19 October 2010


FOR EVERYONE WHO TALKS ABOUT MEDIA COP-OUTS AND COWARDICE — and God knows I have done my share of that over the years, today we should all be honoring two hard-nosed journalists — two modern heroes who lost their jobs while fighting to reveal the truth about “the mystery in the milk,” namely rBGH and rBST. For today, in the State of Ohio, AgriBusiness was delivered a crushing blow when a Federal Appeals Court ruled that BigFood could no longer censor dairy farms and grocery stores who want to label their milk and dairy products as “rBGH or rBST free.”

JANE AKRE AND STEVE WILSON HAVE BEEN HERALDED on these pages many times, long before they appeared in The Corporation or had been written about elsewhere. I met Jane during the early years of the Bush Administration, not long after she and Steve had been summarily fired by Rupert Murdoch's Faux News for refusing to change the facts of their five-part investigation about Monsanto's Posilac, the growth hormone that swept through the dairy chain beginning in the mid-90s.

The infirmity of today’s corporate journalism is reflected by the fact that good reporters — the ones who uncover abuses by government and corporate interests — are few and far between, particularly in television news. Nowhere has this been more frighteningly apparent than the saga of reporters Akre and Wilson, two pros who revealed that rBGH, the synthetic growth hormone found in milk and other dairy products, was potentially harmful to humans.

After repeatedly refusing an order by Fox corporate attorneys to present a story more favorable to corporate advertisers (and
rBGH-patent holder) Monsanto, Akre and Wilson were fired by the network. And though the story should have been a fight about journalistic ethics, the integrity of science and “covering the backsides of one of their own,” no one at NBC, CBS, ABC or even PBS would report the story.

Akre and Wilson, like a lot of high-profile whistleblowers, paid a terrible price.

After they won an early lawsuit against their former employers, a phalanx of Fox corporate attorneys appealed the ruling, sparing no expense in the process. Ultimately, a second judge reversed the award given to these two courageous reporters, and ordered
Akre and Wilson to fork over $400,000 to Fox.

If the truth is to be told, the lack of integrity among many corporate journalists is indeed the real reason why the
rBGH additive exists in the milk supply today. It is also the reason why some estimate that two-thirds of foods on supermarket shelves are laced with genetically enhanced ingredients — without the knowledge of consumers. The media’s lack of attentiveness to public service is also the reason why trans-fats, damned years ago by doctors everywhere, remain in scores of products consumed by millions of children and adults.

The “inside-the-beltway” reporters, perhaps fearing that they would lose precious contacts within the government, have refused to question former FDA second-in-command (and current FDA consultant) Michael R. Taylor about his time at the Department of Agriculture when he helped rBGH slip through the approval process after a mere 90 days of testing on rats, thereby opening the floodgates to a new era of rBGH-laced food. It's even more curious and scandalous because, as I revealed a decade ago, Taylor not only worked for the Dept. of Agriculture and the FDA...but on Monsanto's legal team as well.

After billions of dollars of profits by Big Food and Big Pharma have already been registered, a Federal Appeals Court has finally overturned an Ohio state ban on label statements such as “rbGH Free,” “rbST Free” and “artificial hormone free” on milk from cows that have not been treated with genetically modified bovine growth hormone (a.k.a. bovine somatotropin, or rbST). This “freedom of choice” that was granted by the Federal Court came after years of petitioning by health food stores, organic food suppliers and many others.

But for Akre and Wilson, both who are unemployed, the news came far too late. For these heroes—ten years before their time—the pats on the back will not help them feed their families or pay for much-needed health care. Wilson recently had heart surgery; Akre has yet to find another job in television aside from some freelance work she masterfully performed for me a few years back.

As consumers, will we continue to succumb to this bullying? Will we expose the corporate interests that dominate our news? Will we demand balanced reporting from the networks — and boycott their programming if they do not deliver on that basic tenet?

Just as we boast about our nation delivering the finest health care in the world, we often brag about “the free press” here in the United States. But in the words of Julian Whitaker, M.D., “How can we say we live in a free country when we can’t even tell the truth about nutritional supplements?” — and in the tragic case of
Akre and Wilson, who are still facing bankruptcy — 
“How can we say we live in a free country when we can’t even tell the truth about rBGH?"

It is only through the active support of independent journalists and yes, independent filmmakers who dare to produce work with integrity—despite all of the odds— that we will ever attain “fully informed choice.” We must speak for it, vote for it, spend our heard-earned dollars to support it—or it will wither away.

If we fail to support the truth tellers, the forces of secrecy and money will win — and we will all lose.

Just ask Jane
Akre and Steve Wilson.

Heroes. A dying breed.

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15 October 2010


IT'S ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS LINES EVER WRITTEN, but when Samuel Taylor Coleridge published 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' he could not have envisioned the nightmarish truth to the words "water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

When I was filming my documentary GENERATION RX, I met a British psychiatrist and we talked about the revelation that Prozac had been discovered in the River Thames . . .had entered the water supply and was literally being consumed by millions of Brits.

"Are people in London really THAT depressed?" I asked him, somewhat sheepishly.

"No, no. . .no," was his response while chortling.

As it turns out, however, our conversation was no laughing matter.

Over the past few years, events have proven that the concern over drugs in public rivers and streams are not limited to the UK. In America, the Associated Press (AP) uncovered that “at least 271 millions of pounds” of unused pharmaceuticals are being released by the drug companies in our public waterways annually. Millions more are flushed down the toilet and down the drain, according to environmental watchdogs, including the painkillers ibuprofen and naproxen as well as gemifibrozil, a cholesterol-lowering medication, and further research has shown that drugs containing hormones such as estrogen are causing changes and deformities in fish and other aquatic creatures..and endangering human health.

Make no mistake: we are also the victims of industry, hospitals and nursing homes which are pumping powerful contaminants and intoxicants like lithium into the world's drinking water every single day, which is being mixed in a cesspool of antibiotics, nitroglycerin (a heart drug that is also used in explosives), and dozens of different active pharmaceutical ingredients used for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments.

It's not only bad news for the fish, but for tens of millions of us.

If one refuses to take this threat seriously, they need only look to India, where a growing environmental and public health disaster is looming. When researchers analyzed vials of treated wastewater from a plant where about 90 Indian drug factories dump their residues, they were stunned to discover that a powerful antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, was "being spewed into one stream each day." Enough antibiotics were being released daily "to treat every person in a city of 90,000."

And it’s not just ciprofloxacin. The water — supposedly cleaned by a wastewater filtration plant — was "a floating soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments," according to the AP.

Researchers in India said, "It is the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment," but then again, this level of testing has yet to arrive in North America, where the AP has confirmed that this nightmare is coming to an ocean, stream, lake, or landfill near you.

"One thing is clear,” the AP report warned, “the massive amount of pharmaceuticals being flushed by the health services industry is aggravating an emerging problem: the commonplace presence of. . .pharmaceuticals in the nation's drinking water supplies, affecting at least 46 million Americans."

The AP series follows one by the New York Times last Spring, the BBC last year, the UK's Guardian newspaper and probably countless others. Millions of tons of narcotics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulant drugs and more are being ingested by children, the elderly, and well, ALL of us who do not use some kind of sophisticated water purification system.

Now, that the AP has confirmed that codeine, lithium (used in bipolar drugs), blood thinners, chemotherapy agents like fluorouracil, epilepsy drugs and sedatives are being released into the environment by the ton, North America and the rest of the world had better take notice — and take action to protect themselves. Anyone who does not have access to a powerful water filtration system is playing Russian roulette every time they drink water from the tap.

Indeed, the situation gets darker and far more dangerous every single day. As tons of drugs taint the world's water supply, this issue only underscores the horrors we must confront as petrochemical and other multinationals vie for water privatization — and more power over our health — and our lives.

Kevin P. Miller is an award-winning writer/director. This article was submitted as part of BLOG ACTION DAY 2010. Go to blogactionday.change.org