Jane Akre and Steve Wilson Win Goldman Award for Fox rBGH Story
Original Headline "American Journalists Win top eco-award for cow hormone story "
Glen Martin / SF Chronicle 23apr01
KATY RADDATZ / The Chronicle
Winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize (from left) are Bruno Van Peteghem of New Caledonia, Gabriel Herbas of Bolivia (accepting prize for Oscar Oliveras), Yosepha Alomang of Indonesia, Eugene Rutagarama of Rwanda, Giorgos Catsadorakis of Greece, and Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, both of Clearwater, Fla.
Two American television journalists are among the winners of the annual Goldman Environmental Prize, the country's most prestigious conservation award.
Founded and funded in 1990 by San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the prize annually distributes cash bequests to six of the planet's most deserving "environmental heroes."
Each recipient represents one of Earth's six continental regions. Prizes are sometimes awarded to more than one person in each category. This year, each recipient will receive $125,000. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in San Francisco tonight.
Jane Akre and Steve Wilson of Clearwater, Fla., won an award for their investigations for Fox TV of rBGH, a genetically modified bovine growth hormone that is widely employed by the American dairy industry but is banned in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Japan.
Some environmental and science groups claim the hormone can be linked to human breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Fox refused to run the couple's reports, ostensibly because the network had been threatened with a lawsuit by Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH. Fox instead tried to convince the pair to air a report distinctly sympathetic to Monsanto's point of view, Akre said.
Akre and Wilson continued to press Fox to run the original story, and were fired by the network in 1997.
The pair sued Fox in 1998 for violating Florida's whistle-blower law. A jury found that Fox had pressured the reporters to broadcast a "false, distorted or slanted news report." Akre was awarded $425,000 for suffering job loss on improper grounds. Fox has appealed the decision.
The other winners are:
- Eugene Rutagarama, a biology teacher who has moved aggressively to protect endangered gorillas in his homeland of Rwanda following the genocide there in the mid-1990s. Half of the world's 650 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda's Volcano National Park.
Rutagarama, a Rwandan Tutsi, lost most of his family to Hutu extremists during the conflict. Following the settlement of the intertribal war in 1994, he was appointed director of Rwanda's national parks program.
Rutagarama promptly instituted a program aimed at protecting Rwanda's nature reserves and parks during the tumultuous period of refugee resettlement after the genocide.
- Myrsini Malakou and Giorgos Catsadorakis, Greek biologists working to save the Prespa wetlands, one of Europe's richest marshes.
The Prespa marshlands cover about 900 square miles in Greece, Albania and Macedonia. They are home to some of the last brown bears in Europe, as well as otters, wolves, 260 bird species, 1,500 plant species and 17 species of fish, eight of which are endemic. They also support the world's largest colony of threatened Dalmatian pelicans.
The region's biological heritage is threatened by increasing development, particularly large-scale agriculture.
- Yosepha Alomang, a spokeswoman for the Amungme, a tribe opposed to a gigantic copper and gold mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.
Owned by Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., of New Orleans, the mine has removed 400 feet from the summit of a mountain sacred to the Amungme. Under its permit with the Indonesian government, Freeport dumps about 200,000 tons of tailings daily on local watersheds, polluting lakes and rivers.
Alomang was arrested by Indonesian soldiers in 1994 and held for a week without food or potable water in a room contaminated with human waste.
Her activism was instrumental in a meeting between indigenous community leaders and Freeport CEO Jim Moffett, who agreed to donate millions for local development projects but declined to change mining practices.
- Oscar Olivera, a leader in a grassroots fight opposing water privatization in Bolivia.
Olivera vigorously opposed a program begun by the Bolivian government in the mid-1990s to privatize the country's water systems as part of a World Bank program.
Prices to consumers shot up by as much as 300 percent, essentially making it impossible for many townspeople to pay their water bills. Olivera, the executive secretary of a local union, organized street protests, shutting the city down for days.
Bolivian President Hugo Banzer declared martial law, and Olivera was forced into hiding. He ultimately emerged to lead negotiations with the government, and in April of last year, the Bolivian Congress canceled the city's privatization contract.
- Bruno Van Peteghem, an Air France crew member who is resisting proposed mining activities on New Caledonia.
In an attempt to stop a huge nickel mine, Van Peteghem is working to obtain World Heritage status for New Caledonia's coral reefs from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO).
New Caledonia has some of the world's finest coral reefs. And unlike many of the South Pacific's other reefs, New Caledonia's coral is not susceptible to bleaching from global warming, says Van Peteghem.
Monsanto exposers win major Award
This is what we are up against. What other skeletons do Monsanto and other biotech companies like them have in their cupboards?
Goldman Environmental Prize - rBGH exposure
Today there was a whole page ad in the International Herald Tribune because the awarding ceremony took place today http://www.goldmanprize.org/
Founded in 1989 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the Prize awards $750,000 annually to environmental heroes from six continental regions. Nominated confidentially by a network of internationally known environmental organizations and a panel of environmental experts, recipients are chosen for their sustained and important environmental achievements.
The Prize offers these environmental heroes the recognition, visibility, and credibility their efforts deserve.
Among the prize winners this year: Jane Akre & Steve Wilson, United States Environmental Policy.
Jane Akre & Steve Wilson
United States Environmental Policy
Goldman Environmental Prize Website 23apr01
"As a mother and a journalist, I know we all have the right to information to help us make important decisions about what we pour on our children's cereal each morning. All journalists have a duty to shed light on important issues in the public interest, even when that information runs counter to governments and industry who would rather operate in their own self interest."
In late 1996, journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson began investigating rBGH, the genetically modified growth hormone American dairies have been injecting into their cows. As investigative reporters for the Fox Television affiliate in Tampa, Florida, they discovered that while the hormone had been banned in Canada, Europe and most other countries, millions of Americans were unknowingly drinking milk from rBGH-treated cows.
The duo documented how the hormone, which can harm cows, was approved by the government as a veterinary drug without adequately testing its effects on children and adults who drink rBGH milk. They also uncovered studies linking its effects to cancer in humans. Just before broadcast, the station cancelled the widely promoted reports after Monsanto, the hormone manufacturer, threatened Fox News with "dire consequences" if the stories aired. Under pressure from Fox lawyers, the husband-and-wife team rewrote the story more than 80 times.
After threats of dismissal and offers of six-figure sums to drop their ethical objections and keep quiet, they were fired in December 1997. In 1998, Akre won a suit against Fox for violating Florida’s Whistleblower Law, which makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who threatens to reveal employer misconduct. They must now defend the $425,000 award to Akre through the appeals process. Meanwhile, with their assets drained, neither has been able to work full-time in television news. They recently formed a production company to expose environmental and health news that is increasingly ignored by mainstream media.
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