All Things Right And Dutiful: A Vet Who Blew The WhistleJulia Flynn Siler
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."
MONSANTO'S BET ON BIOTECH Product Expected date Estimated to market * market Millions BOVINE SOMATOTROPIN 1992 $400 Makes cows give more milk PORCINE SOMATOTROPIN Mid-1990s 500 Produces leaner pigs INSECT-RESISTANT COTTON 1996 200 INSECT-RESISTANT POTATOES 1997 NA VIRUS-RESISTANT TOMATOES 1997 30 INSECT-RESISTANT CORN 2000 300 *Earliest expected date of commercialization NA=not available DATA: COMPANY REPORTS, THE AGBIOTECH STOCK LETTER