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Vaccines, GMOs, and Big Pharma, All In One Film

Last week I received an email invitation to watch a free screening of Bought, subtitled “The Truth Behind Vaccines, Big Pharma, and Your Food.” Since all three are pretty hot topics, I settled back for what I knew would be one of those feel-bad movies. You know what I mean. Moonstruck is a feel-good movie, Sophie’s Choice the perfect feel-bad experience.

With most documentaries that expose something or other about politics, conspiracies, and health care, when the credits finally scroll you’re not feeling well at all. Before you read any further, know the screening is free until March 15, when the price increases to something like $4.98 to rent it.

I was especially intrigued by Bought because I noticed that Toni Bark, MD, our nearby, Evanston-based ER physician and homeopath was listed as an executive producer. Moments later, I realized she would also be interviewing the numerous scientists, whistle blowers, and concerned parents appearing in the film. Dr. Bark, whom I’ve known for years but haven’t seen for some time, is now big into anti-aging medicine and looks simply terrific.

Trying to get a handle on Bought isn’t easy. There are three very distinct issues here, and the filmmakers bring them together in a single 90-minute film in an effort to convey that they’re linked in ways they’re simply not. In addition, you need to know Bought is a propaganda piece, opinion more than science, appealing mainly to the “I knew it all along” conspiracy theory crowd, among whom I include myself. But there’s an undeniable manipulation of facts to get points across. Are the issues a lot more complex than conveyed in the film? Of course they are. And yes, I do know they had just 90 minutes, but there’s almost too much going on. Too many issues.

The vaccine issue
Believe me, when you work in a busy integrative medical center, you hear a lot about vaccines (“Are they really dangerous?” “Can you write me a letter to excuse my child?”). As the movie lingers on one severely handicapped child after another along with their utterly exhausted moms telling Dr. Bark how their perfectly healthy baby was fine until a few hours after an immunization, how the child then became acutely ill, and now…this, you feel the urge to lynch all vaccine researchers and Big Pharma executives.

But don’t toss the healthy baby out with the bath water. Few people remember how diphtheria and polio were once leading causes of death among children. How if he hadn’t been Jewish, polio vaccine discoverer Jonas Salk would have been canonized by universal acclaim.

Linking an increased frequency of autism to the increased use of aluminum or mercury in vaccines may look dramatic in the animated graphs of Bought, but it’s just not good science. One reason there seems to be more autism is that doctors are better trained to diagnose it. In addition, when you assign to what were once mildly quirky but otherwise normal kids a label of mild autism (Asperger’s) you get what seems like a lot of autistic kids.

Since just about all children get immunization shots, believing that all autism must be due to those shots just doesn’t cut it as responsible logic.

The Big Pharma issue
Of course these guys have become everyone’s favorite villain, mine included. And with good reason. Government investigations (when the investigators themselves are not on Big Pharma’s payroll) have revealed fudged data from researchers, bribes to prescribing doctors, and hidden side-effect reports—enough to make you never again want to swallow another pill, ever.

And the prices, the advertising, the greed! (Worth noting that we tolerate both the high prices and sweatshops of Ralph Lauren and Apple, because, well, we like the RL look and Apple products are beautifully designed and fun.) Dr. Bark and Bought spend a lot of time on Big Pharma, basically reiterating what we already know. Yes, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck did pay huge fines for misleading advertising, and yes, what they did was definitely illegal, and yes, a $3 billion fine is actually small potatoes when compared to the reaped profits, but this is all old news.

Big Pharma does promote its vaccines because the profits are vast, but I’m not quite sure where lies the moral wrong. Yes, Big Pharma does take financial advantage of the government’s compulsory immunization schedule, but taking advantage of a public law that’s been on the books for nearly 100 years (so I learned in Bought) is not a criminal act.

If you’re offended by Merck’s ads for its HPV vaccine Gardasil, then don’t send your daughter for the shot. HPV is pretty harmless (most infections clear by themselves). The cancer prevention part is more hype than fact–a small percentage of HPV infections do cause cervical cancer, but whether Gardasil actually prevents the cancer isn’t known.

The GMO Issue
See what I mean by too much? Bought has already covered two huge topics–vaccines and Big Pharma–and now we’ve got to worry about GMOs as well. Certainly the very thought of eating a changed gene, perhaps of a species that’s not ours, at first blush gives us all the willies. Of course we already eat the genes of other species out of necessity, as it’s illegal for us to devour each other.

I don’t mean to be a smart-ass here, but as spooky as the warped gene animation appears in Bought, among scientists who aren’t even on Monsanto’s payroll there’s general consensus that GMO foods are no more dangerous than those containing no GMOs. I know, I know, Europe/China/Russia all have GMO bans, but if you look it up the reasons these were set in place were economic, not safety.

The same cannot be said for our overuse of pesticides and herbicides (a very real issue related to GMO crops, by the way), which make everyone, including the farmers and workers who inhale the sprays, quite nervous. One of the best moments of Bought occurs when Dr. Bark takes some children to a grocery store. As she reads an ingredients list and talks about the chemicals soaked into each potato chip, they all seem to turn slightly green. But those are chemical additives, not GMOs.

The whole GMO controversy sounds exactly like the hoopla raised 50 years ago when the government started fluoridating water. Years later, nothing bad has occurred, nobody died of anything related to fluoride, we didn’t become zombies (as some predicted), and we all have fewer cavities.

The Bought take-away
Despite my misgivings, I urge you to see Bought. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll put your critical thinking skills to the test, and you’ll have some interesting dinnertime conversations. I hope you’ll also use the material to challenge your doctors, learn to say no to unnecessary drugs and vaccinations, and pay better attention to what you eat.

Understand that Bought is propaganda and while you’re watching it, think about what the other side (vaccine researchers, food producers, even Big Pharma) might be saying in their defense. I know that might be difficult, though, because Bought will definitely get your dander up.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD


Posted in Blog, G, Knowledge Base, V Tagged with: , , , , ,
16 comments on “Vaccines, GMOs, and Big Pharma, All In One Film
  1. Carol Diehl says:

    I am curious about your comment about added fluoride in water. I have read about a link between fluoride and thyroid–wondering could it not have something to do with our epidemic of obesity? And thyroid medication being taken by such a large percentage of the population? My doctors have been opposed to it, and it is not used in Europe. It seems undemocratic to medicate everyone for the benefit of a few, especially when the problem of dental caries can be dealt with successfully with dental hygiene and diet.

  2. Debra says:

    Just curious regarding your comment:
    “Since just about all children get immunization shots, believing that all autism must be due to those shots just doesn’t cut it as responsible logic.”

    Have you ever heard of a child being autistic, that has not had their immunizations?

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks for being a thorough skeptic. Too often I watch a well produced documentary and get caught up. It’s awesome that you consider both sides and encourage others to as well.

  4. D. Michaud says:

    Thank you Dr. E. for another enjoyable read. I beg to differ with you on GMOs (putting fish genes into a tomato?), but that aside, on the question of vaccines: How much mercury and aluminum is actually put into vaccines? Can the vaccines not be manufactured without aluminum and mercury? The anti-vaccine campaign has set up this false dichotomy of pro/anti-vaccine, when the real culprit is the additives. Why not just go after those? Even if the vast majority of children who are vaccinated don’t contract autism, why would we unnecessarily expose infants to neurotoxins? Perhaps we’re all a couple IQ points lower as a result! The baby with the bathwater analogy should be used with the neurotoxic additives, not with the vaccines.

  5. Kelly says:

    Dr. Edleberg, Thanks for this great review. I also watched “Bought” last week and have felt haunted after watching it. And like you, I felt myself wanting to promote a more balanced conversation around vaccines that includes both the fact that vaccines have and do eliminate some awful diseases and the fact that the vaccines do carry some risks that need to be acknowledged and addressed.

    Instead of vaccine advocates and free-to-choose protestors attacking each other, why can’t we put more pressure on vaccine manufacturers to invest more in vaccine safety, looking into alternative additives that can stimulate the immune system reaction the way mercury and aluminum, do without the harmful risks and side-effects?

    I don’t agree that a changing definition or ability of doctors in diagnosis can account for that level of increase in the autism disorder. And while I don’t think that vaccines are the only cause, or even the primary cause, there appears to be enough evidence to suggest that they are “A” trigger of that genetic predisposition, among other environmental triggers, that should be researched and improved on in order to reverse the rising trend of autism in our children.

    And on the topic of GMOs, definitely the increased pesticide and herbicide use with GMOs is the proven health-destroyer. But if one of the forms of GMO is the genetic insertion of a pesticide that grows with the plant, how can you suggest that the GMO itself is safe? And if the whole point of most GMOs is on allowing the plants to withstand higher levels of pesticides/ herbicides, supporting or defending GMO development and use only increases levels of those pesticides and herbicides in our food and in our soil.

  6. Wow Doc Edelberg! which side of the debate to you appear to stand. Indeed the film, which I have not seen, seems to overreach, you mention that you are in the “I knew it all along crowd” at the outset but proceed to in an orwellian fashion dismiss all of these assaults on our health one by one. But then again at the end you instruct us to say no to uneccessary vaccinations. Very Nathan Thurm like article of you.

  7. David Bailey, DC says:

    Dr. Edelberg,

    I am looking forward to viewing “Bought”. I just need to move a little space around in my day. Thanks for the forward on it. I will brace for some scattered science, but sight unseen I reckon I will I will be in your boat on the uptake. It may be a ‘seen that, done that, know that’ kind of response from me; will see.
    By the way, a cousin of mine wrote “Sophie’s Choice”; Bill Styron (RIP)

  8. Carol Diehl says:

    Maybe I just don’t know where the research is, but if you could cite the studies that compare vaccinated and non-vaccinated populations for not only autism, but allergies, asthma, cancer, infant and early childhood mortality etc. And compare populations that get few shots against those that get many? Why does Japan have such low levels of autism? Is it because their diagnostic tests are not up to par, or is it that they give fewer vaccinations? In contrast to everything else I’ve read that you’ve written (why I subscribe to your newsletter), your conclusions here do not seem thorough. The conclusion that if vaccinations caused autism everyone would be autistic is like saying if sugar is linked to diabetes, then everyone who eats it will be diabetic. Or all smokers will get lung cancer, which they don’t. We need more….

  9. Dr E says:

    Hi Carol
    1. Obesity is prevalent in Europe even in countries that don’t add fluoride to their water
    2. Most overweight people really wish their problem were caused by hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). However, the main symptom of hypothyroidism is fatigue rather than weight gain. The cause of obesity seems a combination of hypoactivity of our musculoskeletal system and hyperactivity of our eating utensils

    Hi Debra
    The issue of non-vaccinated children having less autism has been studied and this does not appear to be the case. In fact, one study showed that non-vaccinated children actually had less fully developed brains and did less well in school than vaccinated ones. A recent Harvard based study showed the effect was impressive, that a child’s school performance was increased significantly if he/she were vaccinated. Here’s the study

    Hi Kelly
    The autism/vaccination link first developed simply because autism becomes clinically apparent at about the same time a child gets immunized. It’s a guilt by association’ issue rather than data based on actual evidence

    Hi Chris
    It’s just my nature to look at everything from different points of view. I may start watching or reading something with an initial view of “this is going to confirm my opinion” but as the film/book continues, my skeptical hackles go up and I start investigating other points of view.

    Dr E

  10. Pamela says:

    I disagree about the GMO’s I’ve been having terrible tummy trouble for the past several years. They thought was celiac but came back negative. My tummy gets upset with breads, pastas, corn etc…very frustrating. However, not so much with beer..very weird. I’m trying to tell myself it’s all in my head. I LOVE breads etc…so why are they hurting me. I started switching to organic which meant no GMO’s and within a few months my tummy aches subsided. I kept a food journal. One week, I went back to visit my parents and within a day, my tummy hurt and bloated again. The ONLY difference was no organic. I went to buy my own groceries and it took a couple weeks for my tummy aches to go away.I was pretty amazed myself. When I did switch to non gmo and organic and was feeling better, I told myself that even though it could be in my mind it was sooo worth not have tummy pain in many years and I’m eating healthier. The week spent at my parents without even thinking about why I was on organic in the 1st place really hit me hard. This made me try and read what I could on GMO’s and wow Monsanto’s is absolutely evil. That fact alone, no thank you. Keep my food simple and less chemicals as possible. I know it’s impossible to completely avoid but at least it’s a start.

  11. Terri Reardon says:

    Dr. E,

    I consider myself extremely fortunate to call you my doctor and I deeply respect your opinion and skepticism on many issues.

    With regard to Genetically Engineered foods, we have traveled so far down the GMO rabbit hole that many otherwise thoughtful individuals have been hoodwinked into believing there’s nothing wrong with a registered pesticide also being marketed and sold as foodstuff, not to mention the mind-boggling and exponential explosion of the application of herbicide on that same foodstuff (sold by none other than the company, Monsanto, who makes same!).

    Monsanto (corporations are people too!) are no more interested in saving humanity with their false promise of feeding the world than they are concerned about anyone’s health or the long-term disastrous implications of the very real threat that non-rotational, mono-crop farming (which is how they grow GMO crops, dontcha know!) has on the planet. No thank you, I’ll take mine organic!

    For the most comprehensive and critical compilation of information on this issue, read “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public,” now available on Kindle. GMOs are untested, unlabeled and illegal. We have a right to know what’s in our food in order to make an educated and informed decision about what we eat and feed our families.

    If you believe you have a right to know if your food contains GMOs, I urge you to let your representatives know.  Support IL Senate Bill 734 – The Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act. At the very least, Let’s Just Label It!

  12. Chris Curley says:

    wow that Harvard study reeks of Imperialist, New World Order type, Eugenics. “Vaccines are an Investment in Human Capital???!!!” W.T.F.!

  13. Debra gawrys says:

    I have owned a learning clinic for 21 years, where we help students with learning difficulties.
    Before that, I was a special ed teacher. Over the past 10 years or so, I have witnessed a dramatic increase in children on the spectrum, children diagnosed with various severe emotional problems and children with profound processing deficits. I don’t believe autism is on the rise because of better detection. I have been observing children for many years and have never witnessed so many with these kinds of issues. There is no doubt in my mind that there has been a huge shift and it seems to be getting worse every year. What has caused this shift is the mystery, but I assure you it’s real. Is it in our food, a societal problem, too many vaccinations, the over abundance of electronic devices, or maybe a combination of all. I don’t think we have a definitive answer yet but I’m glad people are asking the questions. Something is definitely going wrong!

  14. Julie Hobert says:

    Speaking of GMO’s and pesticides, just reading something from the Midwest Pesticide Action Center about pesticides linked to depression in farmers. http://midwestpesticideaction.org/pesticides-linked-to-depression-among-american-farmers/

  15. Claire says:

    Hello Dr. E.,
    Very interesting! Thank you for posting, and responding to comments!

    I looked into this a bit and followed your link regarding positive relationships between vaccines and later academic achievement and found a couple things worth questioning. First, I noticed that the study was funded by the “Global Alliance
    for Vaccines and Immunisation,” and was not peer reviewed or formally published as far as I could tell.

    Second, they admitted to some variables that seem to me very significant in their research, that I see no way they could have accounted for with control groups. Namely that:

    “We find evidence of a positive association between vaccination and socioeconomic status, with children living in larger homes, and with private or public access to a toilet, fewer siblings,
    and better educated and better nourished mothers being more likely to be vaccinated. In addition, being vaccinated is positively associated with the number of days the child was breastfed. ”

    I am not a scientist, and am a bit rusty reading scientific journal articles from my college days, but this does not look like a solid ground for basing an argument for the positive effects of vaccines.

    When I met with you a few weeks ago I told you my husband had a very strong opinion on the vaccine topic, while I am more middle of the road. Here is the link he provided me with, which does contain arguments which the author claims came directly from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) supporting the idea that what we assume about vaccines (and even what doctors assume) may not be entirely true (including the idea the Polio was eradicated by vaccination):


    I would love to know your thoughts about Dr. Tenpenny’s research and it see if you have some more material to bring back to my husband. 🙂

    Tenpenny says that polio was already in remission when the vaccine was introduced, and that even the maker Jonah Salk renounced his desire to be affiliated with it and said he thought they did more harm than good (there are allegations he injected mental hospital patients without consent, some of whom died as a result).

    Thank you so much for engaging in the debate so fearlessly.


  16. Carol Diehl says:

    Thank you, Claire! I look forward to Dr. E’s answer.

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