GMO Safety with Dr. Lorrin Pang (Part 2)
What follows is the second part of a fascinating and informative interview with Dr. Lorrin Pang. Dr. Lorrin Pang is a district health officer in Maui County, Hawaii. He has his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Princeton and an MD in Public Health from Toulane.
NOTE: In the following interview Dr. Lorrin Pang speaks as a private citizen. This is a transcript of a live interview that has been edited to correct for common transcription issues between spoken and written language. Any grammatical errors are the fault of this website.
Q: What about the animal studies that look at the safety of GMOs?
Dr. Lorrin Pang: The animal studies are quite interesting. We do not have human health safety data. We don’t know if it’s safe; we don’t know if it’s harmful. Unknown. Remember that animals are not humans, so sometimes things are toxic in animals and safe in humans and vice versa. I think TGN1412, the one that made those guards go crazy, was shown to be quite safe in animals. At 50 times the dosage.
But the animal studies are called preclinical because they’re done before the human studies. Those studies have shown many, many things. Very disturbing things. This data is cited by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. You can go on their webpage and they have two pages. The second page has the references of all the animal studies.
It’s easier to remember what animal studies have NOT shown. A couple of organs haven’t been shown [to have changes]. All of the rest, gastrointestinal, pancreas, immunity, and subclinical micro, have shown changes.
In animals they were short term, quick feedings, and precancerous changes. What does the industry say about that? Well, low and behold the industry tries to repeat these sometimes. Sometimes it can repeat the findings and sometimes they can’t.
Dr. Irma Kova did one of the unusual studies; perinatal death and birth defects. She could not repeat her study. She couldn’t then, but then she could. My friends, what do you expect from an inconsistent product? I told you, remember, one of the basic principles is to give me a consistent product.
But at the very least, the inability to reproduce animal results shows your product is inconsistent unless the guys are actually lying and making up stuff. Now, what is the theory as to why the product is so inconsistent?
The only people who really pay respect to opinion are the National Academy of Sciences. If they wanted to hear from the FDA for their opinion, the FDA would have sat down with the Institute of Medicine committee. But they were not called to give their opinion.
They have no data. They have an opinion called “substantial equivalence”.
The precautionary principle is the idea that we shouldn’t move forward to release things to the public when we don’t know all the effects. The intended effects and the unintended effects. The toxicity. And if somebody says ‘yeah that sounds acceptable’, do you really believe it? If you really believe them, you surely wouldn’t do it if the product cannot be recalled. And if the product is multiplying because it’s a life form, that’s not really precautionary. But the approach is different for drugs and vaccines. We assume drugs and vaccines are totally ineffective and totally toxic until proven otherwise.
In the early days Monsanto flew out a guy from Kansas. He came to tell us how dumb the precautionary principle was. It’s outdated. It’s stupid. And he actually said now that’s really dumb because nothing is totally safe. You could walk across a street and get hit by a truck. Nothing is totally safe. That’s not what the precautionary principle says. The classic way we use the precautionary principle is cancer/chemotherapy. Your mother has cancer. I have this chemotherapy drug. The drug isn’t totally safe; I know it’s not. But I know the efficacy, the probability it will kill, and I know all the toxicity and the chance it will mess her up.
Weighing the risk and benefits against the alternatives, ‘do nothing’ or another drug, I will move forward. That is the precautionary principle. You will know the efficacy or the probability and you will know the toxicity or the probability. How’s your mother’s kidneys? Okay we can scratch that off.
But her pancreas isn’t so good. You get the idea. So I asked this guy, ‘so if you don’t believe in the precautionary principal, what do you believe in’? He said calculated risk. That is the precautionary principle. So I don’t like them flying out people who put up straw men and say nothing’s perfectly safe and disregard a valuable principle. I would like the FDA and the Institute of Medicine to weigh in on this.
Q: Is the FDA doing its job regarding issues surrounding GMOs?
Dr. Lorrin Pang: To me, based on that principle, without the data of substantial equivalence, the answer is no. But the FDA will tell you they watch very carefully. People are worried about the safety of food. And so we go against standard things like ‘germs’ in the peanut butter. Stuff brought in from 3rd world countries that have parasites or some spores in them.
Yeah, yeah there’s safety in food. The germs, etc.. Okay. But a lot of that is covered under preparation. What about these two big issues? GM crops inherently use a lot of pesticides and combinations of pesticides as well as the GM itself.
So sometimes you look at what the FDA is doing and they’re very obsessive and compulsive about germs coming in. Rat hair in the peanut butter. And you think an agency that is so on top of rat hair and rat poop in the peanut butter, has really got be watching out for us in terms of GMOs.
Why should you trust me, by the way? Because I have no conflict of interest. I hold no stock in the company, for or against. I haven’t written a book and I’m willing to change my opinion if you show me some data.
Q: Please discuss the patenting of GMOs.
Dr. Lorrin Pang: Remember I come from a background in drugs, vaccine and diagnostics. That has patents up the wahoo.
I believe that the person who does work should be rewarded, number one. Number two, the people who work for the government, the regulators, should not be influenced by the people who make money
I had the chance, when I was working on products for Malaria, to take the patent but I couldn’t because I was a government worker. You paid me and I did it. I didn’t take the patent. And it was okay in my day.
When research began to be funded by private industry and instead of the government, now there is a serious conflict of interest.Those who have financial conflict of interest should not enter into the regulatory arena.
There is too much temptation to bias the opinion. I think it’s been shown real clearly, this incestuous relationship between our regulators, especially the FDA and Monsanto. There’s the guys who used to work for Monsanto or who used to work for the FDA, USDA, or Unicef. They’re crossing the lines.
It is true that they are not working for both at the same time, but we have to modify our definition of conflict of interest. If the guy is going to work for them in the future, for a huge amount and gets paid because of his “good behavior” when he was a regulator, that is suspect.
So the patents, to me, mean money. To me, money means conflict of interest. Conflict of interest means the chance to corrupt the regulators. And then you have the regulators themselves saying ‘we do not have the money or the expertise, we turn it over to the industry’. ‘We let them produce the toxicity data’.
Number one, they might fudge things. Number two, they might not do the right studies, especially when they begin to show suspicious things. What do these people say now that the regulators have conflict of interest? I have nothing against patents as long as the people who hold the financial conflict of interest do not enter the regulatory area. And as long as the patent is earned. If the patents are correctly earned, and the rewards are proportionally given, I have nothing against patents.
Q: Talk about publishing as an alternative to seed patenting. What would that look like?
Dr. Lorrin Pang: Yes, well one more thing about patents. Always remember, whoever is on the patent is liable. Now that’s very interesting. If you’re on the patent and you’re making money from the royalties, and something goes wrong, you’re liable. I asked Monsanto a long time ago when we were on speaking terms.
I asked ‘aren’t you afraid of the liability if something goes wrong? You’re on the patent’. They said that in order to use the liability issue you have to show damage and negligence. We’ve shown no negligence because the FDA hasn’t required the safety testing. This is the perfect set-up, the perfect storm. Yeah, there was harm.
Or one day there will be harm to the environment or health, but hey we just followed what the regulator said. They said it was substantially equivalent. Hey! Great setup. Great setup guys. In the old days, remember I’ve never taken a patent in my life, but some of my stuff that I worked on was patented.
I lived on publications. Publications means you get it out. You share it. You’re respected for your publications. And your career is based on how many publications you have; not how many patents you have. But your money nowadays is based on the patents and royalties. And you look at that graph that was in “Time Magazine” near the end of my PP.
When the crossover occurred, it was very strange when the government said ‘we don’t have any money for research, give it to the industries’. The industries automatically patent, they don’t publish. It’s a secret. Why in the world would you publish and you divulge your secret when you could be making money.
But academics live on publications. Now why is that? Because a lot of academics is not patentable. Mathematics doesn’t patent. You get credit like ‘hey you proved a theorem’. We worship you. You get appointments to wherever you want. You give lectures. You get an equivalent of the Noble Prize. But you don’t patent. That’s how it should work and that’s how it could work. So don’t let them tell you ‘oh if you don’t believe in patents you’re naive’.
Q: Just to be clear, if someone published the info, would they be licensed?
The companies make money. So let’s look at how this thing works. We develop a product. I didn’t take the patent. The company made the product, and they sold it. They didn’t get royalties on the patent but they made the product. Also, the process of making the product can be a secret. It’s like a kind of cooking fluke. I made brownies. Did I take the patent on brownies? No.
We all enjoy brownies. But the secret process of making brownies cheaply, quickly, tastier with organic food can be patented. So that’s how we were making it. Now if they actually made it themselves and took the patent, like I said, if they put a lot of effort.
It would be okay with me. They were big, bad companies. The company took the patent. They are not supposed to influence the decision on regulation. If the company appeared when we were regulating for the World Health Organization , and said ‘well I think this is safe’, people would say ‘okay, leave your data here; please leave the room’.. They could give us what data they have. But they would not really divulge to try to influence whether or not we would push forward.
To learn more about GMOs from Dr. Lorrin Pang check-out this video: