TRANSPARENCY…Bogus drugs, milk on steroids, more

December 4, 2007

TRANSPARENT TALK 2/5/08

Perhaps you’ve seen the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s TV ad, touting their product’s natural benefits. The ad’s tagline is “A Gift From Nature…A Gift From Life.” The ad’s high production values and feel-good music make you warm and fuzzy about the product. See their ad at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zZIoqeuJf4

Look closer. You’ll discover that some oil-palm plantations are planted in illegally-cleared natural rain forests. In Indonesia, adjacent to Malaysia, oil-palm plantation development is destroying species’ natural habitat. So how truthful and transparent is the Malaysian Palm Oil Council campaign? It’s so deceitful that the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled the ad misleading. Similar “bogus” environmental advertising and public relations campaigns are taking place all over globe. See this link for details:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120163622342426091.html?mod=djem_jiewr_mk

But it’s not just dishonesty over the environment that’s worrisome. Watch what happens in the US whenever there is an FDA ruling or a research finding that’s potentially adverse to a drug manufacturer’s profits.

Recently Merck & Co and Shering-Plough Corp, co-marketers of the cholesterol drug Vytorin, spent nearly $200 million on TV ad campaigns. Some of the commercials also touted the benefits of Zetia and Zocor, the two drugs that make up Vytorin. Suddenly the two companies suspended the TV ads. Next they placed full-page ads in major newspapers assuring the pubic about the safety of their drugs.

Why the abrupt about face? An extensive study of 720 patients with high cholesterol showed that NEITHER drug reduces fatty plaque build-up in the arteries.

So why was there was a 21-month time lag between the study’s conclusion and its release? The two companies, Merck and Shering-Plough, conducted the study. Perhaps they needed the time for legal consultations, while the ad and marketing campaigns touting the cholesterol-lowering benefits of these drugs continued unabated. See this link for specifics:
http://mobile.adage.com/html_article.php?li=14767a97

The Challenge

In our 24/7 real-time world where information is instantaneous, transparency in communications, government, and the marketplace of ideas is more critical than ever. We need more light on ever more complicated subjects. We need less obfuscation. This blog is one person’s cry – a trumpet call – for more transparency and truth in corporation and ad agency board rooms, in the ranks of public relations practitioners, and in the halls of government.

Deceit is wrong. Deceit can be deadly. Delaying “bad news” condemns others to injury or worse. I’ll look for examples of less-than-transparent communications. I’ll point them out. And I’ll plea for more transparency and honesty in the public marketplace.

King Solomon had it right. He wrote this, 2,500 years ago: “Buy truth and do not sell it; get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

What’s in Your Milk?

Jeanette Drake teaches public relations at Kent State University and is an ardent homegrown foods advocate. She and many others are rightly concerned about the contents of our food supply. Did you know that the milk you put on your breakfast table probably contains steroids? How would you feel about the producers of milk keeping that fact from you?

That’s just what is happening. Multinational agricultural biotech corporation Monsanto Corp. is lobbying state legislatures and regulatory agencies to allow it keep this little fact off your milk carton label: cows being fed recombinant BGH (rBGH) are producing your milk.

Canada and the European Union have banned the usage of rBGH due to animal welfare concerns. Scientists in these countries and in the US believe intake of rBGH increases the risks of cancer and antibiotic resistance in humans. Monsanto spent more than $3.6 million for lobbying in 2006 in the US, and – you guessed it – Monsanto makes and sells rBGH to milk producers.

Drake chronicles it all in this January 30, 2008, op-ed column in the Akron Beacon Journal. Here’s the link:
http://www.ohio.com/editorial/commentary/14897161.html

Ben & Jerry’s has weighed in on this: They are opposing Monsanto’s efforts to conceal the presence of rBGH in labeling. See the FORBES article here:
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/02/05/ap4614209.html

Do We Choose our Leaders in Secret?

I live in a suburban bedroom community, Broadview Heights, Ohio. Recently a Council Representative resigned. By the City’s charter, the current members of Council must choose a successor.

I learned that the Council President, Don Sopka, plans to have Council members cast paper ballots in a behind-closed-doors session to fill the vacancy. Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their collective graves if they knew this. I’ve emailed Mr. Sopka, suggesting that the public’s interest would be best served if the members of Council cast their votes by voice vote, with each Council person going on record for or against the successor Council rep., in a public setting.

We need more sunshine: it’s the ultimate disinfectant in government, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said.If you agree, please drop an email to Mr. Sopka at:
sopkad@aol.com

If you have a suggestion for TRANSPARENT TALK, please email it to me at
john.kerezy@tri-c.edu.

JKerezy

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