House Members Urge Bst Inquiry Conflict Alleged in Three FDA Officials' Past Work for Monsanto

Article excerpt

Three House members are alleging that there is "strong evidence" that the Food and Drug Administration improperly allowed officials who previously had connections to Monsanto Co. to participate in federal approval of Monsanto's new dairy hormone.

The members of Congress asked the General Accounting Office to investigate whether the three FDA officials were involved in conflicts of interest and whether a fourth FDA official had harassed critics of the hormone within the FDA.

The letter was signed by Reps. David R. Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; George E. Brown Jr., D-Calif., chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; and Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

Sanders said Monday that the members wanted to learn within a month whether the FDA's process that led to approval of the hormone in November is flawed. The hormone in question - bovine somatotropin - induces cows to give about 20 percent more milk when injected.

Many people have questioned whether milk containing the hormone is safe.

"If they determine that the FDA has allowed Monsanto to influence public policy and the way the hormone was approved, then I think the logical conclusion is that a new process must be started," Sanders said.

FDA officials and Monsanto denied that any conflicts of interest had occurred. Jim O'Hara, an FDA spokesman, said that one of three officials with past connections to Monsanto, Deputy Commissioner Michael R. Taylor, already had been cleared of any ethical wrongdoing. …