Welcome to the revolving door of biotech

Remember the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus that was always blamed for whether it was the construction of big dams or the logging of forests? Well, with the passage of time and the changing requirements of the market, the 'contractor' in this chain has now been replaced by the industry/science. We have always been saying that politicians all over the world, and without exception, have lost touch with the masses and represent only the industry. In fact, so powerful is the nexus now that the definition of democracy also has undergone a perceptible change. Abraham Lincoln must be turning in his grave to find that democracy is no longer of the people, by the people and for the people. The new definition of democracy reads: "democracy is of the industry, by the industry and for the industry." The report below has been compiled by Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN), a small but formidable network in the UK. It tells you how the industry and the the policy makers have been switching jobs. Aptly termed as 'the revolving door', the report will leave you wondering as to how the industry and the politicians literally work hand in gloves. In other words, what are the democratically-elected representatives and leaders upto. -------------------------

WELCOME TO THE REVOLVING DOOR In this month's Ecologist, the political nomination of the month goes to Linda Fisher, nominated by the White House for the second-ranking job at the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Ecologist notes that Fisher is head of Monsanto's Washington lobbying office. This, in fact, is just the latest spin of Washington's famous revolving door. Prior to doing Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto, Fisher worked at the EPA. It is a reminder of just how seamless Washington's corporate-state machinery is The "revolving door" - the interplay of personnel that assists the industrial alignment of public service and regulatory authorities - has led to key figures at both the US's FDA and EPA having held important positions at Monsanto, or else doing so shortly after their biotech related regulatory work for the government agency. An article in The Ecologist's famous 'Monsanto Files' by Jennifer Ferrara, 'Revolving Doors: Monsanto and the Regulators', looked in detail at this issue. As an instance, Ferrara noted the FDA's approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered cattle drug rBGH which failed to gain approval in either Europe or Canada despite intense lobbying and accusations of malpractice: "Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for policy, wrote the FDA's rBGH labelling guidelines. The guidelines, announced in February 1994, virtually prohibited dairy corporations from making any real distinction between products produced with and without rBGH. To keep rBGH-milk from being "stigmatized" in the marketplace, the FDA announced that labels on non-rBGH products must state that there is no difference between rBGH and the naturally occurring hormone. In March 1994, Taylor was publicly exposed as a former lawyer for the Monsanto corporation for seven years. While working for Monsanto, Taylor had prepared a memo for the company as to whether or not it would be constitutional for states to erect labelling laws concerning rBGH dairy products. In other words. Taylor helped Monsanto figure out whether or not the corporation could sue states or companies that wanted to tell the public that their products were free of Monsanto's drug. Taylor wasn't the only FDA official involved in rBGI-1 policy who had worked for Monsanto. Margaret Miller, deputy director of the FDA's Office of New Animal Drugs was a former Monsanto research scientist who had worked on Monsanto's rBGH safety studies up until 1989. Suzanne Sechen was a primary reviewer for rBGH in the Office of New Animal Drugs between 1988 and 1990. Before coming to the FDA, she had done research for several Monsanto-funded rBGH studies as a graduate student at Cornell University. Her professor was one of Monsanto's university consultants and a known rBGH promoter. Remarkably. the GAO determined in a 1994 investigation that these officials' former association with the Monsanto corporation did not pose a conflict of interest. But for those concerned about the health and environmental hazards of genetic engineering, the revolving door between the biotechnology industry and federal regulating agencies is a serious cause for concern.":