21 December 2005


THE FIRST LESSON TAUGHT TO young journalists pertains to the power of accuracy and fairness. I developed a great reverence for these tenets at a very early age, as I began to chart my course as a writer.

The job of a journalist is to amass research through investigation, to interview as many people as humanly possible, and to present a balanced examination of facts and viewpoints. Then, as they say, one simply must “let the chips fall where they may,” and let the reader or viewer decide.

When I began producing films about medical freedom of choice, I made a conscious choice that I would follow the age-old advice, "Primum non nocere," or, "first do no harm." I vowed that I would never consciously release any information of an illegitimate nature in any of my films. Falsehoods and exaggerations have a half-life of their own; they are toxic to those who seek the truth; and they can re-surface in a multitude of ways detrimental to the cause of health freedom, from an ambush-styled interview on 60 Minutes to a live embarrassment on the Larry King Show.

Whether I like it or not, my films represent every single person who strives for health-freedom. If I slip up—if I make a mistake, I fail millions of people who rely on me to help them see complicated issues more clearly. It’s an awesome responsibility, and one I do not take lightly.

During the filming for the documentary, WE BECOME SILENT, I became aware of many Web sites and other sources making wildly inaccurate statements about the threat of Codex Alimentarius Commission, a group that is comprised of unelected bureaucrats who supposedly represent international “food safety and trade” under the auspices of the United Nations. One so-called “health freedom” website spread confusion by proclaiming that Codex was “already law,” when of course, Codex Alimentarius is not a law, but a set of guidelines enforced mainly through "free trade" agreements in association with the World Trade Organization and others. Other inaccuracies, fueled by taxpayer dollars, emanated from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), members of Congress, and others who supposedly “represent” the American people.

The statements from the FDA came as no surprise because as my film points out, institutional hypocrisy and bias are endemic at the agency. The FDA has a history of distorting reality in order to protect their cohorts in the drug industry, and millions of us are aware of these patterns. Thus, the coddling pronouncements that Codex presented "no threat to American consumers" were expected, because the FDA has repeatedly sabotaged anything which threatens the preeminence of pharmaceuticals.

More troubling to me, however, were the many inaccuracies emanating from certain vitamin trade associations and so-called “leaders” of the health freedom movement. These radiated from numerous vitamin trade associations who were vital and vibrant members of the coalition who turned back the FDAs attempts to impose unlawful regulations on dietary supplements in the 1990s. These days, many of these associations are protecting their business interests—NOT consumers. Their sins of omission and distortion still exist on the Internet, and they could damage the movement forever if left unchecked.

These falsehoods, just like truth, reverberate in innumerable ways. Just ONE factual mistake can set the health freedom movement back years with an unfriendly media. Just ONE misstated claim can undercut years of dedicated work by health-freedom fighters. One error—and the inaccuracies built upon it—can divide us. As a movement of people who demand more health freedoms — not less — we cannot afford such blatant misrepresentations in our midst. We must demand the kind of integrity that has been sorely lacking in the debate about health freedom: from the media, from the trade associations, and yes, from within the health freedom movement itself.

We must insist that facts, not fear or self-serving hype, constitute the dialog on health freedom issues. THIS must be the common ground upon which we commit to work together. THIS will determine who is friend or foe, a help or a hindrance.

To those who claim to represent the millions of dietary supplement users worldwide, well, we have a message for you:

If you are going to speak for all of us, First Do No Harm. . .

08 December 2005


SECRECY IN MEDICINE is both scandalous and potentially deadly. It is as toxic as Vioxx and as reprehensible as giving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to an expectant mother without informing her that these painkillers can cause miscarriages.

As the Vioxx and Celebrex scandal surfaced, the media leapt into action with sensational headlines and investigations focused on the role of FDA oversight. In a country that portrays itself as delivering “the finest healthcare in the world,” however, is the FDA solely to blame for these failures?

No, there is another powerhouse institution that must be held accountable: the media.

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 no longer welcome in television news. Nowhere has this been more frighteningly apparent than the saga of reporters Jane Akre and Steve 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. Though the story should have been a fight about journalistic ethics, NBC, CBS, and ABC would not report the story.

After Akre and Wilson 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.

Truth be told, the lack of integrity among corporate journalists is the real reason why the rBGH additive exists in the milk supply today. It is also the reason why 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. And yes, the lack of journalistic curiosity is the main reason why we only hear news about nutritional supplements when there is something negative to report.

As consumers, will we 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 healthcare 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 facing bankruptcy — rBGH?

It is only through the fusion of education and action that the wonders of alternative medicine can be appreciated more widely. But we must speak for it, vote for it, and demand openness. Otherwise, the forces of secrecy will win — and we all lose.

Just ask Jane Akre and Steve Wilson.