Sezione Cultura

da Leadership Medica n. 2 del 2001

How much credibility goes up in smoke when we all fling our arms up in horror at mad cows, impoverished uranium, genetically modified corn and cloned calves and all the real and/or virtual threats to our physical and/or bioethical health? What sinister examples condition and undermine the wellbeing of future generations, the very generations that must be trained to take over from us and make a better job? Such passionate impetus would have a semblance of dignity if only it were matched by the same passion in fighting acknowledged menaces to our health such us, to choose one at random, cigarette smoke. The question we must ask ourselves is: “What would have happened if all the money sacrificed on the altar of the “mad cow” had been spent trying to track down and defeat the well-known band of serial killers which is attempting to assassinate our health, but which we haven’t allocated sufficient resources to?” What far-reaching, articulate campaign of information/prevention would have been the result? And the public? The public suffered an umpteenth collective attack of “drawer-tidying syndrome”, in other words, it is what happens when you know you have something much more important that needs to be done, but instead you start tidying up the drawer containing old photos/pencils/diaries/locks of hair and similar. And the environmentalists/ecologists? First of all, as we should all know “environmentalists” and “ecologists” are the result of environmentalism and ecologism respectively, whilst “ecologists” study ecology (hence a completely different subject). Nonetheless, there is no doubt that if the “mad cow” catastrophe became a concrete reality, it is all down to the intransigence of the environmentalists/ecologists. Indeed, according to the authoritative opinion of the man that discovered prion, Nobel Prize winner Stanley Prusiner [J Roy Soc Health 1996] “the real cause of the epidemic of Mad Cow that has affected over 160,000 cattle in the United Kingdom since 1985, is not so much the use of animal flour as the introduction of new animal flour processing techniques at the end of the seventies. Before then, the carcasses were reduced to pulp then treated at 130° under pressure using dichloromethane as a fat solvent. The suspicion (also voiced by Consumer Associations and Environmentalists) that dichloromethane was carcinogenic, generated alarm and although the theory was later found to be groundless, the British authorities banned the use of the chemical and introduced a new, lower temperature process at the end of the seventies.” The result was an epidemic of transmittable bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is still weaving its way round the world, leaving havoc and destruction in its wake, though more to the world economies than to health. Thus lets admit as evidence that scrapie is transmitted from sheep to cattle and then to us, not “because man has disregarded the laws of Nature by carelessly transforming a herbivore into a carnivore” but because man has transgressed the laws of Science and technological conscience by deciding against pasteurising a concoction of products which, by their very nature and in view of the prescribed use, should always undergo “screening” by Dr. Luigi Pasteur: the dubious theories of scaremongers on mutagenicity should not induce us to forego the safety of sterile hygiene.

Sergio Angeletti

(traduzione Interpres sas-Giussano)