FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs
"There's no way in the world, having read this information, that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members."
-- Dr. Robert Benezra of Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Over the past fifteen years, cat and dog owners have had millions of microchips implanted in their companions as a means of identifying and retrieving them should they become either lost or stolen. Hardly a day passes without one or more incredible stories appearing in the news about a long-lost pet being reunited with its owner thanks to these chips. (See Cat Defender posts of June 12, 2006, and February 16, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Given Up for Dead, Sneakers Is Reunited with His Owner After Having Gone AWOL Ten Years Ago" and "Marmalade Receives a Tepid Homecoming After Having Been Missing for Eleven Years.")
The technological assault upon wildlife has been even more egregious as the scientific community and wildlife officials have combined forces in an all-out effort to radio tag and monitor every single species on the planet. In some instances the monitoring involves implanting chips while at other times radio-equipped collars or similar devices are externally attached.
In all cases, however, the animals must first be either trapped or hounded down like criminals on the lam before they can be tranquilized and tagged. Some animals are often subjected to multiple trappings and taggings over the course of their very brief life spans.
In their rush to transform the great outdoors into a planet-wide laboratory where they are the masters and all animals are mere guinea pigs, scientists and wildlife officials kill, both intentionally and unintentionally, untold numbers of animals each year while tagging and monitoring them. (See Cat Defender posts of May 4, 2006 and April 17, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals" and "Hal the Central Park Coyote Is Suffocated to Death by Wildlife Biologists Attempting to Tag Him.")
Even America's long-suffering and hideously abused farm animals have not been able to escape the indignity of being tagged and treated like cheap inanimate merchandise. By 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to have in place a National Animal Identification System that will monitor the movement of all livestock from birth to abattoir.
As go the animals, so goes man and now this new technology is being applied to humans. So far, at least two-thousand individuals worldwide have received microchip implants and hundreds of millions more are expected to receive the devices in the years to come. Moreover, if those in power are allowed to have their way, eventually most everyone will be forcibly microchipped, monitored, and eliminated should they get out of line. To their credit, Wisconsin and North Dakota have laws in place that ban the forcible implantation of microchips and similar legislation is under consideration in Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Florida.
The implants consist of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) integrated circuit and an antenna encapsulated in glass. Those used in humans are about the size of two grains of rice whereas those implanted in cats and dogs are only about half that size. A syringe is used to implant them between the shoulder blades of pets and in the upper arms of people. To the extent that they are used to monitor wildlife, the point of implantation varies from species to species. (See photo above of a chip made for implantation in humans and the photo below of a chip used for cats and dogs.)
The chips implanted in pets contain a ten-digit identification number whereas those used in humans contain a sixteen-digit number. In either case, the chips can only be read by special scanners. The codes are then entered into databases where the pertinent information regarding both pets and individuals is stored.
As is the case with just about all technological and medical breakthroughs, implanted microchips are another prime example of Silicon Valley snake oil that is being marketed to a gullible public as a great boon with very few dissenting voices. That is about to change.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of Katherine Albrecht of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) and the investigative reporting of Todd Lewan of the Associated Press (AP), it has now come to light that implanted microchips cause cancer not only in lab mice and rats but also in dogs.
Malignant sarcomas develop around the implants and invade connective tissue. These growths vary from minor tumors that can be cured fairly easily to aggressive malignancies that can kill both animals and people in a matter of months.
Worst still, data relating to the trials conducted on mice, rats, and dogs have been available in veterinary and toxicological journals for as far back as 1996. Despite all of that, implants for humans were approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on January 10, 2005 and have since received the seal of approval from the American Medical Association (AMA). Moreover, the FDA labeled the devices as one of the top "innovative technologies" of 2005.
While the FDA steadfastly refuses to disclose whether or not it was aware of the cancer studies before it approved the chip implants, Dr. Steven Stack of the AMA told the AP on September 9th that his organization definitely was not informed about them. (See "Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors.")
The initial alert was sounded in 1996 by Dr. Keith Johnson of Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan. "The transponders were the cause of the tumors," he concluded from his research.
A 1997 study conducted in Deutschland found cancers in one per cent of 4,279 microchipped mice and 1998 research carried out on chipped mice in Ridgefield, Connecticut found a cancer rate above ten per cent. Later in 2006, French researchers detected cancers in slightly more than four per cent of 1,260 microchipped mice.
The research concerning microchipped canines is far more sketchy; in fact, the AP was able to uncover only two such studies. In one study, the implanted chip was blamed for the malignant growth while in the other one the exact cause of the cancer could not be pinpointed.
The AP unearthed three additional studies where implanted microchips caused cancers in mice but it did not disclose the particulars of them in the article cited supra. So far, no studies regarding cats have surfaced but there is a strong possibility that if the devices cause cancer in dogs they very well might do likewise in cats, other animals, and possibly even in humans.
Researchers caution, however, that not too much should be read into these studies due to the fact that there were not any control groups and because animal test results are not necessarily applicable to humans. Despite this, Dr. Robert Benezra of Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan, Dr. Oded Foreman of Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, Dr. Cheryl London of Ohio State University, and Dr. Chand Khanna of the National Cancer Institute are calling for additional long-term research on mice, dogs, and great apes.
That, quite naturally, rekindles the age-old debate over vivisection. In reality, few within the scientific community care one way or the other whether animal test results are applicable to humans. Since there is so much money and prestige in animal research, they are all in favor of it. Plus, they enjoy torturing and killing defenseless animals. It, like tagging, feeds their sadomasochistic urges, pumps their egos, and makes them feel like gods amongst men.
Dr. Vernon Coleman, a fellow at the Royal Society of Medicine, is not the least bit hesitant to spill the beans on his colleagues. "... many vivisectors still claim that what they do helps save human lives. They are lying. The truth is that animal experiments kill people, and animal researchers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children each year."
Charles R. Magel, emeritus professor of philosophy and ethics at Morehead State University put his finger on the crux of the matter when he astutely said: "Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction."
Like the FDA and AMA, VeriChip Corporation of Delray Beach, Florida, the leading manufacturer of implantable microchips for humans, claims to be unaware of its product causing cancer in animals. "In fact, for more than fifteen years we have used our encapsulated glass transponders with FDA approved anti-migration caps and received no complaints regarding malignant tumors caused by our product," CEO Scott Silverman declared to the AP. (See mug shot above on the right.)
In a September 11th online response to the AP's article, VeriChip is equivocal about the safety of its implants. "Over the last fifteen years, millions of dogs and cats have safely received an implantable microchip with limited or no reports of adverse health reactions from this life-saving product, which was recently endorsed by the USDA." (See "VeriChip Corporation Comments on Associated Press Article" at www.verichipcorp.com.)
VeriChip proceeds from that inauspicious beginning to make the ludicrous statement that "veterinarians would not continue to prescribe pet microchips if they believed they presented significant risk of malignant tumors in dogs and cats." As it will be demonstrated infra, most veterinarians, like their colleagues who treat humans, will do most anything for a buck regardless of the consequences for their patients.
The company does cite two scientific studies that it claims support its position that chip implants do not cause cancers in lab mice and rats. The first one is entitled "Chronic Evaluation in Rodents to a Microchip Implant Used for Animal Identification" which was conducted by D.J. Ball, R.L. Robinson, R.E. Stoll, and G.E. Visscher of the Sandoz Research Institute of East Hanover, New Jersey. The second one is entitled "Tissue Reaction to an Implantable Identification Device in Mice" and was conducted by Ghanta N. Rao and Jennifer Edmondson of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the Research Triangle Park near Durham, North Carolina.
The FDA did freely acknowledge in an October 12, 2004 letter that chip implants do shift positions in the body and are thus sometimes difficult to locate and almost impossible to remove should that become necessary. They also interfere with defibrillators and are incompatible with MRIs. The FDA also admitted that they can cause "adverse tissue reactions" which sounds far too close to cancer for comfort.
Moreover, it is well known that all invasive procedures carry the risk of infection and related complications. The same is doubly true of foreign objects, such as heart pacemakers and artery stints, that are implanted in the body.
It is only logical that the FDA, AMA, and chip manufacturers would want to keep mum about the risks associated with implanted microchips since there are billions of dollars at stake. In addition to the millions of cats and dogs already fitted with these devices, VeriChip is anticipating peddling its so-called Veri-Med Patient Identification System to forty-five-million Americans.
Besides the moola that it will rake in from the sale of the chips themselves, VeriChip charges recipients an annual fee for maintaining their medical records in its database. In furtherance of its grand design, it is spending millions of dollars equipping a network of hospitals with scanners in order to read its chips.
The business community and governmental agencies are also expected to get on the bandwagon by requiring their employees to accept these devices. City Watcher in Cincinnati has already outfitted its employees with microchips and the Attorney General's Office in Mexico chipped eighteen of its workers in 2004.
There are also innumerable individuals, such as Baja Beach Club members in Barcelona and Rotterdam, who will voluntarily accept the implants for the convenience that they offer in, inter alia, making purchases and gaining entrance to their apartments and houses. Retail merchandise, mass transit smart cards, airline baggage tags, ski resort passes, passports, and national identification cards already contain the devices.
"There's no way in the world, having read this information, that I would have one of these chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members," Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Benezra declared to the AP. In this instance that which holds true for humans is equally applicable to cats and dogs and pet owners should hold off on microchipping their companions until this issue is resolved.
As most people are aware, the FDA is thoroughly corrupt. Not only does it approve drugs, such as Vioxx, which kill tens of thousands of people but former commissioner Lester Crawford recently pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges and lying about stocks he owned in food, beverage, and medical equipment manufacturing companies that his agency was in charge of regulating. On February 27th of this year, he was sentenced to three-years of supervised probation and fined a measly $90,000.
Corruption also appears to have played a part in the FDA's approval of microchip implants for humans in that the agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services which was at that time headed by former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson. (See photo above on the left.)
Not only were the implants approved during his tenure, but within five months of leaving office he became a board member of VeriChip and its parent company Applied Digital Solutions (ADS). To date, he has received options on 166,667 shares of VeriChip stock plus options on an additional 100,000 shares of ADS stock. Also, he was paid $40,000 in cash in 2005 and again in 2006 by VeriChip.
That is not all. He is also a partner in the Washington law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld which raked in $1.2 million in legal fees from VeriChip in 2005 and 2006. Additionally, VeriChip kicked in $7,400 to his recently aborted quest for the White House.
Thompson, of course, strenuously denies that there is any connection between the largess that he has received from VeriChip and the FDA's approval of chip implants. To have him tell it, capitalists are just generous old souls who go around giving out millions of dollars to perfect strangers out of the goodness of their hearts.
Thompson is far from being the only federal official to sell out to chip manufacturers. For instance, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge left his post as head of Homeland Security after little more than a year on the job in order to join the board of Savi Technology of Mountain View, California. Savi supplies the Pentagon with its wireless cargo-tracking technology. Several prominent officials of the Transportation Security Administration, a division of Homeland Security, also have cashed in on their governmental service in a similar manner.
The thing that is so disgusting about Thompson is that he rose to political prominence as governor of Wisconsin by kicking the poor off of welfare. He, along with Michigan Governor John Engler, were the prime movers behind Bill Clinton's shameful welfare reform plan of 1996.
Thompson and like-minded public officials are symptomatic of all that is wrong with this society. They have basically turned government at all levels into a welfare cow for the rich and powerful while simultaneously putting the screws to the poor, the animals, and Mother Earth. In the end, however, everybody loses from a system that is this corrupt.
Privacy advocate Albrecht is acutely aware of the predicament faced by both individuals and pet owners because of the FDA's failure to fulfill its responsibilities to the public. (See photo on the right.) "The public relies on the FDA to evaluate all the data and make sure that the devices it approves are safe but if they're not doing that, who's covering our backs?" she told AP.
That implanted microchips cause cancers in animals is not surprising in light of the fact that routine vaccinations also can cause them. In fact, the Chicago law firm of Childress Duffy and Goldblatt announced in 2005 its intention to sue veterinarians for administering unnecessary vaccinations.
The law firm estimates that thirty-thousand cats and dogs die every year in the United States as the result of vaccine associated sarcomas (VAS). (See photo below of a black cat receiving an inoculation.)
In particular, it is arguing that repeated administration of vaccines for feline and canine distemper, the parvovirus, rhinotracheitis, and calcivirus provide no beneficial effects. Also vaccinations for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitus (Guardia) are ineffective.
Since Lyme Disease is either rare or nonexistent in many parts of the country, the attorneys are arguing that vaccinating for Leptospirosis is also unnecessary. Moreover, since dogs over eight-weeks-old are not susceptible to the Corona Virus, veterinarians do not have any business inoculating them for it.
The attorneys are actually understating their case. Climate, circumstances, and general health concerns should play a major role in determining what vaccinations are given to cats and dogs. For instance, there is no reason why indoor cats should be subjected to the litany of vaccinations that outdoor cats are given. Guardians of indoor cats have other health concerns to worry about. (See Cat Defender post of August 22, 2007 entitled "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, and Various Toxins in the Home.")
In addition to the fact that most veterinarians serve the interests of their wallets as opposed to the needs of animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is a particularly despicable organization. For instance, it is on record as stating that all feral cats should be either slaughtered en masse or imprisoned in large enclosures. To its credit, the organization's Kansas City chapter vociferously disagrees. (See Cat Defender post of May 16, 2006 entitled "Kansas City Vets Break Ranks With AVMA to Defend Cats Against Bird Advocates, Wildlife Proponents, and Exterminators.")
The AVMA is also a staunch defender of the horrors of factory farming, vivisection, the collection of urine from pregnant mares, and the force-feeding of ducks and geese in order to produce fois gras. Clearly, it has little or no concern with either promoting animal rights or protecting animals from abuse, cruelty, and slaughter.
Only recently it named W. Ron DeHaven as it new executive vice president. Like Thompson, he has just completed a three-year stint on the federal dole.
As head of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), he oversaw the slaughter of millions of wild animals at the behest of commercial interests. (See Cat Defender post of September 15, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at the Behest of Capitalists.")
During his tenure, APHIS also came under attack for promoting cruelty to downer cattle, sanctioning the inhumane transport of livestock, and for refusing to extend humane slaughter practices to birds and rabbits. (See Counterpunch, August 30, 2007, Martha Rosenberg, "Bush's Vet Leaves Post to Spend More Time With Industry. They Call Him Dr. Cruel.")
It was also APHIS that sent undercover agents to Key West in order to spy on Hemingway's cats and this has resulted in a long-drawn out administrative and legal fight. (See Cat Defender posts of August 3, 2006, January 9, 2007, and July 23, 2007 entitled, respectively, "USDA Fines Hemingway Memorial in Key West $200 a Day for Exhibiting Papa's Polydactyl Cats Without a License," "Papa Hemingway's Polydactyl Cats Face New Threats from Both the USDA and Their Caretakers," and "Cat Behaviorist Is Summoned to Key West in Order to Help Determine the Fate of Hemingway's Polydactyls.")
From the way things look, APHIS and the USDA are doing just as lousy a job of protecting the nation's food supply, both meat and non-meat, as the FDA and AVMA are doing in protecting the health of humans and animals.
In addition to causing cancer, the efficacy of microchips is also questionable. Silverman's boast to the AP that microchips reunite eight-thousand pets with their owners each month is contradicted by the facts. In the United States, microchips for pets are sold by the American Veterinary Identification Devices (AVID) company and a firm called Home Again.
To date, AVID has sold millions of its chips resulting in the return of 142,000 pets while Home Again has sold half a million chips leading to the return of 34,000 pets. (See Pet Place, Dawn Ruben, "Microchipping for Your Cat's Safety.")
It is an often overlooked petit fait, but microchips only come into play if a lost cat or dog is turned over to either a shelter or a veterinarian equipped with a scanner; private citizens who take in stray animals do not have access to these devices. Shelter personnel and vets must also do a thorough job of scanning animals because the chips have a tendency to shift positions underneath the skin.
Another more serious problem arises due to the fact that not all scanners are capable of reading all microchips. AVID's and Home Again's chips are read at a frequency of 125 kilohertz but this is not the case with all chips, especially those sold abroad. In the United States, Banfield used to supply chips that were read at 134.2 kilohertz but it was forced to stop selling them because they could not be read by AVID's and Home Again's scanners. Recently, Home Again has introduced a new scanner that detects 134.2 kilohertz chips as well as its more common 125 kilohertz variety.
Databases present another dilemma. All microchips that are sold are registered to either the veterinarian or shelter that implants them. It is therefore their responsibility to record the pet's microchip identification number in their records and to transmit this information to the chip manufacturer for entry into its database.
Pet owners can, however, take the initiative and register their cats and dogs directly with the microchip supplier. As with the VeriMed Patient Identification System, there is an additional charge for this service.
Regardless of how the chip is registered, it will be totally useless unless the information contained in the database is accurate and up-to-date. This is essential especially for cats and dogs who are bandied about from one owner to another.
This was the predicament that a seven-year-old Bengal named Tomahawk found himself in when he turned up at a Fairfield shelter in Queensland back in March. (See photo above.)
Through extensive research, the shelter discovered that the cat had had three previous owners. Furthermore, although Tomahawk was registered in Beaufort, South Carolina, the chip had been implanted by a veterinarian in Idaho.
The story had a happy ending nonetheless as Tomahawk was eventually reunited with his owner, Nigel Smythe, of Brisbane. It is doubtful, however, that the shelter would have devoted this much time and effort to his case had not Tomahawk been valued at $3,000. (See The Australian of Sydney, March 20, 2007, "$3,000 U.S. Cat Handed to RSPCA" and The Australian, March 21, 2007, "Valuable Stray Cat Reunited with U.S. (sic) Owner.")
It is rare, but databases can be compromised by both natural disasters and hackers spreading viruses. Once either of these events occur, both humans with implanted chips and pet owners are out of luck.
By far and away, the biggest drawback presented by chips is that they offer a false sense of security while providing absolutely no protection against individuals intent upon doing harm to cats and dogs. In particular, they are totally useless against the machinations of thieves, motorists, poisoners, ailurophobes of all genres, and dog haters. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose the Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")
In the final analysis, there is not any need for individuals to endanger either themselves or their pets by opting for chips when viable alternatives are readily available. MedicAlert bracelets have served both individuals and emergency medical personnel well for more than fifty years without causing either cancers or unduly compromising the privacy of patients.
As for cats and dogs, collars are a good alternative although they can come off by themselves or be removed by thieves. They do serve their purpose a good portion of the time, however. (See Cat Defender post of October 30, 2006 entitled "Collar Saves a Cat Named Turbo from Extermination After He Is Illegally Trapped by Bird-Loving Psychopaths.")
The French, both in Europe and Quebec, prefer to tattoo their cats and dogs either inside their ears or on one of their rear legs. Skin and fur grow back, however, and after a while tattoos become unrecognizable unless they are periodically redone. Also, anyone who finds a stray animal must know to look for the tattoo and have some means of bringing this information to the attention of the public so that the animal's owner can be alerted.
Although tattooing is less invasive than microchipping, it is of dubious efficacy. For instance, a tattoo so far has not helped to reunite a Parisian visitor to California with her cat. (See Cat Defender post of August 16, 2007 entitled "Cri de Coeur: Heartbroken Cat Owner Offers Free Trip to Paris as a Reward for the Return of Her Beloved Maximum.")
The long and short of the situation is that no identification system is foolproof when it comes to keeping cats and dogs safe. They are very much like small children and just as no loving parent would ever allow a toddler out of sight the same holds true for cats and dogs. Since this is quite obviously not always possible, pet owners should allow their companions to roam only in areas that they know to be safe.
For animals who do become lost there are a growing number of pet detectives who can be retained for a fee. The USDA also maintains a notice board that lists descriptions of missing and found pets on a state-by-state basis at www.missingpet.net.
Photos: Steve Mitchell of AP (microchip implant for humans), Shaker Veterinary Hospital of Latham, NY (chip for pets), VeriChip (Silverman), Wikipedia (Thompson), KatherineAlbrech.com (Albrecht), DR of the Tribune de Geneve (cat being vaccinated), and Annette Dew of The Australian (Tomahawk).