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Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 12:48:35 -0500
From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Shiv Chopra article and press release
Capital City Vol. 1, Issue 13, July 16-22, 1998
FEDS SHUT SCIENTIST DOWN
Biotechnology: Health Canada expert Shiv Chopra was set to speak about
food safety at a local community meeting until the government said no way
By Stephanie Power
Adding to a climate of uncertainty around genetic engineering of foods, the
government scientist who was supposed to speak at a recent public meeting
on the issue was told by Health Canada to bow out or face the consequences.
Dr. Shiv Chopra was told July 13 that he couldn't speak at "What are We
Eating? An Introduction to Genetic Engineering and Your Food" scheduled for
that night at the YM-YWCA on Argyle.
Chopra was given written notice from his director, Dr. André Lachance, that
he could face "disciplinary action" if he appeared at the event sponsored
by Ottawa's Public Working Group on Food Concerns and the Rural Advancement
Chopra's name had appeared among a list of speakers advertised around
Ottawa prior to the meeting. Lachance wrote that Chopra had not been given
permission to speak and could be placing himself in an awkward position if
he expressed opinions that differed from the department's.
And underneath what may appear as a run of the mill public service
regulation, lies a recent history of public dissent from Chopra and other
scientists at Health Canada who claim public safety is being jeopardized by
a department whose puppet strings are being controlled by large biotech
corporations and their tasty grants.
That was Dr. Chopra's message when he appeared with fellow Health Canada
scientist Dr. Margaret Haydon on Canada AM, June 11. They stated that
Health Canada administrators were disregarding scientists' recommendations
to withhold approval for drugs, thus endangering public safety.
When asked why there was pressure to approve drugs so quickly, Chopra told
the reporter "Well, what do you think? Money. For multinational companies
that produce those things."
Chopra received an official reprimand from Health Canada for appearing on
Canada AM and is reticent to speak on the record now, for fear of further
But scientist Dr. Richard Wolfson, one of the meeting's organizers, calls
the action by Health Canada a "gag order."
"He's not able to tell the public what he knows as an expert because Health
Canada says he can't speak in public except if he gets what he says cleared
ahead of time, so that they know that he's not saying anything outside of
the party line, " says Wolfson.
Robert Joubert, Health Canada's Director General of Human Resources, says
if the department had been approached for a speaker, they would have found
someone who could present information on genetic engineering in a
"knowledgeable, fair and unbiased fashion."
"It's Health Canada's decision who is going to speak for Health Canada We
are of the opinion that Dr. Chopra was not the best person to do that,"
But at the July 13 meeting, Wolfson's announcement that Chopra had been
ordered not to appear, inflamed the anxiousness of a crowd already
concerned that information about what they and their families are eating is
being kept from them.
About 65 people attended the meeting organized by Wolfson and Carleton
Political Economy student Lucy Sharratt. The discussion centred on the
concern that the long term health effects of genetically altered plants
have not been tested sufficiently and that genetically altered foods are
not labeled in Canadian stores.
Wolfson says he contacted Chopra once the meeting was organized to ask him
to speak, because Chopra is knowledgeable about the testing regulations at
Health Canada and because "he cares more about public safety than
protecting his job.".
Chopra is one of the authors of a Health Canada report on the hazards of
the Bovine Growth Hormone intended for use as a milk production stimulant.
This local scenario is unfolding amid a growing international movement
against the genetic engineering of food, which has seen Prince Charles
speak publicly about how we should not attempt to play god by crossing
Wolfson says he too is concerned that the long term effects of genetically
altered foods aren't known and aren't being tested. Labels, he says, at
least act as a warning to those who want to avoid the risk.
"When you label it, it means people can choose whether or not they want to
eat it," says Wolfson.
"Our main position is, it should be tested before it's put on the shelf and
it should be labeled so people can choose, otherwise, we're all, in effect
guinea pigs in an experiment and we're not even allowed to decide whether
we want to participate."
CONSUMERS RIGHT TO KNOW CAMPAIGN
500 Wilbrod Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N2
July 25, 1998
Update regarding Dr. Shiv Chopra Scientific Evaluator for Health Canada
You may recall that on July 13, Dr. Shiv Chopra received a gag order from
his department preventing him from speaking at a public information session
that evening, on the topic of genetically engineered food.
On Friday July 24, Dr. Chopra filed a grievance with Health Canada, asking
that this restriction to his freedom of speech be removed. The grievance
also requested that the reprimand that he received earlier for expressing
his views in the media about the safety of products coming on the market be
Health Canada has 25 days to respond to this grievance. If they do not
respond in that time, the case may be taken to the federal courts.
Other recent developments
Several Health Canada scientists, including Dr. Chopra, authored an
internal Health Canada report about the human safety hazards of genetically
engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), which is injected into cows to
increase milk production.
A subcommittee of the Canadian Senate, which is investigating human safety
issues resulting from administration of rBGH to cows, recently requested a
copy of this report from Health Canada management. However, the Senate has
been refused a copy of this report. Under the circumstances, the Senate is
considering to subpoena the report in September upon their return from the
In the meantime, pressure has been applied to get rBGH approved in Canada,
ignoring internal recommendations by scientists in Health Canada not to
approve the hormone
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
Subscription fee to genetic engineering news is $35 for 12 months
See website for details.
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