Monday 19 April 2010

Shearing the genes and fleecing the consumer.

1. Roundup time.

Roundup (glyphosate) is an effective herbicide that we are assured breaks down in the soil when plants die. OK, but what happens to glyphosate in plants that do not die?

Glyphosate is sprayed over growing crops and taken up by both weeds (that die) and ‘Roundup Ready’ Canola (that doesn’t). It remains stored in plant tissue, including (one presumes) seeds, where I again presume, it persists to be still present in the oil we consume.

So, unless someone can convince me glyphosate is harmless to humans whose cells share a high number of components with plants, I will not be buying any GE canola product and remain very suspicious of anything Monsanto has to say on the subject.

2. A wee problem with prostate testing.

Today on RN I listened to an eminent researcher talking about a campaign to launch a national prostate screening program in the US. It is known that prostate screening produces a high percentage of false positives, resulting in unnecessary surgery and on balance, it is better that diagnosis be symptom driven.

Following radical prostate surgery, about 40% of patients remain incontinent, requiring them to wear diapers. So, who is putting up the money to pay for the dodgy promotion campaign?

You guessed it, a leading American diaper company!

3. Patenting Mt Everest.

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first to reach the summit and so should have been entitled to patent the mountain peak and then charge fees for every subsequent climber, images of the mountain, or use of it in any way.

Silly? No sillier than the patenting of BRCA 1 and 2 genes (markers for breast cancer in women). That claim is being challenged in some countries on the grounds that description does not constitute invention.

However, Australia recognizes the patent, virtually halting BRCA research in this country.

Three examples of corporate ethics-free zones. Outrageous!


  1. Horrifying and depressing and all too common. Reminds me of the influence of pharmaceutical companies. My sister-in-law is studying medicine and in the first year the students all went to a conference. The pharmaceutical companies gave each student hundreds of dollars worth of equipment (including a stethoscope). Unbelievable. She took it because she is a poor student, and who could blame her. They shouldn't be allowed to give such expensive gifts in the first place.

  2. Precisely Gabrielle, and have you noticed the brand names scattered over your GP's desk; pens, paper clip bins, mouse pads? At least your sister-in-law's stethoscope was probably accuarate, not like the prostate screening program promoted by 'Diapers R Us'!

    One day when I feel really brave I will do a post on breast cancer. Notice the dearth of prevention research? Not economically attractive I'm afraid, when so much money can be made selling expensive and complicated surgical and chemical intervention!


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