What does it mean to follow the science? Lessons from IBT Labs

From the civil testimony of toxicologist Phillip S.Smith in a lawsuit against Monsanto for fraud in safety studies used for FDA and EPA certifications.
From the civil testimony of toxicologist Phillip S. Smith in a lawsuit against Monsanto for fraud in safety studies used for FDA and EPA certifications.

Dear Friend and Listener:

Last week on Planet Waves FM, we featured an interview with Peter von Stackelberg (player above), who in the late 1970s was busy covering grain futures for the Regina, Saskatchewan Leader-Post. He heard that there were some pesticides that may have had their registration pulled, and he looked into it.

As a result of that one decision, he broke open one of the strangest, most far-reaching scandals in scientific history — though today few people have heard of it. It involved a total regulatory failure of the FDA and EPA approval process for agricultural chemicals, food and cosmetic additives, industrial chemicals and many others.

The bottom line was that none of the thousands of products on the market — most of them industrial toxins — had valid safety testing, and worse, their fraudulent studies were accepted by the FDA and the EPA. Nearly all of these chemicals are still on the market today, in your food, your soap, your makeup, your car’s interior, your pet products and everything else that produced anywhere but someone’s kitchen.

Faced with the total failure of its safety regulation process, EPA and FDA officials did not act to protect the public. Rather, as they say by their own actions, they joined the marketing departments of companies like Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

As a result, four executives of a company called IBT Labs where charged with fraud by federal prosecutors, and three were convicted (one seemed to have a heart attack during the trial). You can read my summary of those events issue here, co-written with Peter, when we published the resulting document trove. This is one of the great editions of Planet Waves.

Additional Information I Discovered in Civil Suits

Only parts of the IBT Labs scandal came to the attention of the federal court and the public in the 1980s. Researching the record of later civil suits, I acquired documents about the matter that had never entered the criminal trial record or been covered by the press. Based on my reporting, Sierra broke new ground on the story in 1994.

Federal agencies have a self-regulation policy for chemical manufacturers and most other polluters. They pay to do studies, and the studies are accepted as valid — even when they are not. My failure to believe spokesmen for this public-private conglomerate is not about being cynical; rather, it’s about being a historian and document collector.

In one episode that did not get into Sierra, an IBT Labs assistant toxicologist named Philip Smith testified that he personally witnessed Paul Wright — who simultaneously worked for IBT and Monsanto — make up data related to rat mortality “out of his head.” Among other bits we learn that when a rat died, the lab replaced it with a new one, which defeats the purpose of the study.

The questioning attorney was incredulous. He repeated, “Out of his head?” And Wright replied, “Out of his head, yes.” That is to say, concocted and fabricated toxicology data on toxins that the public (and employees of many companies( were regularly exposed to.

Monsanto engaged Industrial Bio-Test Labs of Northbrook, Illinois, to do safety studies on its Aroclor PCB products. Seven years later, IBT Labs would be at the center of one of the most far-reaching scandals in modern science, as thousands of its studies were revealed through EPA and FDA investigations to be fraudulent or grossly inadequate.

Excerpt of my IBT Labs coverage from Sierra

Begin excerpt:

At Westinghouse, another special committee met to discuss the growing PCB crisis. The December 28, 1971, minutes of the meeting (stamped “PROPRIETARY CLASS 1 — DESTROY BY BURNING OR SHREDDING”) acknowledged the problems of PCB accumulation in wildlife, and indicated that PCBs caused reproductive disorders in chickens and birth defects in victims of the Yusho Incident (wherein heat transfer fluid made of PCBs in a rice oil factory in Taiwan leaked into the product, poisoning thousands of people).

Westinghouse also acknowledged that Yusho might have involved dibenzofurans, which are created when PCB oil is heated [and which I now know were contaminants in the brand-new PCB oil out of the factory at the parts per million level; today we measure in parts per trillion].

At this point, the crisis entered its darkest hour. In order to maintain its 1971 position that “PCBs are not and cannot be classified as highly toxic,” Monsanto engaged Industrial Bio-Test Labs of Northbrook, Illinois, to do safety studies on its Aroclor PCB products. Seven years later, IBT Labs would be at the center of one of the most far-reaching scandals in modern science, as thousands of its studies were revealed through EPA and FDA investigations to be fraudulent or grossly inadequate.

One of IBT’s top executives was Dr. Paul Wright, a Monsanto toxicologist who took a job at IBT Labs in part to supervise the PCB tests, and then returned to Monsanto. Wright was eventually convicted of multiple counts of fraud in one of the longest criminal trials in U. S. history – with his legal fees paid by Monsanto.

Two weeks later, Calandra responded: “We will amend our statement in the last paragraph on page 2 of the Aroclor 1254 report to read, ‘does not appear to be carcinogenic’ in place of ‘slightly tumorigenic’ as requested.”

Purifying Carcinogens with the Stroke of a Pen

While fraud on the PCB tests was not raised in the IBT trial, it is strongly suggested by memos and letters that came to light in later civil lawsuits. Several of these show how, at Monsanto’s request, IBT Labs customized its studies. “I think we are surprised (and disappointed?) at the apparent toxicity at the levels studied,” Monsanto’s Elmer Wheeler wrote in March 1970 to IBT president Joseph Calandra. “I doubt that there is any explanation for this but I do think that we might exchange some new thoughts.”

In a letter to IBT Labs two months later commenting on a set of PCB test results, Wheeler wrote, “We would hope that we might find a higher ‘no effect’ level with this sample as compared to the previous work.”

In later years, Monsanto’s requests would become even more blatant. “In two instances, the previous conclusion of ‘slightly tumorigenic’ was changed to ‘non-carcinogenic,'” Monsanto wrote in July 1975. “The latter phrase is preferable. May we request that the Aroclor 1254 report be amended to say ‘does not appear to be carcinogenic.'”

Two weeks later, Calandra responded: “We will amend our statement in the last paragraph on page 2 of the Aroclor 1254 report to read, ‘does not appear to be carcinogenic’ in place of ‘slightly tumorigenic’ as requested.” Testimony about the IBT Labs scandal in a Texas lawsuit against Monsanto indicates that IBT was aware that PCBs caused extremely high numbers of tumors in test rats, with 82 percent developing tumors when fed Aroclor 1254 at 10 parts per million and 100 percent at 100 parts per million. Yet with a stroke of a pen, IBT Labs certified PCBs a noncarcinogen.

Working behind the scenes of such scientific miracles was Paul Wright. In July 1976, after returning to Monsanto, he was given a $1,000 award for “forestalling EPA’s promulgation of unrealistic regulations to limit discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls.” A year later, IBT Labs was found out, and Wright, Calandra, and another IBT exec were eventually convicted of federal fraud charges.

End of excerpt.

Read the full article here, and one sidebar on General Electric, and another sidebar on Westinghouse.

The FDA’s and EPA’s Definition of a Non-Carcinogen

As you can see, that would be when ALL the rats get cancer — as officially certified as acceptable by “Science, Inc.” I did not hear this from someone: I obtained the documents from the records of lawsuits. These fraudulent “tests” were depended upon to maintain the presence these poisons in every hotel, school, office building and electrical pole and substation for decades longer than they should have been. And this was, in total, fine with the FDA and the EPA, which left all of the IBT Labs-tested products on the market and never had retesting done. These products include glyphosate (Roundup) and its as-toxic “inert” ingredients.

If you are wondering why I don’t believe government officials, or take seriously the claims of pharmaceutical companies, what you’ve read above is one reason why — I have seen hundreds of others in the same genre. If you are wondering why I’ve worked so hard to to get to the bottom of “Covid,” now you have a hint. It’s part of the same pattern; the same game.

And if you would like to support this ongoing research and reporting, you are graciously invited. My research process is more sophisticated than ever; I have developed a new network of sources worldwide; and the work goes on. Passionately. Beautifully. And most of all, sincerely.

With love,

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