Dr. Samuel Epstein is a rare specimen of a dwindling species: a scientist with a conscience. While so many molecular biologist have been swept up by the flood of biotechnology, with its allure of money and world-transforming technology, Dr. Epstein has maintained his scientific objectivity. Against the tide of inflated claims and excessive media hype, he has stood his ground. And his book is a wake-up call, alerting us to the extensively documented health risks of genetically engineered (GE) rBGH milk-and the dangers of a government firmly in the grip of biotech special interests. It is also a wake-up call to the U.S. public who have been misled by the "trust us" assurances of Monsanto and other biotech industries on the safety of GE food, especially in the absence of published scientific evidence.
In the tradition of The Silent Spring by Rachael Carson, Dr. Epstein highlights the very real dangers of genetic engineering. Epstein presents unequivocal evidence linking the consumption of rBGH milk to increased risks of breast, colon, and prostate cancer-and clearly documents the suppression of this crucial data by the FDA, Monsanto, and a roll-over mainstream media, suppression which he characterizes as "white collar crime."
Genetic engineering, or "recombinant DNA technology", is a radical new technology for transferring fragments of DNA, and their associated genetic characteristics, from one species to another. It has been used thus far primarily for agriculture-for the creation, patenting and commercializing of genetically modified living organisms. For example, the splicing of a flounder gene which produces a blood "antifreeze" protein into tomatoes, to render them frost resistant; or creating corn endowed with its own built-in pesticides.
Already, more than 60% of the foods on our grocery store shelves contains genetically modified ingredients-from infant formula to corn chips. None of these foods have been safety tested on humans, and none are labeled. Hence most Americans are eating these foods without knowing it, despite unique
health risks posed by these experimental foods. Some scientists believe this experimental food technology will lead to abundant harvests, and thus help feed our expanding world population.
Others believe genetic engineering is one of the most dangerous technologies ever developed, and if we do not create proper safety guidelines for the release of genetically altered organisms into the fields
and the market, the world's food supply will be irreparably damaged. As a nuclear physicist, I have witnessed first-hand the hasty commercialization of nuclear technologies, technologies that have brought
severe health risks and even threatened mankind with annihilation. I am similarly concerned that the short-term financial interests of a few biotech firms are forcing the hasty commercialization of equally dangerous genetic technologies.
Throughout the world, heated debates on the health and environmental risks of genetically engineered foods are raging. The Canadian government has banned rBGH milk, and the European Union has mandated that all genetically engineered foods be clearly labeled. Yet in the US there has been a near press blackout, with newspapers featuring mainly positive stories about biotechnology and its promise to humanity.
Now, finally, Dr. Epstein breaks the silence, presenting compelling scientific evidence of the dangers of genetically engineered foods, and in particular, of genetically engineered milk (rBGH/BST).
Dr. Samuel Epstein is a renowned scientist and humanitarian, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the Illinois School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and author of some 260 scientific publications and 10 books. He is the leading international scientific authority on the causes and prevention of cancer. He is also the leading critic of the U.S. cancer establishment, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, besides similar establishments worldwide, for their indifference to cancer prevention and fixation on damage control - diagnosis and treatment - and gene therapy, with indifference or even hostility towards cancer prevention.
Epstein's contributions in these areas have been recently recognized by his 1998 Right Livelihood Award (better known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize"), and his 2000 Project Censored Award (better known as the "Alternative Pulitzer Prize" for investigative journalism) for his 1999 publication critiquing the American Cancer Society. In Dr. Epstein's highly commendable scholarly work he provides extensive documentation on the grave health risks of GE milk. He also provides clear, shocking evidence of our government's efforts to cover up evidence of the dangers of GE milk.
In 1989, Dr. Epstein began writing a series of editorials, letters to Congress and federal agencies, and articles in newspapers, press releases, and also held a series of press conferences on the dangers of GE milk. In spite of this evidence, rBGH was approved by the FDA in November, 1983 for injecting cows to boost their milk production. The hormone is now manufactured in Austria, and marketed worldwide by Monsanto, besides other US biotech companies. These biotech companies and the FDA still persist in
their claims that GE is natural and completely safe.
Yet Dr. Epstein's research, published in leading international peer-reviewed scientific journals, has clearly shown that milk from cows injected with rBGH is entirely different, qualitatively and quantitatively,
from natural milk. Moreover, consumption of GE milk increases the risks of breast, colon, prostate, and other cancers in humans. Epstein clearly documents the harmful, carcinogenic effects of this supposedly "natural and safe" GE milk-and the industry's and FDA's attempts to suppress evidence of these life-threatening effects.
Dr. Epstein has faced fierce opposition and vilification from industry for his bold and principled stance on genetic engineering. Monsanto and other biotech corporations have countered with multi-million dollar ad campaigns designed to paint Epstein and other food safety as "radicals." Yet Dr.
Epstein has stood his ground.
Recall that when Rachael Carson wrote her book on the environmental and health risks of DDT in 1962, she was derided as a fanatic by industry and complicit federal agencies. Today, DDT is banned in the US (though American corporations continue to profit by selling DDT abroad). Carson's book helped spark the environmental movement and the awakening of America to the dangers of pesticide abuse, areas in which Dr. Epstein has played a major role. Epstein's 1978 The Politics of Cancer and his 1998 The Politics of Cancer Revisited has similarly galvanized public awareness on the industrial causes of the modern cancer epidemic. Now, in this latest book, Epstein is awakening millions to the dangers of genetic engineering.
As a scientist, I am equally concerned about the unique environmental risks posed by genetic engineering-in particular, the gene pollution that results from breaking down genetic barriers put in place by Nature. Biotechnology produces living organisms that could never have emerged in a natural environment-for example, food crops with insect, bacterial, or viral characteristics. Biotechnologists have embarked on an ambitious, relentless campaign to rewrite the Earth's genetic library. Yet the long-term ecological impact of even one man-made, genetically engineered organism released into the environment have not been the subject of a single study-and are, in fact, incalculable.
Whereas a nuclear disaster releases radioactive pollutants that remain deadly toxic for thousands of years, gene pollution caused by genetic engineering is forever-self-perpetuating and irreversible.
That is why I have called for a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. That is why I have drafted legislation calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing of
genetically engineered foods. This legislation is now making its way through the US Congress under the bold sponsorship of Congressman Denis Kucinich of Ohio and Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
And that is why I helped found the Natural Law Party, a grassroots political movement dedicated to sustainable government-to policies and programs in harmony with natural law. This party has quickly become the fastest growing political party in America, with thousands of citizen candidates (non-politicians and non-lawyers) running for federal, state and local offices, on the ballot in all 50 states.
In 1999, the Natural Law Party supported a nation-wide grass-roots campaign to alert the American public of the dangers of genetically engineered foods and collected over 600,000 signatures protesting the use of rBGH milk and other genetically engineered foods.
In the 2000 US campaign, NLP candidates will run in almost every congressional district. These candidates will challenge their Republican and Democratic incumbents as to where they stand on labeling and safety testing. Do they stand for the people they were elected to represent, who overwhelmingly support labeling and safety testing? Or do they stand for the corporate biotech lobbyists who are bankrolling their campaigns? In this way, I hope, the pressure of public opinion and the need for votes will shame our Congress into responsible action-a Congress that, until now, has been a co-conspirator in the GE food revolution.
Ultimately, the future of America belongs to us, the voters. Because no matter how much biotech financed media hype is thrown at us during a political campaign, ultimately it is we who vote-it is we who choose our elected leadership.
So if Dr. Epstein's astonishing book frustrates and upsets you, as it truly should, then remember-we hold the reigns of authority in this country. We elected our Republican and Democratic government-bought and paid for by special interest groups. And we can de-elect them. It's time we did.
John Hagelin, Ph.D.
President, University of World Peace
Presidential Candidate, Natural Law Party