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Whistle-Blower Journalists Speaking Tomorrow

Green MP Sue Kedgley tomorrow hosts a visit from two American journalists at the centre of an international scandal involving Fox TV, Monsanto and the use of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

Investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, who have worked for CBS, ABC, CNN and a range of other American television stations, will tell the story of their first joint investigation for Fox TV into the widespread use of rBGH in American dairy farming and the deception of a concerned public to keep them buying the milk.

The rBGH is a controversial genetically engineered hormone, developed by Monsanto, which increases milk yields by up tp 30 per cent when injected into lactating cows. It has been linked to increased risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer in humans and illness, shorter lives and pus in the milk of cows treated with the hormone.

rBGH has been banned in the European Union and Canada on animal welfare grounds and last year an application to the Animal Remedies Board to import the hormone into New Zealand was withdrawn.

After a year of research, and just days before the investigation was to air, Fox TV received the first legal letter from Monsanto. According to documents filed in Florida's Circuit Court (13th Circuit), Fox lawyers then tried to water down the reports and the reporters were offered sums of money to leave the station and keep silent about what Fox had done to their work. The reporters refused these offers, and on April 2, 1998 filed their own lawsuit against WTVT.

The Wilson/Akre lawsuit charges that WTVT violated its license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by demanding that the reporters include known falsehoods in their rBGH series. The reporters also charge that WTVT violated Florida's 'whistle blower' laws. The legal documents, letters and much of the background in the lawsuit have been posted on the internet at http://www.foxbghsuit.com/

Steve Wilson has 26 years experience as a journalist and has won four Emmy awards for his investigative reporting. He also won the 1996 National Press Club Award for Investigative and Consumer Reporting on Television. His wife, Jane Akre, has been a reporter and news anchor for 20 years, and has won a prestigious Associated Press award for investigative reporting. As a result of this case both journalists have won the Award for Ethics from the largest society of professional journalists in America, the Callaway Award for Civic Courage and an award for Heroism in Journalism by the National Alliance for Democracy.

Jane and Steve will be speaking in the Beehive Theatrette, Tuesday 21 March from 12.30 - 1.30pm. All media are invited to attend. Contact Linda Kennington on 04 239 9819 to RSVP or to arrange an interview. Jonathan Hill (press secretary) 021 110 1133.


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