Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pharmaceutical Companies Put A Muzzle On Animal Scientists

You may have heard that in recent years, due to public outcry, a growing number of medical schools around the U.S. have introduced rules that will aid in the policing of their faculty’s ties to pharmaceutical companies, but unfortunately, agriculture schools are not following suit.  As this article points out…

“Agriculture schools increasingly depend on the (pharmaceutical) industry for research grants, a sizable portion of which cover overhead and administrative costs. And many professors now add to their personal bank accounts by working for the companies as consultants and speakers. More than two-thirds of animal scientists reported in a 2005 survey that they had received money from industry in the previous five years.”

In fact, professors at research universities are often forced to do research that will provide grant money for the university, rather than research they would like to do or even see the need for.  In addition, when professors at an agricultural research university take on corporate-sponsored studies for a pharmaceutical company, they are required to sign a confidentiality agreement which prohibits them from publishing or sharing any unfavorable results. Of course, unfavorable means anything that will not increase their chances of getting their drugs into our food system.

In the article, Allen Williams, a former professor of animal science, shares how a pharmaceutical company stopped him from presenting his finding in a study he did on the company’s pregnancy test for dairy cows.  The company gave Dr. Williams a grant to test the product in order to win government approval to put it on the market.  When William’s study found that the test did not work, his department head told him not to present the findings.  William’s argued that he should be able to present the findings, since he worked for a public university that was financed by taxpayers.  To his surprise, the argument fell on deaf ears.

Although Dr. Williams may have been surprised by this, savvy farmers and consumers shouldn’t be. The incestuous relationship between Big Pharma and research universities has been a huge contributor to the corruption and false information coming out of our modern food and medical systems over the past two decades, and it must be stopped!  But as more and more universities rely on private funding for research, it’s become increasingly clear that the interests of true animal science and drug company profits are at odds.  The only way to initiate real change will be to vote with our dollars.  As the demand for healthy, organically produced food continues to grow, so will the funding for research that seeks to improve the health of animals and consumers.  In the meantime, I remain skeptical of research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.