Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue

In Firing of Fox Reporters


"There are no human or animal safety issues that would prevent approval (of Monsanto's BGH) in Canada once they've completed their review, not that I'm aware of." Those were the words of Robert Collier, Mosanto's chief dairy scientist, in an interview with Fox television investigative reporter Jane Akre in 1997.

That issue was one of the key disputes in the reporting of the BGH saga that led Fox to ultimately fire Akre and this reporter who was assisting her in producing a series of reports about the synthetic hormone. The two veteran journalists say after Fox was pressured by Monsanto, they were ordered to broadcast Collier's claim and to ignore strong evidence to the contrary, including written documentation Canadian lawmakers were concerned about human health implications. They were fired after they refused to do so and threatened to tell the FCC about the station's actions.

According to a Toronto Globe & Mail report Thursday (January 14, 1999), Health Canada has finally decided not to approve the drug after at least eight years of struggle and pressure from the U.S. drugmaker.

The Monsanto Company and its spokesman Gary Barton, who has repeatedly predicted rBGH approval in Canada, did not return a call for comment to The BGH Bulletin.

"Fox and its attorneys insisted that we report Monsanto's claims that there were no safety issues of concern to Canadians even though our own investigation showed that was not so," said Jane Akre who (with this reporter) is pressing a lawsuit against Fox. "We believe that allowing Monsanto to, in effect, lie on the air without presenting the truth as we knew it would have been a violation of journalistic ethics as well as federal law that says you can't use the public airways to mislead your viewers."

The Fox journalists were not opposed to allowing Monsanto to state whatever position it wanted but insisted they had an obligation to refute what they knew to be false statements. They wanted to present Collier's statement followed by this:

But long-term human safety is exactly the concern expressed by a Canadian House committee on Health. Here are the minutes of a 1995 meeting where members voted to ask Canada's Health minister to try and keep BGH off the market for at least two more years. Why? "…to allow members of Parliament to further examine the human health implications" of the drug.

Fox lawyers refused to allow the journalists to tell viewers anything about any evidence which showed Canadian government officials were concerned about the safety of BGH.


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