1. THE CORPORATE CRIME OF THE CENTURY
In November, 1979, Mother Jones, one o£ America's leading investigative
journals, devoted nearly an entire issue to that it called "The
Corporate Crime of the Century." Several aspects of this story
have been dealt with in previous Project Censored efforts.
The third "best censored" story in 1976 concerned the selling
of banned pesticides and drugs to Third World countries. That story
cited a conservative World Health Organization estimate that some 500,000
people are poisoned yearly by pesticides and drugs banned from sale
in the United States but exported overseas.
In 1977, the fifth "best censored" story of the year was
titled the "Baby Bottle Scandal." It revealed how some major
infant formula manufacturers were pushing their products with exploitive
tactics. Infant formula feeding was estimated to account for 35,000
deaths and an untold amount of brain damage in infants of predominantly
Third World countries.
The fourth "best censored" story of 1978 revealed how the
U.S. "exports death" -- "The Third World Asbestos Industry."
When our government tightened regulations for asbestos manufacturers
because of the threat to workers' health, some of them merely moved
their plants to Third World countries like Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea,
India, and Brazil.
But, the November Mother Jones' issue revealed, for the first time,
the full scope of American corporate exploitation of Third World countries.
The mass media have yet to explore and expose the international tragedy
of what is sometimes called "dumping."
While "dumping" may not be technically illegal, it is a widespread
practice which endangers the health, lives, and environment of millions
of people outside the United States. It is done by American business
in the name of profit.
Manufacturers of products which are restricted or banned from use in
the U.S. can legally export and sell them to other less wary and less
knowledgeable countries. The government allows the export of dangerous
chemicals, toxic pesticides, and defective medical drugs and devices,
to name just a few such exports.
Every pesticide which has been banned or restricted in this country
has been exported elsewhere. In 1976 alone, U.S. chemical producers
exported 161 million pounds of pesticides which were not registered
for use here. Some of the pesticides and chemical exports are suspected
of causing birth defects, reduced fertility, genetic mutations, cancer,
and bone marrow, blood, and respiratory changes.
The Food and Drug Administration allows drug manufacturers to export
banned drugs, stale-dated drugs, and even unapproved new drugs.
Profiting from products difficult or illegal to sell in the U.S. is
not limited to pesticides and drugs. As the U.S. nuclear industry encountered
difficulties in selling reactors to wary American communities, it turned
to sales in countries where dissent can be silenced and political payoffs
can bring quick results.
As of late 1978, the export market for American nuclear reactors stood
at $ 36 billion, representing the sale of 59 large power plants abroad.
That's just 13 less than the total number of plants licensed for operation
in the U.S. today.
The sale of nuclear power plants to less-developed countries raises
yet another critical question -- most purchasers have been relatively
large nations with strong regional rivalries -- Argentina and Brazil,
Iraq and Iran, Korea and Taiwan, India and Pakistan.
There is an ironic footnote to the story of corporate exploitation
of Third World nations. Exporting poisonous pesticides to developing
nations, for example, has what author-researcher Leslie Ware called,
in Audobon magazine, "a boomerang effect." In reference to
dumping pesticides in such countries as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil,
and Ecuador, Ware points out that "Their use is banned here, but
hazardous poisons manufactured by American companies come back to haunt
us on the food we import from developing nations." Ten percent
of all imported foods (such as coffee, bananas, and tomatoes) are contaminated
with illegal levels of pesticide residues. Much of this pesticide contamination
comes from our own exports.
And one final note which indicates that corporate profit isn't always
the most overriding issue with the mass media. Mother Jones submitted
an advertisement to Time magazine which displayed the "corporate
crime of the century" cover. Time refused to run the ad because,
according to Mother Jones, some of the advertising copy "offended"
The failure of the mass media to investigate and expose "The Corporate
Crime of the Century" and it's future repercussions (potentially
more serious than contaminated bananas) on the American people qualifies
this story for nomination as one of the "best censored" stories
Mother Jones, November 1979, "The Corporate Crime of the Century,
and other stories, by Mark Dowie, Barbara Enrenriech, Stephen Minken,
Mark Shapiro, Terry Jacobs, and David Weir; Mother Jones, August 1979,
"Radiation Roulette," by Harvey Wasserman; Audobon, September
1979, "The Pesticide Boomerang," by Leslie Ware; The Progressive,
December 1979, "Hustline Drugs in the Third World," by Michael