Nutrapoison Part One
by Alex Constantine
"I recognized my two selves: a crusading idealist
and a cold, granitic believer in the law of the jungle.
Edgar Monsanto Queeny, Monsanto chairman, 1943-63,
"The Spirit of Enterprise", 1934."
The FDA is ever mindful to refer to aspartame, widely known as NutraSweet, as a "food additive" never a "drug." A "drug" on the label of a Diet Coke might discourage the consumer. And because aspartame is classified a food additive, adverse reactions are not reported to a federal agency, nor is continued safety monitoring required by law.1 NutraSweet is a non-nutritive sweetener. The brand name is misnomer. Try Non-NutraSweet.
Food additives seldom cause brain lesions, headaches, mood alterations, skin polyps, blindness, brain tumors, insomnia and depression, or erode intelligence and short-term memory. Aspartame, according to some of the most capable scientists in the country, does. In 1991 the National Institutes of Health, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, published a bibliography, "Adverse Effects of Aspartame", listing not less than 167 reasons to avoid it.2
Aspartame is an rDNA derivative, a combination of two amino acids (long supplied by a pair of Maryland biotechnology firms: Genex Corp. of Rockville and Purification Engineering in Baltimore.)3 The Pentagon once listed it in an inventory of prospective biochemical warfare weapons submitted to Congress.4 But instead of poisoning enemy populations, the "food additive" is currently marketed as a sweetening agent in some 1200 food products.
In light of the chemo-warfare implications, the pasts of G.D. Searle and aspartame are ominous. Established in 1888 on the north side of Chicago, G.D. Searle has long been a fixture of the medical establishment. The company manufactures everything from prescription drugs to nuclear imaging optical equipment.5
Directors of G.D. Searle include such geopolitical heavy-hitters as Andre M. de Staercke, Reagan's ambassador to Belgium and Reuben Richards, an executive vice president at Citibank. Also Arthur Wood, the retired CEO of Sears, Roebuck & C disgorged by the clan of General Robert E. Wood, wartime chairman of the America First Committee.6 America Firsters, organized by native Nazis cloaked as isolationists, were quietly financed by the likes of Sullivan & Cromwell's Allen Dulles and Edwin Webster of Kidder, Peabody.7
Until the acquisition by Monsanto in 1985, the firm's chairman was William L. Searle, a Harvard graduate, Naval reservist and a grim irony in view of aspartame's adverse effects an officer in the Army Chemical Corps in the early 1950s, when the same division tested LSD on groups of human subjects in concert with the CIA.8 The chief of the Chemical Warfare Division at this time was Dr. Laurence Laird Layton, whose son Larry was convicted for the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan at Jonestown ("Come to the pavilion! What a legacy! "). Jonestown, of course, bore a remarkable likeness to a concentration camp, and kept a full store of pharmaceutical drugs. (The Jonestown pharmacy was stocked with a variety of behavior control drugs: qualudes, valium, morphine, demerol and 11,000 doses of thorazine a better supply, in fact, than the Guyanese government's own, not to mention a surfeit of cyanide.9)
Dr. Layton was married to the daughter of Hugo Phillip, a German banker and stockbroker representing the likes of Siemens & Halske, the makers of cyanide for the Final Solution, and I.G. Farben, the manufacturer of a lethal nerve gas put to the same purpose.10 Dr. Layton, a Quaker, developed a form of purified uranium used to set off the Manhattan Project's first self-sustaining chain reaction at the University of Chicago in 1942 by his wife's German-born Uncle, Dr. James Franck. At Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, Dr. Layton concentrated his efforts, as did I.G. Farben, on the development of nerve gasses.11
Dr. Layton later defended his participation in the Army's chemical warfare section: "You can blow people to bits with bombs, you can shoot them with shells, you can atomize them with atomic bombs, but the same people think there's something terrible about poisoning the air and letting people breath it. Anything having to do with gas warfare, chemical warfare, has this taint of horror on it, even if you only make people vomit."12
Nazis and chemical warfare are recurring themes in the aspartame story. Currently, the chief patent holder of the sweetener is the Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis. In 1967, Monsanto entered into a joint venture with I.G. Farbenfabriken, the aforementioned financial core of the Hitler regime and the key supplier of poison gas to the Nazi racial extermination program. After the Holocaust, the German chemical firm joined with American counterparts in the development of chemical warfare agents and founded the "Chemagrow Corporation" in Kansas City, Missouri, a front that employed German and American specialists on behalf of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps.13
Dr. Otto Bayer, I.G.'s research director, had a binding relationship with Monsanto chemists.14 In the post-war period, Dr. Bayer developed and tested chemical warfare agents with Dr. Gerhard Schrader, the Nazi concocter of Tabun, the preferred nerve gas of the SS. Schrader was also an organophosphate pioneer, and tested the poison on populated areas of West Germany under the guise of killing insects.15 Schrader's experiments reek suspiciously of the ongoing aerial application of malathion developed by Dr. Schrader, a recruit of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service when Germany surrendered in present-day Southern Califonia.16
Another bridge to I.G. Farben was Monsanto's acquisition of American Viscose, long owned by the England's Courtauld family. As early as 1928, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a report critical of the Courtauld's ties to I.G. Farben and the Nazi party.17 Incredibly, George Courtauld was handed an appointment as director of personnel for England's Special Operations Executive, the wartime intelligence service, in 1940.18 A year later, with the exhaustion of British military financial reserves, American Viscose, worth $120 million was put on the block in New York. The desperate British treasury received less than half that amount from the sale, brokered by Siegmund Warburg, among others. 19 Monsanto acquired the company in 1949.20
The Nazi connection to Monsanto crops up again on the board of directors with John Reed, a former crony of "Putzi" Hanfstangl, a Harvard-bred emigre to Germany who talked Hitler out of committing suicide in 1924 and contributed to the financing of "Mein Kampf". 21 Reed is also chairman of Citibank and long a confederate of the CIA. According to a lawsuit filed by San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli, Reed was an instigator, with Ronald Reagan, James Baker and Margaret Thatcher, of the "Purple Ink Document," a plan to finance CIA covert operations with wartime Japanese gold stolen from a buried Philippine hoard.22
Other covert military connections to Monsanto include Dr. Charles Allen Thomas, chairman of the Monsanto Board, 1965[?]. Dr. Thomas directed a group of scientists during WW Il in the refinement of plutonium for use in the atomic bomb. In the postwar period Monsanto operated Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratories for the Manhattan Project.23 (Manhattan gestated with the Oak Ridge Institute for Nuclear Studies, where Lethal doses of radiation were tested on 200 unwary cancer patients, turning them into "nuclear calibration devices" gratis the AEC and NASA, until 1974. 24) Nazi scientists and a 7,000 ton stockpile of uranium were delivered to the Project by its security and counter-intelligence director, Col. Boris Pash, a G2 designate to the CIA's Bloodstone program-and the "eminence grise" of PB/7, a clandestine Nazi unit that, according to State Department records, conducted a regimen of political assassinations and kidnappings in Europe and the Eastern bloc.25
Monsanto Director William Ruckelshaus was an acting director of the FBI under Richard Nixon, a period in the Bureau's history marred by COINTELPRO outrages, including assassinations. Nixon subsequently appointed Ruckelshaus to the position of EPA director, a nagging irony given his ties to industry (Browning Ferris and Cummins Engine Co.). CIA counterintelligentsia on the Monsanto board include Stansfield Turner, a former Director of Central Intelligence, and Earle H. Harbison, an Agency information specialist for nineteen years.
Harbison is also a director of Merrill Lynch, and thus raises the spectre of CIA drug dealing. ln 1984 President Ronald Reagan's Commission on Organized Crime concluded that Merrill Lynch employed couriers "observed transferring enormous amounts of cash through investment houses and banks in New York City to Italy and Switzerland. Tens of millions of dollars in heroin sales in this country were transferred over seas." Merrill Lynch invested the drug proceeds in the New bullion market before making the offshore transfers. 26
As might be expected in view of Monsanto's Nazi, chemical warfare and CIA ties, NutraSweet is a can of worms unprecedented in the American food industry. The history of the product is laden with flawed and fabricated research findings and, when necessary to further the product along, blatant lies the basis of FDA approval and the incredulity of independent medical researchers.
Senator Metzenbaum described the FDA as "the handmaiden" of the drug industry in 1985, but she comports under all regimes. In the Clinton administration for example, Mike Taylor was graced with the position of deputy director of the FDA. Taylor is a cousin of Tipper Gore, Vice President Albert Gore's wife, and once an outside counsel to Monsanto. (Gore voted with Senate conservatives in 1985 against aspartame labelling.)
Under the tutelage of the Clinton administration, one Chicago reporter quipped, the FDA strictly enforces one "unwritten" violation of law failure to bribe.
G.D. Sear!e, the pharmaceutical firm that introduced NutraSweet, worked symbiotically with federal and congressional officials, bribed investigators when violations of law were exposed, "anything" to move aspartame to market. As far back as 1969, an internal Searle "strategy memo" concluded the company must obtain FDA approval to outpace firms competing for the artificial sweetener market. Another memo in December 1970 urged that FDA officials were to be "brought into a subconscious spirit of participation" with Searle.27 To that end, with enormous profits at stake, the pharmaceutical house set out on a long struggle to transform the Pentagon's biochemical warfare agent into "the taste Mother Nature intended."
The official story is that aspartame was discovered in 1966 by a scientist developing an ulcer drug (not a "food additive"). Supposedly he discovered, upon carelessly licking his fingers that they tasted sweet. Thus was the chemicals industry blessed with a successor to saccharine, the coal-tar derivative that foundered eight years later under the pressure of cancer concerns.
Aspartame found early opposition in consumer attorney James Turner, author of "The Chemical Feast" and a former Nader's Raider. At his own expense, Turner fought approval for ten years, basing his argument on aspartame's potential side effects, particularly on children. His concern was shared by Dr. John Olney, Professor of neuropathology and psychiatry at Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Olney found that aspartame, combined with MSG seasoning, increased the odds of brain damage in children.
Other studies have found that children are especially vulnerable to its toxic effects, a measure of the relation between consumption and body weight. The FDA determined in 1981, when the sweetener was approved, that the maximum projected intake of Aspartame is 50 milligrams a day per kilogram of body weight. A child of 66 pounds would consume about 23 milligrams by imbibing four cans of Diet Coke. The child might also conceivably down an aspartame-flavored snack or two, nearing the FDA's projected maximum daily intake.29 Dr. William Partridge, a professor of neuroendocrine regulation at MIT, told "Common Cause" in August 1984 that it wouldn't be surprising if a child "confronted with aspartame contained in iced tea chocolate milk, milk shakes, chocolate pudding pie, Jello, ice cream and numerous other products" consumed 50 milligrams per kilogram in a day.
Internally, aspartame breaks down into its constituent amino acids and methanol, which degrades into formaldehyde. The FDA announced in 1984 that "no evidence" has been found to establish that the methanol byproduct reaches toxic levels, claiming that "many fruit juices contain higher levels of the natural compound."30 But the "Medical World News" had already reported in 1978 that the methanol content of aspartame is 1,000 times greater than most foods under FDA control.31
NutraSweet, the "good stuff" of sentimental adverts, is a truly insidious product. According to independent trials, aspartame intake is shown by animal studies to alter brain chemicals affecting behavior. Aspartame's effects on the brain led Richard Wurtman, an MIT neuroscientist, to the discovery, as recorded in "The New England Journal of Medicine" (No. 309, 1983), that the sweetener defeats its purpose as a diet aid, since high doses may instill a craving for calorie-laden carbohydrates. One of his pilot studies found that the NutraSweet-carbohydrate combination increases the "sweetener's effect on brain composition." Searle officials denigrated Wurtman's findings, but the American Cancer Society has since confirmed the irony after tracking 80,000 women for six years that "among women who gained weight, artificial sweetener users gained more than those who didn't use the products," as reported in "Medical Self-Care" (387). (Since his battle with G.D. Searle, Wurtman founded Interneuron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the producer of a sports drink that enhances athletic performance, and a weight loss drug marketed in over 40 countries. Wurtman's share of the company, established in 1989, was worth $10 million by 1992. 32
Even more daunting are the findings of Dr. Paul Spiers, a neuropsychologist at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, that aspartame use can depress intelligence. For this reason, he selected experimental subjects with a history of consuming it but unaware that they might be suffering ill effects. The subjects were given NutraSweet in capsules of the FDA's allowable limit. Spiers was alarmed to discover that they developed "cognitive deficits." One of the tests required recall of square patterns and alphabetical sequences, becoming increasingly more difficult. The test is challenging, but most people improve as they learn how it is done. The aspartame users, however, did not improve. "Some frankly showed a reverse pattern," said Spiers."33
Aspartame has been shown to erode short-term memory. At the May, 1985 hearings on NutraSweet, Louisiana Senator Russell Long related a bizarre anecdote: SENATOR LONG: I have received a letter recently from a person who is well known to me and whose word is impeccable, as far as I am concerned. This person told me that she had been dieting and she had been using diet drinks with aspartame in it. She said she found her memory was going. She seemed to be completely losing her memory. When she would meet people whom she knew intimately, she could not recall what their name was, or even who they were. She could not recall a good bit of that which was going on about her to the extent that she was afraid she was losing her mind. . . In due course, someone suggested that it might be this NutraSweet, so she stopped using it and her memory came back and her mind was restored. Senator Howard Metzenbaum replied that he had received "a number of letters from doctors reporting similar developments. . . There have been hundreds of incidents of people who have suffered loss of memory, headaches, dizziness, and other neurological symptoms which they feel are related to aspartame."34 Senator Orrin Hatch, a hidebound archconservative and NutraSweet advocate, downplayed criticism of the sugar substitute. "Some people have lost their memory after drinking a variety of things," he argued. "The bottom line is this: The studies supporting aspartame's approval have been examined and reexamined. More than enough sound, valid studies exist to demonstrate aspartame's safety."
Hatch of Utah, reports the "Wall Street Journal", has "given his strong support of the pharmaceutical industries."35 So have the "Hatchlings." David Kessler, FDA Commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton, was once an aide to Orrin Hatch. Hatch's former campaign manager and aide, C. McClain Haddow, was sentenced to prison for conflict-of-interest charges arising from his work as a Reagan administration health official. And Thomas Parry, Hatch's former chief of staff, has carved a sumptuous life for himself as a Republican fund-raiser and lobbyist with clients in the pharmaceutical industry. All told, Parry represents 30 clients, including Eli Lilly, Warner-Lambert, and Johnson & Johnson, not to mention ranking defense firms and the Bahamas government. Parry's pharmaceutical clients have enriched Senator Hatch's campaign coffers, and in turn Hatch lavishes his attentions on them.
By the time Orrin Hatch was stumping for NutraSweet in the U.S. Senate, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta had received 600 letters complaining of NutraSweet's adverse effects. The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) had them too. "There have been hundreds of reports from around the country suggesting a possible relationship between their consumption of NutraSweet and subsequent symptoms including headaches, aberrational behavior, slurred speech, etc." FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, appointed by Ronald Reagan in April, 1981 (moving the "New York Times" to observe that "some industry officials consider Dr. Hayes more sympathetic to their viewpoints than past holders of the office"), considered such complaints "anecdotal."
Of course, like scores of other conservatives roaming the executive branch in the 1980s, the ethics of Arthur Hull Hayes were entirely malleable not only did he approve a product based on studies that were "scientifically lacking in design and execution," according to a report issued by "Science Times" in February 1985, but upon leaving the FDA he took the post of senior medical consultant for Burson-Marsteller, the public relations firm retained by G.D. Searle.37
Burson-Marsteller, a huge public relations conglomerate, swelled in the 1980s by leveraging smaller competitors including Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelley, a lobbying firm best known for influence peddling along the Beltway presently outsizing even the Hill & Knowlton empire. Typical in the aspartame story are Burson-Marsteller's links to the intelligence community and rightwing operatives of the GOP. Thomas Devereaux Bell, Jr., an executive officer of the firm, is the former chairman of the Center for naval Analysis in Alexandria, Virginia. Bell was also the executive director of Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Ball Committee (in which capacity he ushered in the likes of Licio Gelli, head of P2, the notorious Italian secret society). Bell's career in Washington began in 1971 as a deputy director of Richard Nixon's Committee to ReElect the President. He went on to serve as an administrative aide to Senator William Brock and the Reagan transition team.38
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