Two Reporters Fired By Fox News for Exposing Monsanto!
2 FOX News Reporters Fired for Covering Monsanto’s Cancer-Causing GMO Milk.
Hoax or Fact:
Mixture of hoax and facts.
These messages, also along with a video (shown in this article) have been in wide circulation in media and internet, and talk about an incident when two Fox News reporters were fired for covering Monsanto’s Cancer-causing GMO Milk. Today, we will analyze the facts about this controversy in detail.
Backdrop of Incident
Former couple Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were hired as investigative journalists by Fox News in 1996, working at WTVT, a Fox television station in Tampa, Florida. Wilson was a veteran of tabloid television shows and Akre was a former WTSP-Ch.10 reporter, and they started to work on a story about the use of Posilac (better known as bovine growth hormone, or BGH), a hormone manufactured by Monsanto Company. Their investigations suggested that the milk coming from the Cows injected with BGH hormone is adulterated and can be harmful for human consumption.
Controversial News Report
From their findings, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre prepared a four-part news series on BGH (also called rBGH, i.e. recombinant bovine growth hormone), which was scheduled to start on 24 February 1997. The report was going to expose Monsanto's lies to the world, showing how the milk from treated cows was also linked to Cancer.
Few days before the show was to air, Fox News received two threatening fax letters from Monsanto's lawyer asking to avoid airing their controversial content. Monsanto mentioned that the investigative reporters were biased and that their story would damage the company. Upon this, Wilson and Jane claimed that their station’s general manager, David Boylan asked them to make changes to the final report, rewriting it with the help from lawyers - 83 times. The couple also claimed that the manager tried to bribe them, and later, the Fox station eventually ran a neutered report on rBGH. As a result of all this controversy, Wilson and Jane said they were fired from office for no reason.
After they were fired from their jobs, Wilson and Jane sued the Fox station, basing their case on Florida whistle-blower laws. However, the WTVT station argued that the reporters submitted a biased & inaccurate report and they were terminated because of their refusal to make the necessary changes to their report. According to sptimes.com, a Tampa jury ruled in 2000 that WTVT retaliated against Jane Akre and awarded her $425,000, but they did not believe the couple's claim that the Fox News station bowed to pressure from Monsanto to change the news report. Moreover, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals reversed this ruling in 2003, arguing that Jane’s retaliation allegation did not hold water.
About Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, formally known as Posilac) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) is made in a lab using genetic technology. It has been used in the United States since it was approved by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 1993, but because of human health implications, its use is not permitted in the European Union, Canada, and few other countries. Health Canada conclusions about the growth hormone were different from the FDA's. As shown in the video, Dr. Shiv Chopra, a Health Canada Scientist said that he personally believed that there was some secrecy/conspiracy about the drugs and they scientists were pressurized to pass drugs of questionable safety, including the rBST.
Monsanto and FDA Tests
Monsanto performed a 90-day rat oral toxicity study to fulfill a requirement of the European Union (EU) for rBGH approval. For approval, U.S. FDA required a pivotal study from the drug sponsors that included oral administration of rBGH to rats for 28 days at 100 times the daily dose administered to dairy cattle. FDA did not find any biological absorption issues in humans.
The possible health effects in humans consuming milk produced using recombinant bovine growth hormone rBGH are categorized into 2 main issues.
- Does it increase the blood levels of growth hormone or IGF-1 in consumers? And if it does, will it have any adverse health effects in people, including increasing the risk of cancers of breast, prostate and others?
- Cows treated with rBGH tend to increase the cases of Mastitis (udder infections), and are given more antibiotics, raising questions if it leads to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whether this may be a health concern for people.
According to an article on Cancer.org discussing these issues about rBGH, bovine growth hormone levels in milk from rBGH-treated cows are not significantly higher, and BGH is not active in humans. So even if it is absorbed by humans drinking milk, it is not expected to cause health effects. More of concern, however, is that the milk has higher levels of IGF-1 hormone that generally helps some types of cells to grow. As of this writing, it is not clear whether drinking milk produced with or without rBGH treatment increases blood IGF-1 levels to a point that is associated to cancer risk or other health effects. Nonetheless, many studies have shown adverse effects on cows, including reactions at injection site, foot problems and higher rates of mastitis. The same was found by FDA examinations.
FDA approved the controversial BGH hormone manufactured by the Monsanto Corp. in 1993 because it can increase milk production by as much as a third when injected in cows. Many scientists raised concerns about the safety of milk thus produced and some Florida grocers even requested farmers not to use it. As a result, the demand for the product has decreased significantly and many large grocery stores no longer carry the milk. According to a survey conducted by United States Department of Agriculture in 2007, less than 1 in 5 cows (17%) were being injected with rBGH.
Coming to the case of two reporters Jane Akre & Steve Wilson who got fired by Fox News, during the trial, the station WTVT argued that the FCC’s news distortion policy is more of a thumb rule than a codified law, and that the case does not come under the purview of the whistleblower statute. So it appears like the freedom of the press was not used in the right spirit by Fox News station. The reporters, on the other hand, have received numerous awards for their ethics and courage, including the Goldman environmental prize, which is considered as Green Nobel.