TIMEBOMB FINAL WEB ENTRY (PART 6): Big Pharma/Big Agri-Link
In a society that values the “quick fix” over a long-term solution, our health habits have become a casualty of our busy lifestyles. When we’re sick manifests, the typical medical standard is to treat our symptoms and dismiss the core problem until the symptoms become tenacious enough to keep surfacing. This superficial treatment of physical symptoms creates a climate within our bodies where a deeper problem can remain in hiding, escalating all the while. Besides the obvious fact that an undiagnosed medical problem can eventually become lethal when it is finally discovered, much of the medication we take regularly is as dangerous as, if not worse than, the food we’re eating. This becomes a cycle that propels itself: We eat food that is not healthy, we take medicine to mask the symptoms, and the medicine’s side effects make us sick. That creates the need for another medication, which then triggers other, new side effects. The only way to break this cycle is to stay healthy in the first place. But how do we stay ahead of all this when it seems like the system works against us? And what or who is at the center of this cycle? Are we trapped in a set of circumstances that is the byproduct of a series of unfortunate events, or is a more nefarious force orchestrating this from the inside out?
It is obvious that eating the wrong foods, or too much food, makes us sick. We will talk more about that in upcoming pages. But for now, let’s examine a connection between our big factory farms, the pharmaceutical industry, and the food conglomerates. Grist author Amelia Urry sums it up best:
Since 1995, 75 percent of federal subsidies have gone to 10 percent of farms, the same consolidated group of commodity crop growers who will continue to eat up a disproportionate share of the subsidy pie under the new system, too.
These payments fund a massive industrialized food system that takes its toll on our land and water, while our diets are full of all that extra corn, from our corn-fed burgers to our Halloween candy—and so are our cars.
Now picture the world we could live in if we subsidized the food that actually feeds people, and feeds local economies all the while. Just think! We could save money on healthcare and spend it paying for things we actually want, like well-managed land, cleaner water, a diversified localized economy, and some fresh, organic sweet corn.[i]
It is no secret that a large percentage of subsidized farming is made up of corn agriculture. Granted, not all corn farmed under subsidies ends up on our grocery shelves, and not every aspect of agricultural subsidization is bad. But consider how many artificial sweeteners are made of corn. And the industry has yet to produce a healthy synthetic sweetener option. What we have then is our tax dollars at work subsidizing the agriculture that’s behind the manufacturing of products that are killing us.
Beyond this, the variety of corn-based sweeteners creates the next level of deception for the consumer. For example, high-fructose corn syrup is the most commonly known of the sweeteners, but others include glucose syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, erythritol, and many others. As I write this, I am holding a package of children’s fruit-flavored snacks featuring a well-loved, popular cartoon character. The front label boasts such selling points as: “Only 80 calories per serving,” “Now with NO artificial flavors,” and “NO calories from artificial sources.”
The ingredients label follows:
Corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, pear juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate. Contains 2% or less of: citric acid, fruit pectin, sodium citrate, malic acid, dextrose, color (vegetable juice, fruit juice, spirulina extract and turmeric extract), potassium citrate, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), sunflower oil, natural flavor, and carnauba wax.
Bear in mind that this product is advertised as a kids’ snack and is not marketed as a candy, and review the ingredients again. The following are synthetic, commonly used ingredients made from corn: corn syrup, modified corn starch, and dextrose. In addition, listings such as “concentrate juice,” “vegetable juice,” and “natural flavor” leaves the product open for additional, unlabeled ingredients to be smuggled into this snack. In trying to find out what is in such products, we find the labeling ambiguous at best.
Understanding that most of these ingredients are stated to comprise less than 2 percent of the product, 98 percent of the product is therefore made up of the first five ingredients. This tells us the snack is mainly comprised of sugar and corn. Some may argue on behalf of nutrition because of the fruit juices included, but that position doesn’t hold water. When fruit juice is made, the fruit is pressed and fibers are removed while the fluids are retained, creating juice. Essentially, this means that the “sugar water” within the fruit is being separated from the rest of its nutrients. While this is a sugar from fruit, it still is not a healthy form of sugar for the body to ingest, because it has been stripped from its necessary co-ingredients, which play key a role in how the body processes sugar from fruit. (This is the essence of why so many debate whether fruit juice is healthy.) So including juice, even at its most nutritious, doesn’t guarantee that the product is healthy or has any nutritional value. On top of this, without a guarantee that artificial sweeteners are not included in this concentrate juice, there’s no certainty that further additional synthetic sweeteners, even excitotoxins, haven’t been added.
This collection of information is meant to show that, as stated before, tax dollars subsidize the corn industry, which is responsible for myriad synthetic ingredients that are toxic or lack nutritional value. Those are then mislabeled and packaged in a way that “appears harmless” (with FDA approval). We then purchase these products and feed them to our children. Nearly 75 percent of modern-day Americans fall into the obese category.[ii] In contrast to the subsidies doled out to industries like corn, sugar, and soy, to name a few, there is little subsidization offered to farmers of fresh fruits and vegetables. Wouldn’t it be much better if we could take a significant percentage of the currently disbursed subsidy money and channel it into agriculture that raises organic fruits and vegetables?
It may seem like I am picking on the corn industry. I am using it only as an example. Many other subsidized agricultural products (soy, for example) are responsible for dangerous synthetic products as well. My goal is not to pick on any one industry; it is to point out the vicious, self-perpetuating cycle that does a disservice to the citizens whose back-breaking labor is at the hub, earning the money that pays the tax dollars that subsidize our own demise.
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The abundance of convenient, fatty, sugary foods available coupled with the continuing economic squeeze many families are enduring mean that consumers are easily lured into a trap wherein healthy foods are replaced with cheaper junk food at the price of health instead of the wallet. School lunches, despite Michelle Obama’s overhaul, still in large part feature processed foods. In addition, food insecurity at home sabotages progress made within the realms of public food service endeavors such as school lunch programs. In an interview regarding children’s responses to healthier options at lunch, one “lunch lady” at a local middle school said:
You can’t do anything about it if they don’t know what healthy food is to begin with. We served pears and the kids thought they were deformed apples. We served deli-style sandwich wraps with alfalfa sprouts inside and the kids threw them away, thinking we had served them some sort of grass burrito. When we served the meatloaf, they thought it was “really gross looking chocolate cake!”
She went on to relate her frustration with how much healthy food was being thrown away. The work it takes to wash, prep, and cut produce requires extra staff and effort at a school kitchen, and cafeteria staff finds it demoralizing to watch the kids scoff at it and throw it away because they’ve never seen anything like it before. So, unfortunately, schools that are more diligent about offering fresh fruits and vegetables find that children whose appetites (or exposure) have not adapted to healthy food simply waste the nutritious food. Further, we can’t forget that processed, fatty, sugary foods are biologically addictive, causing whole foods to lose the competition for our appetites. Efforts toward awareness are now placing emphasis on the individual to make better choices, and this is vital to bringing about change on a large scale. But in settings like our local schools, where children are in large part biologically addicted to processed food and lack the foresight and willpower to care about the long-term ramifications of processed food on their bodies, the people trying to make a change are outnumbered without support from home.
As long as markets that are subsidized continue to produce foods that are cheap, dangerous, and addictive, demand for these items likewise escalates. Healthy foods, which tend to be more expensive because they usually are not subsidized on an agricultural level, become lost in the mix and seem to lack the advantageous, “competitive edge” of the unhealthy food. As this happens, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses begin to t within the population. Manufacturers of these foods are also flourishing—as we see in their high volumes of sales. Industries such as these will not initiate a change that the people don’t want; why would they? This is how the large food conglomerates make their millions. If people continue to purchase their convenience foods, these industries will go right along making them and selling them at high volumes, perpetuating the cycle that (as our interview with the school lunch cafeteria worker shows) begins at home. And as the general population becomes sicker, we become “feeder fish” for the next in line behind the food conglomerates to take our dollars: the pharmaceutical industry. I should mention that though it took a couple of months, my children’s palates have adapted to s healthier diet, and now they love Alaskan salmon, bone-broth stews, sweet potatoes, and a plethora of other healthy foods that have become our go-to nutrition.
The Pharmaceutical Angle
Where does the pharmaceutical industry take us? Back to the FDA. According to Dr. David Graham, associate director for science and medicine in the Office of Drug Safety at FDA, every day that a new drug is awaiting approval represents a $1–2 million loss for its manufacturing agency.[iii] Because of this, the FDA is under intense pressure to get drugs approved quickly. In response, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act was passed in 1992, allowing drug companies to pay the FDA for speedy approval of their products. Sadly, the byproduct of this turn of events is that the agency that is supposed to keep us safe is actually being paid by those who want our money to approve medicines that may have dangerous side effects. This creates a conflict of interests: Under these circumstances, how can the FDA be objective and cautious, keeping human safety at top priority, without funding being compromised?
On this matter, Dr. David Graham said:
The FDA is not able to adequately protect the American public. It’s more interested in protecting the interests of industry. It views industry as its client, and the client is someone whose interest you represent. Unfortunately, that is the way the FDA is currently structured. Within the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research about 80 percent of the resources are geared towards the approval of new drugs and 20 percent is for everything else. Drug safety is about five percent. The “gorilla in the living room” is new drugs and approval. Congress has not only created that structure, they have also worsened that structure through the PDUFA, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, by which drug companies pay money to the FDA so they will review and approve its drug.
About the issue of drug safety, Dr. Graham added:
I’m really not at liberty to talk about things that pertain to my official duties at the FDA. I can talk in my private capacity, but I can’t talk about material that would be confidential. What I can say is that there are a number of other scientists within the FDA who have also worked with drugs that they know are not safe, even though the FDA has approved or allowed them to remain on the market. They face some of the same difficulties that I do. The difference is that either the problem isn’t as serious in terms of the numbers of people that were injured or that it’s a fatal reaction—they’re not willing to expose themselves to retaliation by the FDA—and retaliation would surely follow.
Dr. Graham has worked within the FDA to remove drugs that are not safe, and was even labeled a whistleblower before his Senate testimony in November 2004. Before his testimony, he admitted that he was essentially bullied in an effort to discourage him from testifying (the whole set of circumstances could merit its own chapter). Suffice it to say that within the FDA there are scientists who can attest to the fact that there is a conflict of interests that is compromising people’s safety. Of the FDA, Graham said, “They know that they’ve disserved the American people. The FDA is responsible for 140,000 heart attacks and 60,000 dead Americans.”[iv]
Gwendolyn Leslie Olsen, a fifteen-year former sales rep within the pharmaceutical industry, outlines her experiences in that industry in her book, Confessions of an RX Drug Pusher. She outlines that in the FDA approval process, as few as two studies must show statistical effectiveness. According to Olsen, a drug can fail several times as long as it can manifest the correct results at least twice. On top of this, “less than 50% of the serious adverse reactions to a new drug are identified by the FDA before its release on the market.”[v] Essentially, Olsen explains, because of financial influence and an endless list of drugs awaiting approval, products are rushed through the approval process without thorough testing. The post-marketing, drug-risk assessment conducted after the release of a new medication is abbreviated due to lack of staffing in this department, a scenario that Olsen calls “the largest Phase IV clinical trial population on the planet.”[vi] Even at this, the FDA estimates that, at most, 10 percent of negative side effects are reported. This means that as the populace embraces a new medication, expecting health and relief of symptoms, they are actually being experimented on by an agency that has taken funding for the approval of the medication, letting due diligence slip through the cracks.
Olsen maintains that most physicians she interacted with were well meaning, but they were given biased information about medications in an effort to see the pharmaceuticals prescribed in high volumes. Once out of medical school, educational information, seminars, or other available training was often funded by pharmaceutical companies, creating a further conflict of interests. In 2003, drug companies spent more than $1,500 per year on CME (continuing medical education) for each doctor in the United States.[vii]
Olsen also outlined several types of manipulation the pharmaceutical industry uses against a trusting public to spike its own sales and line its pockets. Some came in the form of public service campaigns or announcements to “raise awareness” about various illnesses and disorders. In these campaigns, viewers are made to doubt their own quality of life, are pointed to a pharmaceutical solution, and are then encouraged to ask their doctor if the product is right for them. In microscopic fine print at the very bottom of the screen or pamphlet, downplayed side effects appear listed as an afterthought. Patients then ask their doctors about the matter out of curiosity born of this new “awareness.” Because the doctor will have recently been introduced to the medication by his pharmaceutical rep, he will respond positively and quite possibly prescribe the product to the patient. By bypassing both the doctor and the need for symptoms and going straight to the patient, prompting their inquiry, the pharmaceutical industry gains high revenue selling meds to patients who may never have even thought to complain about their symptoms.
The worst part about Olsen’s recollection as a pharmaceutical rep was her accounting of the manipulation of medical doctors. According to Olsen, a pharmaceutical representative is to befriend the doctor, to appear to be a professional comrade, and even to become a personal friend. She tells stories of buying meals in private rooms in restaurants, dropping lunch off at offices, delivering gift baskets and holiday gifts, and even sending singing telegrams to gain favorable status with these professionals. She reported that these efforts caused sales to spike so dramatically that her investments were always returned. Many states have introduced legislation that safeguards against these dramatic types of gift-giving, but it nevertheless indicates that the pharmaceutical industry is using every possible method of getting us on their medicine and keeping us on it.
While it is probably true that the FDA is spread too thin to adequately and objectively regulate pharmaceuticals as it should, it seems that there is still an ironic propensity toward taking control over more fields. Even today, as I was preparing to submit the manuscript of the new book (Timebomb) on which this series has been based to the editor, a new article circulated the Internet, stating that the FDA was making plans to “crack down on homeopathic remedies.”[viii] In the article, the reasons cited were that the FDA allegedly had concerns about trusting people who spent their money on what they called “therapies that may bring little to no benefit in combating serious ailments.”[ix] But when putting this picture together, I see ulterior motives. In light of the information outlined so far in this brief series, it would appear that the FDA and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) are constantly on both ends of a system that seems to both create and feed its own problems, leaving the average citizen stuck in the gears. SPECIAL NOTE! THIS 6-PART SERIES WAS ONLY A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE GROUNDBREAKING INFORMATION IN “TIMEBOMB” THAT COULD LITERALLY SAVE YOUR LIFE OR SOMEBODY YOU LOVE! GET THE IMPORTANT GIVEAWAY OFFER NOW!
[i] Urry, Amelia. “Our Crazy Farm Subsidies, Explained.” Grist, 20 April 2015, http://grist.org/food/our-crazy-farm-subsidies-explained/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2017.
[ii] Hyman, Mark. “The Toxic Triad: How Big Food, Big Farming, and Big Pharma Spread Obesity, Diabetes, and Chronic Disease Across the Globe.” Dr. Hyman Online, 2016, http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/10/22/the-toxic-triad-how-big-food-big-farming-and-big-pharma-spread-obesity-diabetes-and-chronic-disease-across-the-globe/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2017.
[iii] Loudon, Manette. “The FDA Exposed: An Interview with Dr. David Graham, the Vioxx Whistleblower.” Natural News, 30 Aug. 2005, https://www.naturalnews.com/011401_Dr_David_Graham_the_FDA.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2017.
[v] Olsen, Gwen. Confessions of an RX Drug Pusher: God’s Call to Loving Arms. iUniverse, Lincoln, NE, 2005. page 114.
[vi] Ibid., page 114.
[vii] Ibid., page 115.
[viii] Brown, Kristen. “The FDA Is Cracking Down on Homeopathic Remedies.” Gizmodo, 18 Dec 2017, https://gizmodo.com/the-fda-is-cracking-down-on-homeopathic-remedies-1821403162?IR=T. Accessed 19 Dec. 2017.