On NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO's program "Morning Edition," Wednesday, May 17, 2000, journalist Rebecca Perl examined the links between the science and food industries. She interviewed various representatives of these industries but gave center stage to Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Here are Dr. Barnard's remarks:
"The egg industry, the dairy industry, the meat industry, the olive oil industry -- they are all there. They've got money. And their biggest allies and best allies are scientists."
"We've seen studies with the egg industry where they have found results showing that if you have the occasional egg it doesn't really raise your cholesterol to any substantial degree. And that's true if you're following a typical fatty American diet -- an egg here, an egg there. What's the real difference? But on the other hand, if you take a person who isn't consuming a huge load of fat and cholesterol, those eggs really do affect your cholesterol."
"I think it's reasonable for industry to fund studies. They have the money. Why not plug it into some research to test whether or not their foods help or hurt. The problem is that there is tremendous pressure on a researcher to come up with industry friendly findings. If you don't, you're never going to get re-funded."
"The press release will usually say who paid for it (the study). But once it's reported on radio, on television, that may get lost. And what's remembered in the mind of the viewer, of the listener, of the reader, sometimes, is just what bottom line industry wanted you to have, and that it plugged in its PR machine to get into your mind."
Besides actually paying for studies, Barnard said industry "can also put you on a paid advisory board. It can pay for you to give a special lecture. It can send you on a nice trip. It can give you a consulting fee. And the bigger the industry, the more of these they do. And they go right to the top."
Ms. Perl ended the segment with coverage of Robert Cohen of the Dairy Education Board. She said that he confronted members of the advisory committee "armed with what he considered some damning connections between industry and members of the committee, that some were associated with the dairy industry in one way or another as lecturers, on advisory boards and through grants."
We heard from Dr. Cohen, "All connections to the dairy industry. What's going on here? First part I want to tell you that we're not pleased about these conflicts of interests. I sat with the vice president of the United States and with Senator Barbara Boxer, and we're all not pleased. Can't you come up with a committee that doesn't have these conflicts?"
Perl's signoff remark was, "And this routine leaves one wondering: When the new dietary guidelines are announced later this month, will they reflect the best food science possible or has the science been tainted by business as usual?"
Please thank Rebecca Perl and Morning Edition (on behalf of millions of vegetarians in this country) for covering this important issue and for letting us hear from Dr. Neal Barnard. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.