A Lack Of 'Freedom
Of Information'

By Robert Cohen

Is this column too hot to handle?
On Saturday, February 7, 2004, the mailman delivered a pleasant surprise. A large manila envelope stamped with $1.42 worth of postage provided fascinating reading. Proving that some news is great news, I was astonished to learn that my efforts have helped to launch an official government criminal investigation against Monsanto.
That news may prove to be a godsend, but my own pessimistic prediction is that presidential election year politics will ultimately sweep this crime under the rug. Monsanto is fortunate to play the game well by having two allies in their vest pocket, President George Bush and presidential wannabee John Kerry.
Monsanto is America's most dangerous criminal. History will judge them to be mass murderers. From Agent Orange to NutraPoison, to Dioxins and PCBs, Monsanto has introduced many horrible chemicals into our food supply and environment. History will also reveal that George Bush was elected by a key vote from one Supreme Court Justice who also served as their attorney (Clarence Thomas).
History will also expose that the George Bush cabinet was filled with employees and friends of Monsanto,from Cheney to Ashcroft to Rumsfeld (sounds like an inept double play trio from the old Washington Senators baseball team). Two other from our Monsanto hall of shame include Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman (who was on the board of directors of Biogen, purchased from Monsanto), and FDA's boss Tommy Thomson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Thompson was Monsanto's bed partner as governor of Wisconsin, investing over $300 million of state funds to promote biotechnology.
On February 1st, 2004, I received a partial reply to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, made in December, 2003.
I learned that Monsanto had contaminated batches of their genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (Posilac) with Staphlococcus, Propionibacterium acnes, and Bacillus pumilus during the manufacturing process. The report indicated that Monsanto may have distributed bacteria-contaminated product to the market. See:
Yesterday (February 7, 2004), I received a denial from FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services for the most important part of my original FOIA request.
I had sought details of Monsanto's errors. Here is what I received from America's government agency:
"We have already released certain materials to you and are denying the remainder of your request."
The reason given:
"The authority for denying you access to the non-disclosable material...records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes when disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."
FDA cites Code # 5.68:
"We may withhold information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with prospective or ongoing law enforcement proceedings. Investigations of fraud and mismanagement, employee misconduct... may fall within this category. In certain cases--such as when a fraud investigation is likely--we may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records that relate to the violations in order not to disclose that an investigation is in progress, or may be conducted."
In other words, FDA is investigating Monsanto for crimes against humankind. I have very little hope that the right thing will be done. My expectations are based upon that long history between Monsanto and senior-most people in our givernment. This is not just about George Bush. It was Bill Clinton who praised Monsanto in a State-of-the-Union address, and enacted the economic espionage act (public law #104-294) making it illegal for me to share with you a damning scientific study that I still have in my possession. I would go to jail for 15 years if I did so, and receive a fine of $1 million.
It would be naive of me to think that FDA has the power to buck the warriors in America's White House. To do the right thing today is to commit political suicide. So grab a shovel, and while you're at it... call the rug cleaner.
Robert Cohen
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