had difficulties finding a place to grow their salmon to market size. Arap’s Giovanni Lauri said he understood AquaBounty had approached a number of other countries seeking to set up a research site.

“They tried many countries but they were afraid to start something new,” Lauri said. After multiple refusals, the company eventually turned to Panama, where the project won a warm welcome from government officials. Lauri said officials had few concerns about the potential health and environmental risks of growing GM salmon in Panama. “We were not afraid of something new,” he said.

The first few years brought mixed results. A storm in 2008 destroyed part of the facility, according to a filing to the FDA. In 2010 an entire batch of fingerlings died in transit to the Panama facility, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, research director of Arap. The company then switched to importing eggs from a research lab in Prince Edward Island in Canada, hatching them at the Panama facility, according to officials. All the while AquaBounty worked to navigate the American regulatory process and win approval for the GM salmon, while trying to fend off financial pressure. The company has run through more than $60m waiting for the FDA. Last year, its main investor, the Georgian oligarch Kakha Bendukidze, sold his shares to a synthetic biology firm, Intrexon.

With the FDA nearing its decision, Panamanian officials began to hope their hospitality to AquaBounty would help gain the country an entry to the biotech industry.

“We have been talking to them. We want to be the first to have different farms,” Lauri said. His clear expectation was that this approval would clear the way for production of other GM fish, such as tilapia or trout, possibly at facilities on Panamanian soil. “Once they have salmon then I am pretty sure they are going to look for some other species,” he said.

Under the law, however, FDA approval would only allow AquaBounty to produce salmon at its existing facility. Other GM fish, or a move to a full-scale commercial facility would require additional approvals, according to Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA.

The Obama administration has been weighing its decision on GM food animals for at least three years, after the FDA produced its first detailed study on the effects of consuming the animals on human health, essentially concluding it was as safe to eat the genetically engineered fish as conventional Atlantic salmon. Some campaign groups still dispute the finding, saying that GM salmon potentially has more allergens.

But the study that brought GM fish closer to market, published late last year, focused on the environmental impact. The main concern of the FDA was whether the genetically engineered salmon could escape and because of its superior size conceivably take over wild Atlantic salmon. The study concluded that even if the fish did slip through the net and escape the above-ground pools, it is unlikely they would travel far. The nearby waters would be too warm for them to survive.

But those determinations came under attack from campaign groups and upscale supermarkets, as well as members of Congress concerned about the threat to wild-caught salmon industry.

Opponents of the fish argued America’s regulatory system was ill-equipped to deal with new technologies such as GM foods. Unlike Europe, America has no specific laws for GM products, but regulates them as “animal drugs”.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director at Avaaz, said: “The approval of transgenic salmon could open the floodgates for genetically modified meat everywhere, yet the science behind its safety has been sloppy at best. If the FDA approves this GM salmon, it risks undermining its mandate to protect public health.”

Campaign groups said the current review process did not take adequate account of the sweeping changes in store for the global food supply, once GM food starts hitting the market.

“You have GM corn and soybeans,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, which has campaigned against GM foods. “But this would be the first food animal. You are taking it to a whole other part of the food supply,” she said.

There were specific concerns raised about the use of a facility in Panama for the launch of the first GM fish.

Supermarket chains said there was no need for GM salmon, and announced a boycott. “Whole Foods Market will not sell genetically modified salmon as our quality standards prohibit the use of genetically modified animals,” Beth Krauss, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods said in an email.

The company also said it was unhappy about the proximity of the GM salmon to its own trout. The two facilities are separated only by a shallow trench. Krauss indicated she hoped that AquaBounty would be forced to leave once it lease expires later this year.

But Lamastus said he would renew the lease. “They are a very good company,” he said. “The salmon is something unique, growth faster, but is the same like the Atlantic salmon, producers will use less feed probably, and less feed means less pressure on our seas, to obtain more fish for consumers, and for feed; therefore, it is good for the environment!”

In their temperature-controlled waters, kept at a constant 16C, the salmon in the Panamanian rainforest are oblivious to the ferocious debate about the future of GM animals. The 5,000 or so fish now reaching maturity at the AquaBounty site are the biggest GM salmon ever raised by the company, weighing in at 5kg a piece. Under the protocols put in place by the FDA, the fish can not enter the food supply. They are due to be slaughtered in September and buried in a pit on the banks of the nearby Caldera river, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, who heads the research division at Arap.

But it could be the last time such a mass disposal is carried out. The Panama site got a shipment of about 25,000 eggs from their lab in Prince Edward Island last month. By the time those fish reach maturity, some 18 months from now, they could be bound for American supermarkets instead.

via GM salmon’s global HQ – 1,500m high in the Panamanian rainforest | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

What’s it like inside a factory farm?


Flies, Maggots, Rats, and Lots of Poop: What Big Ag Doesn’t Want You To See |

What’s it like inside a factory farm? If the livestock and meat industries have their way, what little view we have inside the walls of these animal-reviewing facilities may soon be obscured. For the second year in a row, the industry is backing bills in various statehouses that would criminalize undercover investigations of livestock farms. The Humane Society of the US, one of the animal-welfare groups most adept at conducting such hidden-camera operations, counts active “ag gag” bills in no fewer than nine states. Many of them are based on a model conjured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),  a corporate-funded group that generates industry-friendly legislation language for state legislatures, Associated Press reports.

To understand the stakes of this battle, consider this 2010 Food and Drug Administration report on conditions in several vast egg-producing facilities in Iowa owned by a man named Jack Decoster. I teased out some highlights at the time of its release; in short, it involves flies, maggots, rats, wild birds, tainted feed, workers ignoring sanitary rules, and lots and lots of chickenshit. The report portrays the facilities as a kind of fecal nightmare, with manure mounding up in eight-foot piles—providing perches for escaped hens to peck feed from teeming cages—overflowing in pits, and seeping through concrete foundations.

It was, in short, a blunt and damning portrayal, an example of a federal watchdog agency training the public gaze on the misdeeds of a powerful industry. The investigation led the FDA to ban the offending operations from selling fresh eggs for several months.

USDA inspectors repeatedly witnessed dead bugs on the packing floor and old egg residues on conveyor belts just before the outbreak, but did nothing to stop production.

Trouble is, the FDA’s exposé came after those factory-like operations had been forced to recall nearly half a billion eggs potentially tainted with salmonella, and an outbreak that sickened nearly 2,000 people. It later turned out that the company’s own tests had detected salmonella in the facilities, including egg-carrying conveyor belts, no fewer than 73 times in the two years before the outbreak; and that inspectors from the US Agriculture Department had repeatedly witnessed unsanitary conditions like dead bugs on the packing floor and old egg residues on conveyor belts just before the outbreak, but did nothing to stop production, because they were only there to “grade” the size of eggs, not monitor the potential for disease outbreaks (which falls to the FDA).

Given that the egg company itself (which turned out to be part of the nation’s largest egg empire at the time) and federal watchdogs both failed to prevent the outbreak despite so many troubling signs, you have to wonder what would have happened if an animal-welfare group like Mercy For Animals or the Humane Society of the US had managed to sneak in cameras and record conditions before those half-billion suspect eggs made it onto supermarket shelves.

In fact, months before the outbreak, HSUS did get operatives to pose as a worker at several giant egg factories in Iowa, operated by Decoster rivals Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises. Here’s some of what they found:

From the report:

• Trapped birds unable to reach food and water: Battery cages can trap hens by their wings, necks, legs, and feet in the wire, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.

• High mortality in layer and pullet sheds: The HSUS investigator pulled dead young hens, some of them mummified (meaning they’d been rotting in the cages for weeks), from cages every day.

Failure to maintain manure pits: According to one worker, the manure pit under a pullet shed had not been cleaned in two years. Rose Acre workers claimed that some hens are blinded because of excessive ammonia levels.

• Abandoned hens: Some hens manage to escape from their cages and fall into the manure pits below.

The exposure prompted Rose Acre Farms to undergo “third-party audit” of the facilities in question, while Rembrandt publicly declared it would investigate its facilities, adding to a farm trade journal that “it would have been beneficial had the Humane Society come directly to us right after the alleged violations occurred.” We’ll never know if the HSUS investigation caused changes that saved consumers from exposure to salmonella or other pathogens.

Federal watchdogs like USDA and FDA are having to cut back on inspections of meat-production facilities, meaning that already-weak oversight will only get weaker.

And in 2011, a Mercy For Animals employee got inside yet another Iowa egg company called Sparboe Farms and released a video depicting dead birds being left to rot in tight cages also occupied by live birds and flies, among other sordid scenes. In a web posting after the release, the company’s president wrote that the video had documented acts are “totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers,” adding that the employees responsible had been fired. Just before the MFA release, FDA came out with the results of its own investigation of the facility, which found several violations—again potentially saving the public from a pathogen outbreak.

Last year, of course, Iowa and its famously agribiz-aligned governor, Terry Branstad, passed the nation’s first ag-gag law—meaning that any undercover investigator who exposes such abuses on one of the state’s hundreds of factory-scale hog and egg facilities will now be subject to criminal prosecution. The triumph in Iowa marks a significant victory in Big Ag’s push to keep its practices behind closed doors, because Iowa is the nation’s number-one state in both hog and egg-laying hen production.

In a time of fiscal austerity, federal watchdogs like USDA and FDA are having to cut back on inspections of meat-production facilities, meaning that already-weak oversight will only get weaker. If the meat industry wins these ag-gag battles playing out in farm states nationwide, who will serve as the public’s eyes on the factory farm floor? Answer: essentially, no one.

via Flies, Maggots, Rats, and Lots of Poop: What Big Ag Doesn’t Want You To See | Mother Jones.

via Flies, Maggots, Rats, and Lots of Poop: What Big Ag Doesn’t Want You To See | Mother Jones.

Big Pharma criminality no longer a conspiracy theory: Bribery, fraud, price fixing now a matter of public record


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Those of us who have long been describing the pharmaceutical industry as a “criminal racket” over the last few years have been wholly vindicated by recent news. Drug and vaccine manufacturer Merck was caught red-handed by two of its own scientists faking vaccine efficacy data by spiking blood samples with animal antibodies. GlaxoSmithKline has just been fined a whopping $3 billion for bribing doctors, lying to the FDA, hiding clinical trial data and fraudulent marketing. Pfizer, meanwhile has been sued by the nation’s pharmacy retailers for what is alleged as an “overarching anticompetitive scheme” to keep generic cholesterol drugs off the market and thereby boost its own profits.

The picture that’s emerging is one of a criminal drug industry that has turned to mafia tactics in the absence of any real science that would prove their products to be safe or effective. The emergence of this extraordinary evidence of bribery, scientific fraud, lying to regulators and monopolistic practices that harm consumers is also making all those doctors and “skeptics” who defended Big Pharma and vaccines eat their words.

To defend Big Pharma today is to defend a cabal of criminal corporations that have proven they will do anything — absolutely anything — to keep their profits rolling in. It makes no difference who they have to bribe, what studies they have to falsify, or who has to be threatened into silence. They will stop at nothing to expand their profit base, even if it means harming (or killing) countless innocents.

Let’s take a look at recent revelations:

GlaxoSmithKline pleads guilty to bribery, fraud and other crimes

It what is now the largest criminal fraud settlement ever to come out of the pharmaceutical industry, GlaxoSmithKline has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1 billion in criminal fines and $2 billion in civil fines following a nine-year federal investigation into its activities.

• Routinely bribed doctors with luxury vacations and paid speaking gigs

• Fabricated drug safety data and lied to the FDA

Defrauded Medicare and Medicaid out of billions

• Deceived regulators about the effectiveness of its drugs

• Relied on its deceptive practices to earn billions of dollars selling potentially dangerous drugs to unsuspecting consumers and medical patients

And this is just the part they got caught doing. GSK doesn’t even deny any of this. The company simply paid the $3 billion fine, apologized to its customers, and continued conducting business as usual.

By the way, in addition to bribing physicians, GSK has plenty of money to spread around bribing celebrities and others who pimps its products. The company reportedly paid $275,000 to the celebrity doctor known as “Dr. Drew,” who promoted Glaxo’s mind-altering antidepressant drug Wellbutrin

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

In June 1999, popular radio personality Dr. Drew Pinsky used the airwaves to extol the virtues of GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s antidepressant Wellbutrin, telling listeners he prescribes it and other medications to depressed patients because it “may enhance or at least not suppress sexual arousal” as much as other antidepressants do. But one thing listeners didn’t know was that, two months before the program aired, Dr. Pinsky — who gained fame as “Dr. Drew” during years co-hosting a popular radio sex-advice show “Loveline” — received the second of two payments from Glaxo totaling $275,000 for “services for Wellbutrin.”

Merck falsified vaccine data, spiked blood samples and more, say former employees

According to former Merck virologists Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, the company:

• “Falsified test data to fabricate a vaccine efficacy rate of 95 percent or higher.”

• Spiked the blood test with animal antibodies in order to artificially inflate the appearance of immune system antibodies.

• Pressured the two virologists to “participate in the fraud and subsequent cover-up.”

• Used the falsified trial results to swindle the U.S. government out of “hundreds of millions of dollars for a vaccine that does not provide adequate immunization.”

• Intimidated the scientists, threatening them with going to jail unless they stayed silent.

This is all documented in a 2010 False Claims Act which NaturalNews has acquired and posted here:

http://www.naturalnews.com/gallery/documents/Merck-False-Claims-Act.p…

Millions of children put at risk by Merck

In that document the two virologists say they, “witnessed firsthand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine’s efficacy findings.”

They also claim that because of the faked vaccine results, “the United States has over the last decade paid Merck hundreds of millions of dollars for a vaccine that does not provide adequate immunization… The United States is by far the largest financial victim of Merck’s fraud.”

They go on to point out that children are the real victims, however:

“But the ultimate victims here are the millions of children who every year are being injected with a mumps vaccine that is not providing them with an adequate level of protection. …The failure in Merck’s vaccine has allowed this disease to linger with significant outbreaks continuing to occur.”

Merck’s mumps viral strain is 45 years old!

According to the complaint, Merck has been using the same mumps strain — weakened from generations of being “passaged” — for the last 45 years! The complaint reads:

“For more than thirty years, Merck has had an exclusive license from the FDA to manufacture and sell a mumps vaccine in the U.S. The FDA first approved the vaccine in 1967. It was developed by Dr. Maurice Hilleman, at Merck’s West Point research facility, from the mumps virus that infected his five year-old daughter Jeryl Lynn. Merck continues to use this ‘Jeryl Lynn’ strain of the virus for its vaccine today.”

A complete medical farce

This information appears to show Merck’s mumps vaccine to be a complete medical farce. Those who blindly backed Merck’s vaccines — the science bloggers, “skeptics,” doctors, CDC and even the FDA — have been shown to be utter fools who have now destroyed their reputations by siding with an industry now known to be dominated by scientific fraud and unbounded criminality.

That’s the really hilarious part in all this: After decades of doctors, scientists and government authorities blindly and brainlessly repeating the mantra of “95% effectiveness,” it all turns out to be total quackery hogwash. Utterly fabricated. Quackety-quack quack. And all those hundreds of millions of Americans who lined up to be injected with MMR vaccines were all repeatedly and utterly conned into potentially harming themselves while receiving no medical benefit.

Intelligent, informed NaturalNews readers, home school parents, and “awakened” people who said “No!” to vaccines are now emerging as the victors in all this. By refusing to be injected with Merck’s vaccines, they avoided being assaulted with a fraudulent cocktail of adjuvant chemicals and all-but-useless mumps strains over four decades old. They protected their time, money and health. Those who refuse to be physically violated by vaccines are, once again, turning out to be the smartest people in society. No wonder they also tend to be healthier than the clueless fools who line up to get vaccinated every year.

Merck fraudulently misrepresented the efficacy of its vaccine and contributed to the spread of infectious disease, says lawsuit

The faked vaccine efficacy numbers aren’t the only troubles Merck is now facing. Shortly after the above False Claims Act was made public, Chatom Primary Care filed suit against Merck.

It alleges that:

• [Merck engaged in] …a decade-long scheme to falsify and misrepresent the true efficacy of its vaccine.

• Merck fraudulently represented and continues to falsely represent in its labeling and elsewhere that its Mumps Vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 percent of higher.

• Merck knows and has taken affirmative steps to conceal — by using improper testing techniques and falsifying test data — that its Mumps Vaccine is, and has been since at least 1999, far less than 95 percent effective.

• Merck designed a testing methodology that evaluated its vaccine against a less virulent strain of the mumps virus. After the results failed to yield Merck’s desired efficacy, Merck abandoned the methodology and concealed the study’s findings.

• Merck also engaged in “incorporating the use of animal antibodies to artificially inflate the results… destroying evidence of the falsified data and then lying to an FDA investigator… threatened a virologist in Merck’s vaccine division with jail if he reported the fraud to the FDA.”

• “Merck designed a testing methodology that evaluated its vaccine against a less virulent strain of the mumps virus. After the results failed to yield Merck’s desired efficacy, Merck abandoned the methodology and concealed the study’s findings. [Then] Merck designed even more scientifically flawed methodology, this time incorporating the use of animal antibodies to artificially inflate the results, but it too failed to achieve Merck’s fabricated efficacy rate. Confronted with two failed methodologies, Merck then falsified the test data to guarantee the results it desired. Having achieved the desired, albeit falsified, efficacy threshold, Merck submitted these fraudulent results to the FDA and European Medicines Agency.”

• “Merck took steps to cover up the tracks of its fraudulent testing by destroying evidence of the falsified data and then lying to an FDA investigator… Merck also attempted to buy the silence and cooperation of its staff by offering them financial incentives to follow the direction of Merck personnel overseeing the fraudulent testing process. Merck also threatened… Stephen Krahling, a virologist in Merck’s vaccine division from 1999 to 2001, with jail if he reported fraud to the FDA.”

• “Merck continued to conceal what it knew about the diminished efficacy of its Mumps Vaccine even after significant mumps outbreaks in 2006 and 2009.”

Obama administration has zero interest in actual justice

Another interesting note in all this is that under President Obama, the U.S. Dept. of Justice showed no interest whatsoever in investigating Merck over the False Claims Act filed by two of its former virologists. Despite the convincing evidence of fraud described in detail by insider whistleblowers, the Obama Department of Justice, led by gun-running Attorney General Eric Holder who is already facing serious questions over Operation Fast and Furious, simply chose to ignore the False Claims Act complaint.

When evidence of criminal fraud was brought before the U.S. Department of Justice, in other words, the DoJ looked the other way with a wink and a nod to the medical crimes taking place right under their noses. Who cares if tens of millions of children are being injected year after year with a fraudulent mumps vaccine? There’s money to be made, after all, and exploiting the bodies of little children for profit is just business as usual in a fascist nation dominated by corporate interests.

Pfizer sued by retailers over anticompetitive scheme

Adding to all this, Pfizer has now been sued by five U.S. retailers (pharmacies) who accuse the company of monopolistic market practices. According to the lawsuit, Pfizer conspired to prevent generic versions of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor from entering the market. This was done to protect billions in profits while making sure patients did not have access to more affordable cholesterol drugs. Pfizer sells nearly $10 billion worth of Lipitor each year.

According to the Reuters report on this lawsuit, Pfizer is being accused of

• Obtaining a fraudulent patent

• Engaging in sham litigation

• Entering a price-fixing agreement to delay cheaper generics

• Entering arrangements with pharmacy benefit managers to force retailers to buy more Lipitor (chemical name is atorvastatin calcium)

No arrests or prosecution of Big Pharma executives

One of the most astonishing realizations in all this is that given all the criminal fraud, bribery, misrepresentation, lying to the FDA, price fixing and other crimes that are going on in the pharmaceutical industry, you’d think somebody somewhere might be arrested and charged with a crime, right?

Nope.

To date, not a single pharmaceutical CEO, marketing employee or drug rep has been charged with anything related to all this fraud. In America, drug company employees are “above the law” just like top mafia bosses of a bygone era.

How insane is this, exactly? Consider this:

Imagine if YOU, an individual, went around town bribing doctors, falsifying data, selling a fraudulent product to the government, lying to regulators, engaging in anti-trade price-fixing and threatening your employees into silence. What would happen to you?

You’d probably wind up rotting in prison, the subject of an FBI investigation and a DoJ prosecution.

So why is it okay for a multi-billion-dollar corporation to carry out these same crimes and get away with it? Why are the CEOs of top drug companies given a free pass to commit felony crimes and endless fraud?

I’ll tell you why, and you’re not gonna like the answer: Because America has become a nation run by crooks for the benefit of crooks. It’s one big country club, and as comedian George Carlin used to say, “YOU ain’t in it!”

If Big Pharma would falsify data on vaccines, what else would the industry do?

I hope you’re getting the bigger picture in all this, friends. If these drug companies routinely bribe doctors, falsify data, defraud the government and commit felony crimes without remorse, what else would they be willing to do for profit?

Would they:

• Falsify efficacy data on other prescription drugs?

• Exploit children for deadly vaccine trials?

• Invent fictitious diseases to sell more drugs?

• Unleash bioweapons to cause a profitable pandemic?

• Conspire with the CDC to spread fear to promote vaccinations?

• Silence whistleblowers who try to go public with the truth?

• Give people cancer via stealth viruses in vaccines?

• Destroy the careers of medical scientists who question Big Pharma?

• Force a medical monopoly on the entire U.S. population via socialist health care legislation?

But of course they would. In fact, the industry is doing all those things right now. And if you don’t believe me, just remember that five years ago, no one believed me when I said drug companies were engaged in criminal conspiracies to defraud the nation — something that has now been proven over a nine-year investigation.

via Big Pharma criminality no longer a conspiracy theory: Bribery, fraud, price fixing now a matter of public record.

via Big Pharma criminality no longer a conspiracy theory: Bribery, fraud, price fixing now a matter of public record.

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