For additional information on Bayer SEE: Coalition against BAYER Dangers: CBG
BAYER BUYS BERKELEY from Z Magazine, January 1992
In all the local media reports of the need for haste by the City of Berkeley to finalize its negotiations with Miles Cutter Laboratories for a 30 year development agreement, very little has been said about the parent organization, the giant German pharmaceutical company, Bayer AG. Bayer (the phonetic spelling of the German pronunciation is Buy-er) reported worldwide sales of $23.3 billion in 1989. Aside from their famous trademark name for aspirin, Bayer is probably best known as the “inventor” of heroin, which they originally promoted as a cough suppressant for children, and the development of methadone, which they called Dolophine after Adolf Hitler. Not many people are aware, however, of Bayer’s complicity in World War II in the sale of Zyclon B gas, used to murder 12,000,000 concentration camp inmates (including 6,000,000 Jews), or of Bayer’s use of camp inmates to conduct lethal medical “experiments.”
Although Miles Cutter is frequently described as a homegrown Berkeley company, “located in Berkeley since 1903,” actually Bayer acquired the Indiana-based Miles corporation in 1978, at which time it was merged with Bayer’s Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley. The headquarters of Miles Cutter is still located in Elkhart, Indiana. According to news accounts at the time of the acquisition, Bayer was eager to get back into the American market, since almost all of its subsidiaries were confiscated during World War II. Even the Bayer aspirin trademark was relinquished to another company and Bayer never regained the rights to it in the U.S.
However, to anyone who has attended any of the (very few) public discussions held by the Berkeley City Council regarding the proposed expansion, it is clear that real control of the company lies in Germany. Miles Cutter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bayer AG, and the company stock is not traded on an American exchange. Who actually runs Miles Cutter is significant, since much of the opposition to the company is based on Bayer’s history of involvement with right wing regimes, their long record of participation in chemical warfare, their dubious history of falsifying research for products they’re promoting, their extensive use of animals for painful research, and the reported strong opposition to Bayer by environmental groups in Germany and elsewhere.
Hermann Stenger, the chair of Bayer AG, complains in a 1991 issue of Financial Times that developments in genetic engineering have “run into well-organized opposition from ‘green citizen groups’,” that has led to a virtual legislative ban on new processes which use biotechnology. This, he says, despite the company’s attempt to break down people’s fears by holding Hello Neighbor! evenings, complete with entertainment to draw in the crowds. As a result, Stenger foresees “more biotechnology research being driven away from Germany to the U.S.” because “Americans are more pragmatic about these issues.” Indeed, according to a union representative, testifying at a Berkeley Planning Commission hearing, “Miles and Bayer decided that this facility was going to become the worldwide center of their biotechnology.”
Bayer And Berkeley
The Berkeley City Council has been more than receptive to Bayer’s plans, and has voted to speed up the usual timelines for the citizen review process, so much so that many believe the City is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which has established timelines for review of environmental impacts. The Council held only one hearing on the development on December 3, after most of the negotiations with Miles had been completed. Prior to the Council hearing, there had been a number of hearings before boards and commissions, which had been attended only sporadically by Council members. One week after their only hearing, the council voted unanimously to adopt the development agreement.
The City Council clearly feared losing one of Berkeley’s largest employers, and a significant source of taxes (Miles paid 1.4 percent of the City’s business tax in 1990), in the event that Miles carried out its threat to pull out of Berkeley entirely if the development was not approved by the December deadline. That and the lure of new jobs, increased tax revenues, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to a variety of programs that will accompany the development, made acceptance of the agreement irresistible to city officials.
Neighborhood residents and environmentalists have expressed alarm about a number of issues relating to the plan for the giant Miles installation, which would cover three city blocks and rise to a height of 80 feet. For one thing, the company is disposing of small amounts of radioactive waste directly into Berkeley’s sewer system. Of even greater concern, is the $1.7 million contract Miles has with the Defense Department to make 2.6 million doses of bubonic plague vaccine every year. The production of this vaccine was kept a secret from the local community until the information was leaked last year by an employee, after several workers barely escaped contamination from the plague bacilli. Miles Cutter had $9.7 million in military contracts in 1987-88, according to the Defense Department’s list of Prime Contract Awards, but they have not disclosed the nature of their other contracts.
Although Cutter has been manufacturing the plague vaccine since 1944, it had not occurred to the company to plan emergency response measures in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. This omission from the EIR is particularly of concern since the site is located in some areas on saturated sand and gravel, and has all the conditions necessary for liquefaction in the event of a major quake. The EIR also notes that there is no known effective treatment for some of the viruses being used by Miles Cutter, but the company declines to stop using them, on the grounds that to do so is not “practical.”
Almost no one in Berkeley, with the exception of neighborhood activists like Laurie Bright, has questioned what exactly the Defense Dept. is doing with 2.6 million doses of plague vaccine every year. In an attempt to find an answer to that question, I read through the voluminous file at Oakland’s Data Center on biological and chemical warfare. Although Miles claims that the vaccine is for defensive purposes, many biologists, such as MIT’s Jonathan King, believe that “there is no feasible defense against biological attack.” He says, “Vaccination can’t work because the variety of attack agents is too large,” and further, that “offensive and defensive research is indistinguishable. To make a vaccine, you must first make the pathogen the vaccine will defend against. Further blurring offense and defense is the fact that the first step in launching a biological attack would be to inoculate one’s own troops against the agent thus the presence of a vaccine in a war zone would amount to an offensive threat.” Reading through the final EIR, I found a news clipping which mentions that “Federal inspectors from Rockville. Maryland, did a routine inspection of Cutter in December on the assumption that plague vaccine made in Berkeley would be used in the Gulf War.”
According to Dr. Barbara Rosenthal of Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, the clock on the Biological Weapons Convention, which banned the development or stockpiling of biological weapons, runs out in 1991. Until President Nixon renounced the use of chemical or biological warfare in 1969, and the U.S. signed the Weapons Convention in 1972, the biggest center for the development of biological warfare agents (including bubonic plague) was Ft. Derrick, Maryland. However, in 1989, a San Francisco Examiner article reassuringly quotes Col. David Hudson, currently the commander of Ft. Detrick: “Read my lips - we have no biological weapons. We develop vaccines, oxides, drugs, and antitoxins.”
Under the Reagan administration, funding for biological weapons grew by leaps and bounds, increasing from $15 million in 1981 to $90 million in 1986. Some of this interest may have been attributable to reported evidence that the Soviet Union was engaged in biological warfare research. According to a Defense Dept. report, in 1979 there was an accidental release of anthrax spores from the Sverdolvsk Biological Warfare Facility. The same report indicated that initial disinfection and decontamination procedures were largely ineffective, and hundreds of Soviet citizens in the surrounding area died as a result of anthrax inhalation. The incident was described by Dr. Barry Erlick, a biological weapons analyst for the U.S. Army, speaking before a Senate Committee, as a “biological Chernobyl.”
The other reason frequently given for the resurgence of attention to biological warfare is new advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering. In their book. Gene Wars, Charles Piller and Keith Yammamoto argue that advances in recombinant DNA work has revived the military’s interest. In 1986, a Defense Dept. official told Congress, “The technology that now makes possible so-called ‘designer drugs’ also makes possible designer biological warfare” that is organisms can now be made to specifically resist an enemy’s vaccines, or attack susceptibilities of particular ethnic groups that are perceived as the enemy. Like Jonathan King, Yammamoto, a biologist at UCSF, believes that the “distinctions between offensive and defensive work have disappeared.”
The EIR indicates that Miles will be phasing out the production of plague vaccine in 1992-3 (“or as soon as the Defense Dept. has another supplier”). However, the date for phasing out the use of live plague bacilli, for research purposes, was quietly pushed back to 1994 in the development agreement. Miles indicates they will also be phasing out the other products they are currently producing for commercial use, in order to devote themselves exclusively to products made from recombinant DNA (indicated rDNA). Because they have not yet received FDA approval for marketing their rDNA products, the EIR states, “It is not possible to predict which products will actually be manufactured in the years to come, until clinical testing is completed and product licensing obtained.”
According to the development agreement, Miles will comply with all local, state and federal laws regarding biological research. However, hidden in the appendix of the draft EIR is the startling statement that there are no federal or state laws pertaining to biological research. There is one Berkeley ordinance governing hazardous biological research, but Miles “determined that the facility was not subject to its requirements.” Miles does claim that it voluntarily complies with the guidelines established by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for biological research, which they are not required to do because they do not receive NIH funding. According to an article by biologist Gary Waneck in Science for the People magazine, the oversight provided by NIH is virtually nonexistent. He writes, “[under the NIH Guidelines] ... regulation of rDNA activities was left to the institutions conducting the work... Presently there are no federal agencies in place to enforce compliance. Thus, the fox has been left to guard the chicken coop.”
At the present time, Miles is incinerating 30,000 lbs. a month of infectious waste at the Integrated Environmental Systems facility in East Oakland. Since production is expected to more than quadruple with the proposed expansion, the amount of waste being incinerated can be expected to exceed 120,000 lbs. a month. Nowhere in the EIR is there any mention of what the health and environmental risks might be. The EIR does state that the waste from the rDNA is not decontaminated before being incinerated, although “the majority” of the waste from the bubonic plague is. Berkeley was the first American city to declare a moratorium on incineration of toxic waste, and numerous cities have rejected toxic incinerators in recent years.
Miles representatives have been quoted in the press lauding the cleanliness of their laboratories and the safety of the rFactor VIII product which they manufacture for use by hemophiliacs. These officials apparently don’t tell the press that the drug has never been approved by the FDA for marketing. Miles, does, however, manufacture a different Factor VIII, made from “plasma fractionation” technology. This is the same drug that was the subject of a recent segment of “Inside Edition” on KPIX-TV (a CBS affiliate in San Francisco) regarding a lawsuit by hemophiliacs and their families against Miles Cutter and other companies. Fifty to eighty percent of hemophiliacs who used the products of these companies contracted AIDS due to defective screening of the drug in the early 1980s. Miles says the problem has now been corrected.
Since the company says it is impossible to predict what they might actually be producing in the years to come, and consequently Berkeley citizens are required to take a great deal on faith in the development process, it might be helpful to consider Bayer’s past history in regard to concern for human life, respect for the environment, and ethical business practices in general.
Bayer And IG Farben
In 1925, Bayer joined together with a number of other German chemical companies to form the huge conglomerate, IG Farben. Bayer, however, kept much of its corporate identity intact while part of the Farben conglomerate, which lasted until the end of World War II Witness the fact that in 1988, at Bayer’s 125th anniversary, the chair, Hermann Stenger, bragged to a reporter that he was a “third generation Bayerite.” (Nor did he hide the fact that he fought in Hitler’s army as a youth.)
Both IG Farben and the Bayer plant were intimately involved with the death factories of the Nazi regime. According to the book, The Devil’s Chemist by Nuremberg prosecutor Josiah Dubois, “American investigators discovered that IG Farbenindustrie had invented Zyclon B and for years had sold and distributed it directly from the Bayer headquarters in Leverkusen, headed by Wilhelm Ernst Mann.” Because it was originally an insecticide, before delivery to the camps the odor warning people that it was lethal was removed. Mann was also the head of the distribution company that delivered the gas to the camps. He did not go to prison and continued working with Bayer after the war.
A number of books about the Nazi period specifically mention Bayer as having conducted lethal experiments on concentration camp inmates. Robert Jay Lifton describes SS Captain Helmuth Vetter, “who ran medical trials for Bayer at Auschwitz and Mauthausen and possibly other camps.” These experiments involved injecting prisoners with typhus, and then trying out various drugs to see if they would effect a cure. According to witnesses, almost all of the inmates died. Another author, Hermann Langbein, who survived Auschwitz, writes, “Bayer constantly sent him new preparations whose effects Vetter was supposed to try out on prisoners.” Josiah Dubois describes a camp survivor who testified to seeing a letter on Bayer letterhead arguing about the cost of purchasing 150 Ukranian women for the purpose of experimentation.
The IG Farben conglomerate set up a huge complex of slave labor camps surrounding the Auschwitz extermination camp that became known as IG Auschwitz. The camps used more electricity than the city of Berlin. Work hours were from 3:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night. Life expectancy at IG Auschwitz was from one to three months. According to Dubois, at the Nuremberg trials it emerged that there was a direct teletype linking the Bayer plant at Leverkusen with the Auschwitz camps and an exchange of prisoners back and forth. Several books describe how IG Farben often preceded Hitler’s army into the occupied territories to appropriate slave laborers (as well as chemical companies, many of which were Jewish owned). In his book, Industry and Ideology, Peter Hayes specifically refers to Bayer Leverkusen as having launched such “recruiting drives.”
A handful of the IG Farben directors were found guilty at Nuremberg of mass murder. enslavement, and in some cases, plunder, but due to intense political pressure from right wing legislators in the U.S. (who felt that the U.S. should be fighting communism, not prosecuting “German businessmen”), those convicted received relatively light sentences. All were released from prison by 1951. Another Nuremberg prosecutor, Joseph Borkin, describes in his book, The Crime and Punishment of IG Farben, how IG Farben stockholders were able to maintain control by having the conglomerate broken down into its three largest companies, one of which was Bayer. Even the full name of the company in German, Farbenfabriken Bayer AG, sounds remarkably similar to that of the conglomerate, IG Farbenindustrie AG.
Priority in buying Bayer stock was given to the old IG Farben stockholders. Two weeks after the Allied forces finally left Germany in 1955, 450 of the Farben stockholders convened and began re-writing Bayer’s by-laws to permit stock to be held anonymously - something the Allies had opposed for fear that convicted war criminals would resume control of the company. A year later, in 1956, Bayer elected Fritzter Meer, one of those found guilty of mass murder, to be head of their supervisory board. Joseph Borkin, whose book, more than any other, exposes the role of the conglomerate in supporting the Nazi regime, died under mysterious circumstances in 1978, soon after the book was published, and before he could leave on tour to promote it.
Bayer has a long history of poison gas production, beginning during World War I, when thousands died as a result of Bayer’s chlorine gas, produced despite the Hague Convention outlawing gas warfare. During the Nazi period, a Bayer chemist by the name of Schrader discovered the extremely deadly nerve gas Sarin. The Germans built secret factories to stockpile the new chemical weapon, under the direction of IG Farben director Otto Ambros. According to a book by BBC journalists Harris and Paxman, the Allies were quick to acquire the new technology, and the U.S. Chemical Corps produced between 15 and 20,000 tons of Sarin in the mid-1950s.
In the book, IG Farben: Die Unshuldigen Kriegs Planer (“The Innocent Maker Of War”), Peter Schreiber writes that during the Vietnam War, Bayer continued developing poison gases, with plants near Johannesburg and Barcelona. Otto Ambros, who had been convicted at Nuremberg, was working with Bayer on the production of poison gas during this time. Bayer gave the gases directly to their Kansas subsidiary Chemargo for use by the U.S. Chemical Corps in Vietnam. Schreiber writes that Bayer also worked with the U.S. Army at the Center for Bacteriological Warfare at Ft. Detrick on developing new weapons. After describing the huge contributions made by Bayer to the Pinochet regime in Chile, Schreiber writes, “Wherever they went, they also influenced politics and organized the oppression of workers.”
In 1987, the same year that the Soviet Union ceased production of chemical weapons, the U.S. began massive production of a new type of chemical weapon, following a hiatus of 18 years. These binary weapons carry two relatively non-lethal nerve gas ingredients, which when combined at the time of firing become lethal. In 1990, when the U.S. Army exhausted its supplies of the main ingredient in Sarin, production at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, ground to a halt. President Bush demanded that Bayer turn over its supplies of the ingredient, since their Pittsburgh subsidiary, Mobay, is one of the largest U.S. producers. Bayer’s chair, Stenger, initially expressed his reluctance (which an article in Newsweek noted may have been due to the fact that Bayer was currently under investigation in Cologne for shipping chemical weapon ingredients to Iran). The company later indicated it would comply if forced to under a 1950 law requiring companies to accept defense-related production orders. Although Bush declared in 1988, “I want to be the one to banish chemical and biological weapons from the face of the earth,” that didn’t stop him for asking for $276.5 million for chemical weapons in 1990-91.
To say that Bayer does not have a very clean record in regard to peace and social justice issues would be an understatement. What is their record on the environment? According to a news item from the Council on Economic Priorities, since 1982 a group called Critical Bayer Shareholders has used its access to shareholders meetings to pressure Bayer to improve its labor policies and address the environmental and health problems caused by the business. When the group began circulating an appeal to Bayer to change its policies, Bayer took them to court over a section of the appeal which accuses the company of “being addicted to profits, and offending democratic principles and peoples’ rights by spying on and intimidating critics.” The Critical Bayer Shareholders refused to stop circulating their appeal, and believe that it is due to their efforts that in July, 1991 Bayer agreed to stop producing the dangerous chemical parathion in Germany. Bayer, however, plans to continue selling the pesticide in other countries. According to the New York Times (3126/91), “parathion has poisoned more than 650 field workers in the U.S., including at least 100 who died.” (Also in July 1991, Bayer’s subsidiary Mobay was fined $4.7 million by the Environmental Protection Agency for violations.)
In a somewhat similar vein, the Global Pesticide Campaigner reports that due to massive ecological damage to vegetable crops in South Africa as a result of drift from herbicides produced by Bayer and other multinationals, a group of farmers took legal action to stop the sale of these pesticides in South Africa. The Supreme Court there ruled against the farmers, saying they should have sued the pesticide users, not the manufacturers, and ordered the farmers to pay the companies’ legal costs of $380,000. The companies launched a counter-attack against the farmers, agreeing to waive the legal fees only if the farmers placed a large ad in nine newspapers to apologize for their actions and deny that they had any scientific evidence that the herbicide constituted a hazard. The farmers would also have to agree never to campaign against these chemicals in South Africa again. When the farmers rejected such tactics and received press coverage about them, Bayer backed down and dropped the demand for fees.
In another incident in South Africa, a Bayer subsidiary, Chrome Chemicals, was closed down recently, after continued worker protests, following the death of five employees from lung cancer and tuberculosis due to negligent company practices. The German newsletter Stitchwon reports that the company had also been dumping toxics in a nearby canal.
Both Miles and Bayer AG have been implicated in illegal research practices. According to the Wall St. Journal (6/88), a Justice Dept. investigation revealed that a Miles employee, Dr. Kostas, had falsified records and fabricated patients in connection with an experimental drug used to treat urinary tract infections. In Britain, Bayer was suspended from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in 1986 because for two years they had offered payments to doctors for bogus drug trials. The Assoc. said Bayer had brought discredit on the pharmaceutical industry. (Financial Times, 12/86).
Miles Cutter And The Berkeley Community
How has Miles Cutter responded to criticisms from the Berkeley community? As far as the report that Bayer has major investments in South Africa (as indicated in the 1991 edition of Shopping for a Better World), the draft development agreement says that Miles officials will attest, on an annual basis, that they are opposed to apartheid in South Africa. Presumably they will not ask Konrad Reis, who serves as both chair of Miles and Chief Executive Officer of Bayer USA, or Klaus Risse, Miles CEO and also a director of Bayer USA, to be the ones to so attest, in order to avoid any awkward questions about divestment. Incidentally, according to news articles, both men joined Bayer in Germany in 1955, and may have been present when the company voted to allow convicted war criminals to hold stock anonymously.
What about charges by animal rights advocates that Bayer is the largest commercial user in the U.S. of animals in painful research without anesthesia-and that in Berkeley Miles uses over 45,000 animals annually? Animal rights activist Dona Spring says that although the company is offering to donate $25,000 for five years to an organization that is researching alternatives to the use of animals for experimentation, there has been no progress in negotiations regarding better conditions for the animals being used by Miles, and animal rights advocates are continuing their opposition to the development agreement.
As for the criticism that Miles has no emergency plan to respond to the release of hazardous bacteria, including plague, the final EIR states they will get around to it in 1992. Some information on seismic risks was actually complied for the final EIR. For instance, the likelihood of a major quake (over 7.0) occurring in the Bay area during the next 30 years is estimated at 67 percent (which is a “minimum value” estimate). And the Miles site is “near the fault segment given the highest probability of causing a major quake.” However, the EIR assures us, the most dangerous kind of building is stone and brick masonry and none of the buildings containing hazardous chemicals or organisms meet the definition of that kind of construction as specified in a 1986 California statute. In addition, we are told, seismic improvements have been added to a number of the old buildings.
Around the time the final EIR was being released, a small article appeared in the business section of the San Francisco Examiner. After the huge firestorm that devastated portions of the Berkeley and Oakland hills, the reporter was investigating possible dangers at local biotechnology companies. About Miles, Sally Lehrman writes, “Harbored inside a double-walled, reinforced concrete hulk of a building are colonies of the black plague, used to make a vaccine against the disease .... The air intake is filtered, the exhaust is filtered ....If the power went out, the lights would stay on but the air systems would crash.” With regard to the building where the plague is stored, the safety manager is quoted as saying, “That building is a cinder block building, it’s not going to burn.”
Air filtration systems will crash? Cinder block construction? Somehow this information never made its way into the EIR. To a layperson, cinder block construction sounds awfully similar to stone and brick masonry, supposedly the most hazardous kind in an earthquake. But the EIR says that Miles has made seismic improvements. I read the section again. Several buildings are mentioned as having been strengthened. After searching through thousands of pages of draft and final EIR, I found that the live bubonic plague is stored (in sealed vials) in Building 19. That is not one of the retrofitted buildings. With more searching, I found the only description of Building 19 in the EIR: Built in 1944, “construction is of poured concrete and wood walls and the building appears to be sound... In general, the interior is in need of renovation ....A new facility is a prudent consideration.”
A call to the Oakland office of seismic safety confirmed my fears that cinder block is virtually the same as stone masonry in terms of earthquake danger. Further light on the subject is shed by an article in the October, 30 Bay Guardian, which describes how regulations on retrofitting are being revised on the state level as a result of deaths from the 1989 quake and are the subject of intense controversy. A few days later, an article in the Daily Californian quoted the director of the UC Seismographic station to the effect that for two centuries each major quake on one side of the Bay has been followed within a few years by a quake on the other side. There’s one quake outstanding, she says, an East Bay quake to “match” the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.
The section of the EIR which discusses populations at risk in the event of an accident is also noteworthy. These include (1) Miles employees, (2) emergency responders, and (3) “Persons and businesses in the vicinity of the Miles facility during the hypothetical accident; and sensitive populations around the Miles facility including schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. Sensitive populations are populations which may be at higher risk to an accidental release because they are unable to evacuate the affected area in a timely manner or because they have an existing condition that compromises their ability to tolerate the exposure. Thus they are unable to avoid or minimize any potential health impacts of a biological hazard.”
The EIR states that public exposure to the plague is a “very remote possibility,” and, if it occurs, “the City of Berkeley’s Dept. of Health and Human Services, the State Dept. of Health Services, and the federal Center for Disease Control would be contacted and involved. These agencies would inform health care providers of the nature of the medical emergency and how it is to be handled.” That’s it? That’s the current plan? They’re not even going to inform health care providers in advance how to respond? If there’s a major earthquake won’t health care providers be too preoccupied, taking care of the injured, to be properly educated about measures for diagnosing and treating bubonic plague?
In response to these concerns, raised at a Planning Commission hearing, the author of the EIR provided further clarification: “If aerosolized the plague bacilli could be inhaled and cause pneumonic plague. An infected person would develop symptoms similar to pneumonia. Within 1218 hours they would become noticeably ill with fever, coughing up blood and have difficulty breathing. If antibiotics are taken within 12-18 hours, the disease can be cured. If not treated, the person would die.” Miles officials, however, continue to assure reporters and the public that airborne transmission of the plague is an impossibility.
Other community concerns include the projected use of 300,000 gallons of water a day during phase three of the expansion, and Miles’s current use of 100,000 gallons a day, in view of the drought that has existed in California for the past five years. The response in the EIR indicates that this is an unavoidable “adverse impact,” and that “Miles has not committed to a water recycling plan. “Neighbors are also worried about the 35 carcinogens stored at the plant. One called the Air Quality Board and found out that a number of strong carcinogens are being released into the air. Miles responds that the release is within the law.
In response to the criticism that their contract with the Defense Dept. could be contributing to the build-up of biological weapons, Miles states that they are “not involved in the production of chemical or biological weapons and will affirm this annually.” In addition, they claim in the draft development agreement that they are bound by a “corporate-wide policy barring the research of and production oft’ such weapons. Presumably this ban will last up to the point when the Defense Dept. invokes the 1950 federal law that requires companies to comply with their production orders, as happened with Bayer’s “ban” against turning over ingredients for nerve gas production in 1990.
The development agreement says that after the plague vaccine is discontinued, Miles will no longer use class 3 organisms (defined as “agents that can cause disease with serious or lethal consequences.”) The company will limit itself to the use of class 1 (“organisms that do not cause disease in healthy humans”) or class 2 (moderate risk agents “associated with human disease of varying severity.”) That is, unless Miles decides at a later date to resume the use of class 3 agents, in which case’ they will “propose an amendment to the development agreement and will provide for a City consultant to evaluate biosafety issues related to the proposed change.”
Assuming they don’t get a later amendment permitting the more lethal class 3 agents, what exactly are the class 2 agents that they might be using? In the EIR, they talk a lot about Epstein Barr, although polio virus and rabies virus are also mentioned as currently being used. In response to a citizen’s request for further clarification about class 2, the final EIR gives some more examples from the NIH list: Hepatitis A, B, and C, Bacillus anthracis, Legionella pneumophila, etc. The last two stick in my mind. Legion ella pneumophila. Is that the same as Legionnaire’s Disease? Wasn’t there just a story, in the Bay Area headlines for days, about a mass outbreak of that disease in a Richmond Social Security building that resulted in at least one death? I located the initial story in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Legionnaire’s Disease is a type of pneumonia that was first identified after a sudden, virulent outbreak of the disease hit veterans at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976. More than 200 convention-goers became ill. and 34 died. They named the disease Legionella pneumophila...” In both the Philadelphia and California cases, the disease was believed to have spread through contaminated air ducts in the buildings.
And Bacillus anthracis? Where had I been reading about that? I found a New York Times article dated November 29, 1988, written by Leonard Cole, a Rutgers faculty member who also wrote a book called Clouds of Secrecy, about the secret open air testing the Army has conducted over various U.S. cities as part of their germ warfare research program. According to the article, in 1950, the Army sprayed a large amount of the supposedly harmless bacteria Serratia marcescens over the Bay Area. A number of people in San Francisco became ill with heart and urinary tract infections caused by the same rare bacteria, and one of them died. “Unaware of the Army’s test, doctors in San Francisco wrote about the unusual Serratia infections in a medical journal. They had never before encountered such an out-break.
Although the infections began three days after the spraying, the Army decided the timing was ‘apparently coincidental’ and that testing should continue. Neither then nor in later tests has the Army monitored the health of people exposed retired major general, William M. Creasy, commander of the testing program in the 1950s arid 1960s, testified in a court trial in 1981 that the public was kept in the dark in order to avoid panic. Testing in cities was necessary, he said, because biological warfare agents are ‘designed to work against people, and you have to test them in the kind of places where people live and work.” (The information about those tests finally became public in the 1970s through the Freedom of Information Act.)
Cole also writes that since 1979, the Army has conducted more than 170 open air tests at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. “The Amy admits it is releasing a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis in Utah from ‘time to time, to simulate biological warfare attacks with the more lethal Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax.” This “class 2” Bacillus anthracis is so deadly it can’t even be used in testing at the Dugway Proving Ground, the notorious site of numerous experiments in chemical and biological warfare research. It causes anthrax, the same organism whose accidental release in the Soviet Union was described as a “biological Chernobyl.”
It may be true that Miles Cutter’s contracts with the Defense Dept. do not technically fall into the category of biological warfare research. However, one can’t help but feel-in light of the 120,000 lbs. or more of infectious waste that Miles can be expected to incinerate in East Oakland every month, the presumed increase in the release of cancer-causing chemicals into the air in West Berkeley, the 67 percent likelihood of a 7.0 or greater earthquake in the Bay Area in the next 30 years, and Miles Cutter’s use of organisms for which there are no known antidotes-that the East Bay is about to be subjected to a new kind of “open air experiment” of unprecedented proportions.
By Jenny Miller
Jenny Miller is a patients’ rights advocate at a Bay area hospital. Until recently, she was also a lobbyist for patients’ rights at the State legislature. Her articles have appeared in Science for the People, Big Mama Rag, Utne Reader, Kick It Over!, and Grassroots Community Newspaper.