Six Canadian scientists have blown the whistle on the process by which drugs are approved for use in animals destined for human consumption, and have aired their concerns in a letter to Canadian health minister Allan Rock.

The scientists, who work for the bureau of veterinary drugs, claim that they have been denied the chance for professional promotion because they refuse to ignore safety risks and approve the use of drugs they consider potentially dangerous.

Their advice, they say, is often overruled by bureau head Diane Kirkpatrick. For example, when the scientists voted unanimously to recommend that the carbadox drug used to promote growth and prevent dysentery in pigs be banned due to fears that it leaves a carcinogenic residue in the pig flesh and environment, Kirkpatrick maintained that the drug could be used safely and requested additional information from manufacturers.

They also claim that pharmaceutical companies are given precedence over the need to protect human health, and their letter reads: “The situation . . . looms with disaster for not only the safety but also the security of the Canadian food supply.”

Kirkpatrick stressed: “Their role is to evaluate the data and make the case for the conclusions around the evaluation of that data.” Meanwhile she added: “Every substance known to man is a poison, and the only thing that distinguishes one poison from another is the dose.”
The letter signatories, Chiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, Arnost Vilim, Gerard Lambert, Rajinder Sharma and Sudarshan Malik, are due to appear before the Public Commission Appeal Board this week.

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