All Things Right And Dutiful: A Vet Who Blew The Whistle

Richard Burroughs is no Ralph Nader. A veterinarian for 10 years, he had hoped in 1979 to settle into the quiet life of a bureaucrat upon joining the Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine. But in 1989, Burroughs touched off one of the most heated controversies ever to sweep the CVM.

Assigned a leading role in 1983 in assuring the animal safety of the cow growth hormone called bovine somatotropin (BST), Burroughs was fired six years later--allegedly for incompetence. But he believes he was sacked for publicly criticizing the way the review was conducted. Burroughs, 50, maintains the FDA worked too closely with industry during the process and that Monsanto manipulated test data submitted to the agency in an effort to obscure BST's negative effects on the health of cows. "The project was ill-conceived, thedata were flawed, and the regulatory agencies dropped the ball," he says.On Aug. 2, the federal Merit Systems Protection Board ordered the FDA to reinstate Burroughs, ruling that the agency had not followed formal rules in firing him. In the meantime, the Inspector General's Office and the General Accounting Office, at the request of Congress, have been investigating many of Burroughs' allegations. Their final findings have not yet been released.

Anti-BST activists view Burroughs' reinstatement as vindication. "The good guys won," says John Stauber, a Madison (Wis.) organizer for the Foundation on Economic Trends, a group opposed to BST. The FDA declines to comment except to say that it will comply with the order. Walter P. Hobgood, Monsanto Co.'s director of animal nutrition and health, calls BST "the most studied product in dairy history." He adds: "We have nothing to hide."

      Product             Expected date   Estimated
                             to market *    market
      BOVINE SOMATOTROPIN         1992       $400
      Makes cows give more milk
      PORCINE SOMATOTROPIN    Mid-1990s       500
      Produces leaner pigs
      INSECT-RESISTANT COTTON     1996        200
      VIRUS-RESISTANT TOMATOES    1997         30
      INSECT-RESISTANT CORN       2000        300
      *Earliest expected date of commercialization
      NA=not available
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