Conflicts of Interest in Science
BEMS (BioElectroMagnetic Society) conflict of interest

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Posted:
20 June 2001

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The 'Nub of the Matter' and the BEMS Meeting (guru)..
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 06:16:26 -0500
From: Roy Beavers <guru@emfguru.com>
Reply-To: roy@emfguru.com
Organization: EMF-L List
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
 

........From EMF-L........
 

Hi everybody:

"If we are to solve the EMF enigma, what's needed first and foremost is a breakthrough on how research is funded and who controls the purse strings."
.........Louis Slesin (Editor, MICROWAVE NEWS)
 

That's it!  Pure and simple!  It is not the least bit complicated.   Louis has precisely defined the nub of the EMF problem in the words above, which close his latest editorial in the May/June 2001 issue of Microwave News.....   [MWN editorial link: http://microwavenews.com/m-j01breakthrough.html ]

If we cannot free ourselves from the present system of EMF research funding -- a system that is fraught with conflict of interest in virtually every guise that it can exist -- then we (society) are condemned to blindly drift along ... repeating all the bad experiences we have had with so many other health/environmental issues in the past:  lead, mercury, asbestos, tobacco, etc.......

[To read a dramatic story of conflict of interest in the "Fen-phen" drug scandal -- not far different than the EMF saga -- obtain Alicia Mundy's book: Dispensing with the Truth.]

I saw this unhappy "conflict of interest" cancer that has beset us in EMF research ... starkly demonstrated once again at the recent BEMS (BioElectroMagnetic Society) meeting in Saint Paul, Minnesota, (June 10-14, 2001)......

Conflict of interest has become simply a part of the culture of BEMS.....  The attendees at that Saint Paul meeting (like most EMF science gatherings) are there on some institution's "expense account" auspices.  It may be the government.  It may be private industry.  The omnipotent presence of the "Motorola's of the world" at these meetings is not always as visible as it was in Saint Paul, but they are always there in the background at least.  (As is the United States military.)  The election for the next BEMS president -- in fact -- offered a choice of either Motorola or the National Electrical Grid.....

BEMS, itself, may now be totally funded by "conflict of interest" money, though that is not easy to confirm because their financial statement is not public.  Some of their key staff editorial people clearly are funded by their private industry jobs.  Jobs that clearly present a conflict of interest situation.  One cannot easily avoid the observation that the EMF issue is creating much "profit" and "subsidized travel" to big fancy hotels around the world ... so long as the "EMF Saga" can be strung out indecisively.

Guru says:  It is fair to say that a new 'niche industry' has been spawned -- that of perpetuating and avoiding the harsh realities of the EMF hazard ... rather than exposing it......  And BEMS is at the very nub of that spawning.

The parallel situation is like the often noted contradiction to finding a "cure" for cancer. If we ever really did find such a cure, thousands of vested interests -- those RICH health bureaucracies, "nonprofit" associations, and (of course!!) the drug industry itself -- who may actually thrive more on the "search" for the "cure" than the prevention of the illness -- would be the "losers."

So, it is becoming, in the case of the EMF menace.....  If it were ever to be "proved" that there is -- or is not -- not an EMF menace, a hellofalot of people could be out of work ... or would lose their fancy 'all expenses paid' hotel trips.....  And the very institution which should be exposing that condition ... has become, instead, a major player (indeed, a vested interest) in perpetuating it.....

What concerned me more at the BEMS meeting was the representation I saw in their choice of meeting chairmen at the various sessions, as well as the selection of reports presented.  The entire program reflected a "chummy" community of "scientists" who were all of essentially the same mind:  pursuing their main "common" interest, namely to see that the "EMF/health issue" is quietly ignored -- while,  at the same time, funds continue to flow for the basic research (toxicology) which they all eagerly want to pursue.

The scientific consensus that EMF is, indeed, biologically active has become the impetus for pressing for more research funding.  But that has not extended to a willingness on the part of these "vested interest" scientists to expose the concomitant public health risks.

The importance of that biological activity as a public health risk is what one never hears about at these meetings anymore.  Any sense of urgency on behalf of the public health exposure was totally lacking in Saint Paul.  The need to begin instituting some protective measures on behalf of public health ... is the "elephant in the room" that no one wanted to talk about.  (It smells too!!!)

Few now question the bioeffects thesis.  It is just that (in "their" minds) an open acknowledgment that these now widely accepted bioeffects "may constitute a significant health hazard to the general population" gets in the way of their main goal:  more research money regardless of the source.i.e., -- Regardless of the "compromises" to objective research quality and reporting that must be endured to get the money.

Implicitly, the research community is saying to the government and to the industries affected:  We will not speak of the politically and economically "sensitive" aspects, if you will just give us the money for our research......  (Does anyone else "hear" in that willingness to downplay the "ugly part" a repeat of the behavior of the German scientific community during the Hitler era????)

They do not welcome "reminders" from their (still present, but a shrinking minority of their membership) members who raise uncomfortable questions about the need to institute some 'public protective' action on the basis of what is already known about EMF risks.  People like Dr. Martin Blank, one of their former presidents, or Dr. Kjell Hansson-Mild, also a former president and the researcher who has most recently (and most convincingly) found problems with the cellular phone technology from a public health standpoint.  [An abstract of his paper showing further confirmation of a brain cancer risk was recently posted on EMF-L.]

The vast majority of those in attendance at Saint Paul (which included a number of not fully identified U.S. Government officials from NIH, etc.) were stoically silent about any of the politically "sensitive" hot topics.  Those issues that would force at least a public discussion about the health risks -- indeed, the kind of a discussion that would fulfill science's most basic duty:  to serve mankind.

Instead, their focus was on "don't rock the boat" research and reports that justify more funding without adding to the flames of controversy that swirl around the EMF issue.  Controversy that has served, in fact, to cut off the funding ... rather than promote it.  In part, they "blame" the activists in their group for that.....

Yes, that's right (!), the more that has been learned about the risks of electromagnetic exposure as a consequence of the research of recent years ... the more the flow of funds has been cut-back.....

Everybody seems to acknowledge that.  Ergo, it makes sense to some ... to stop the research which is producing the disquieting results (the epidemiology, for example) and certainly to minimize if not squelch the appearance of such disquieting results at the BEMS Annual Meeting.

Instead, feature, for example, the German electrical industry funded reports -- which came up with negative results that "cleared" the EMF hazard issue for the German industry......  No effect upon melatonin, for example, was found in a "sterile clean electricity" laboratory experiment using a "clean" (no transients or harmonics) sinusoidal EMF magnetic field signal.....

The momentum at the meeting was to keep the atmosphere bland and non controversial.  When someone like Martin Blank rises to raise a "sensitive" question, cut him off.....

Most troubling to this observer, though, was the "cultural value-system acceptance" of the status quo when it comes to funding EMF research.  I saw nothing at the BEMS meeting to suggest that any one "within that culture" would even consider challenging the existing system of government/industry vested interest funding..... Nor is there visible in the BEMS scientific community (excepting Louis Slesin's editorial quoted above) any suggestion that their research is -- in fact -- being compromised by the extent to which they are dependent upon the vested interests for their funding -- just as the vested interests fund most of the cost of their society......

Still, there was much to justify the suggestion that Louis Slesin has planted above. If the science community is content to go "hat in hand" to the conflict of interest funding sources of the past ... and beg for their research dollars, nothing is going to change!!!

The conflict of interest forces which are so deeply entrenched in the EMF community -- and which were so clearly visible at the BEMS meeting -- will continue to deny mankind the objective knowledge that is needed to "solve the EMF enigma."

It is BEMS, itself, that needs to honestly confront that reality ... and ask:  who should BEMS really be serving???

If the answer is "mankind" -- rather than Motorola or General Electric, the U.S Air Force, et al. -- then BEMS, itself, must be willing to change dramatically....... And that change needs to come soon if public confidence in the scientific credibility of BEMS is to be preserved........

Cheerio........

Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
roy@emfguru.com

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.....

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
........Edmund Burke (1729-1797)




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