Global Censorship of Health Information
By Jonathan W. Emord
In 1993, two authors named Pearson and Shaw contacted Jonathan Emord, who was then vice-president of the Cato Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research foundation in Washington, DC. They wanted Emord to represent them in a legal battle involving First Amendment rights against the FDA. Their claim was that the FDA did not have the right to censor scientifically backed claims on supplement labels. All parties involved understood that this was going to be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Pearson and Shaw considered the challenge worth the effort. They knew that if we don’t have freedom of speech, we don’t have freedom.
Not very long after this meeting, Emord was visited by a senior member of the Food and Drug bar, who had impressive credentials and more than four decades of experience. He told Emord that pursuing such a case could not possibly end well and would destroy Emord’s career. Emord was impressed, but not in the way intended. If his case really didn’t stand a chance, there was no need for this pompous, high-ranking legal expert to waste his time paying him a “courtesy call” when he could just as easily watch the train-wreck from afar. Emord was more determined than ever to move forward.
The case became known as Pearson vs. Shalala. It was brought before the DC Circuit Court and that court ruled in favor of Emord, Pearson and Shaw. So much for the predictions of the pompous expert.
The story, however, did not end there. In fact, what followed is what I would consider the most revealing aspect of the book. About a year after their court victory, Emord was told emphatically by the FDA Chief Counsel’s office that “the FDA will never abide by the Pearson decision.” Well, there it is. The FDA officially considers itself above the law and the Constitution. It deems any court decision against it as irrelevant. The censorship continues. Combine this hubris with the FDA’s recently stated position that citizens have no right to consume or feed their children any particular food and no right to freedom of contract and we have an instructive window into the mindset of the FDA.
The FDA justifies this censorship in the usual way—claiming they need to protect us from false statements. They know well how to play the safety card over and over. Safety is a mind-control catchword used to relieve the weak-minded of their freedom.
Emord gives us a first rate history of the development of the First Amendment from its European roots to the adoption of the U. S. Constitution. He provides extensive quotes from George Mason, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others. The debate over adding the Bill of Rights was not so much about whether Americans should be allowed to have those rights but that they were already implicit in the Constitution. The First Amendment went beyond any previous historical precedent in granting full freedom of speech. The federal government was restricted from any type of censorship. The wiser men in the debate understood that such freedom would quickly be lost if not strongly protected. They were quickly proven right when the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed and the First Amendment was already infringed.
Emord wraps up by suggesting we solve this problem with more litigation, legislation, and dismantling of corrupt power structures. I especially like the last method. On the legislation option, Emord doesn’t discuss this but I would say that any legislation needs to have some serious fangs. There is no reason to think the FDA will respect new laws any more than the old ones. As Emord clearly demonstrated, court reprimands have no effect. Serious jail time is appropriate for high-ranking FDA officials who think they are above the law. Of course they should be humanely incarcerated and given a diet they are comfortable with; say a good, FDA-approved, soy-based menu. Be that as it may, if we dismantle corrupt power structures we won’t have to worry about the FDA any more.
This book gets a big THUMBS UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2010.