1998-04-02 Monsanto and Fox TV Unite to Suppress Journalists’ Free Speech on Hazards of Genetically Engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST)
Little Marais, Minnesota
On April 2, 1998, two award-winning Florida TV producers, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, held press conferences in Tampa and Tallahassee to announce a lawsuit against a Fox TV network television station, WTVT. The reporters sued Fox for firing them after they refused to broadcast false reports about Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST).
Akre and Wilson were fired after a year-long battle over a TV news feature series they produced which highlighted the public health dangers of Monsanto’s rBGH (increased antibiotic residues, increased levels of a potent human growth hormone factor called IGF-1, linked to the promotion of cancer tumors). Shortly before the original TV series was to run, an attorney from Monsanto contacted Fox TV and demanded that the script be altered.
The station gave in to Monsanto’s demands and told Akre and Wilson to rewrite and tone down the script. One year and 73 rewrites later Monsanto still wasn’t satisfied and Akre and Wilson were fired. rBGH was approved by the FDA in February, 1994, with no labeling or special pre-market safety testing required, despite massive opposition by consumers and dairy farmers, and over the objections of scientific experts from the Consumers Union, the Cancer Prevention Coalition, and other organizations.
At the April 2 press conference, Jane Akre emphasized that the public has a right to know the truth about the health hazards of rBGH, despite the strongarm tactics of Monsanto:
“Every parent and every consumer has the right to know what they’re pouring on their children’s morning cereal. We set out to tell Florida consumers the truth about a giant chemical company and a powerful dairy lobby. That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for. As we’ve learned the hard way, it’s something you can be fired for these days…”
As reported by Jeanette Batz in the St. Louis newsweekly, Riverfront Times, David Boylan, WTVT station manager, was blunt in demanding that Akre and Wilson tell the story about rBGH the way Monsanto wanted it told. “We (the Fox TV network) paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.” So much for freedom of the press in the era of Corporate Power. Full details of the lawsuit and the BGH story are available at: http://www.foxBGHsuit.com
Published in In Motion Magazine, April 28, 1998
Ronnie Cummins is National Director of the Pure Food Campaign (PFC), a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to building a healthy, safe, and sustainable system of food production and consumption in the U.S. and the world. The PFC’s primary strategy is to help build a national and international consumer/farmer/ labor/progressive retailer boycott of genetically engineered and chemically contaminated foods and crops.