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Monsanto verdict: A broader view

On Aug. 11, a jury unanimously found that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, when used as intended, caused Dwayne Johnson’s terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Pivotal to the jury’s verdict was the determination that by clear and convincing evidence, Monsanto, its officers, directors and agents acted with malice (intent to cause injury) or oppression (despicable conduct), finding liability in favor of Johnson.

The EPA refused to cooperate in this trial on the grounds that it was “… not in the interest of the EPA” and attempted to undermine the plaintiff’s legal defense with carefully timed “leaked” documents serving Monsanto’s interest. Ultimately, Monsanto’s undoing came from its own scientists, internal documents, emails and strategy reports. With this verdict, consumers now understand that exposure to glyphosate is a potential threat to the public’s health. There is glyphosate in food, infant formula, breast milk, and recently discovered in the gelatin used in some childhood and adult vaccines.

Local citizens, concerned about the safety and integrity of our food and our soil, followed this trial closely. Jackson County voted to ban genetically modified organisms from our region in 2014 knowing that the fight for safe sustainable farming and safe food go hand in hand. Twelve years ago, concerns were raised about the safety of milk produced from cows treated with rBST due to its potential to initiate cancer. This led to the successful effort to persuade Darigold’s Medford plant to purchase milk from dairies that did not use this Monsanto product.

The Monsanto verdict provides a broader view of the peril consumers face when regulatory agencies are captured by the industries they are charged to regulate; where conflicts of interest abound and the revolving door never stops spinning between industry and agency. Entrenched policy often takes preference over independent vs. industry-conducted studies.

Is it reasonable to ask if other regulatory agencies such as the FDA and CDC have been captured like the EPA? Drug industry influences permeate the FDA and CDC, fueling the growing skepticism and distrust in these agencies which is at the heart of the vaccine safety controversy.

Two years ago, the Varsity Theater, after receiving hundreds of requests, screened the documentary “Vaxxed,” detailing alleged fraud at the CDC concerning the MMR vaccine. Merck is soon to be tried over alleged fraud and falsified MMR efficacy data pertaining to the mumps component.

Robert Kennedy Jr., part of Dwayne Johnson’s legal team, recently won an admission out of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA and CDC, regarding their failure to produce over 30 years of vaccine safety reports to Congress as required by the 1986 Vaccine Act. In a vaccine-injury hearing, testimony was blocked by the CDC because it would not promote “the objectives of CDC or HHS.” This is the crux of the problem — what are the objectives of the CDC and HHS? Drug safety has been effectively neutered by a drug industry which over the past 25 years has been fined over $35 billion for fraud, misleading claims, and failing to disclose known risks. Parents concerned about vaccine safety shouldn’t be expected to ignore this fact.

The Vaccine Act shields vaccine manufacturers from accountability. Merck, unlike Monsanto, is no longer liable, no longer accountable for its vaccines and the injuries they cause — a classic moral hazard.

Vaccine-injured children cannot get their day before a real court with due process safeguards of the civil justice system such as discovery of Merck’s internal, confidential documents and emails. It is this discovery process that is denied those injured by vaccines. The vaccine-injured are denied the legal ability to depose former CDC head Julie Gerberding, now heading Merck’s vaccine division. It is this power to gather evidence that won the day for Dwayne Johnson. The Vaccine Court is broken, as reported by an Associated Press investigation; the vaccine–injured are often treated like criminals in front of an inquisitorial tribunal.

The Monsantos of the world must prove chemicals safe, not burden the public to prove harm.

For vaccines, there are systemic inconvenient truths that must be acknowledged, not swept under the rug. Southern Oregon parents did not create the problems at the federal level, but must make critical informed decisions with that awareness. The climate for exercising informed consent has worsened since the passage of the Vaccine Act. Congress is unlikely to act because of excessive drug company influence (money). Parents must exercise their best judgment in how to keep their children safe.

Michael Framson lives in Medford.

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