As modern technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, many people wonder whether these new “advances” will be adequately tested for safety, or simply rushed or prodded along to market for the sake of keeping shareholders and investors happy.
One of the most controversial new technologies of all is human microchipping, which has long been hinted at as a possibility in national news reports and is the subject of a controversial new bill. The bill, which recently passed the U.S. House (more info here) could lead to microchipping of people with disabilities, including the growing number of U.S. adults with autism, as well as some with dementia.
It also could lead to further uses of the controversial technology, which is already being used for pets, and a relatively small number of human beings worldwide.
But while microchipping may sound like a good idea on the surface to some, the backlash against it has continued grow over the years, in large part because of safety and privacy concerns.
As fate would have it, the technologies have also been linked to troublesome health problems on their own, as a long-forgotten mainstream media report from the Associated Press warned.
Microchips “Were the Cause of the Tumors,” Study Says
Despite the lack of consistent coverage on the issue, human microchipping is a very real technology — one whose future depends strongly on the public’s acceptance of it.
According to the VeriChip Corporation, about 2,000 RFID (or radio frequency identification) chips have already been implanted in humans worldwide, and the company’s target market is a whopping 45 million Americans for its microchips. The company, its parent company Applied Digital Solutions, and the FDA all insist they are safe, but forgotten studies exposed by the Associated Press cast doubt on those assertions, as this 2007 article from NBC News notes.
The states that multiple veterinary and toxicology studies dating back to the mid-90s show strong links between the microchipping devices and higher rates of malignant tumors in lab rats and mice. While these studies don’t automatically apply to humans, the concern remains.
“The transponders were the cause of the tumors,” said Keith Johnson, a retired toxicologic pathologist, to the AP according to the article.
Johnson led the study at Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, and the research was reviewed further by cancer specialists through the AP. The specialists reportedly said that the results were troubling to them, and urged further research; some also said they would not allow family members to receive them although no specific poll results were given.
“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,” said Dr. Robert Benezra, head of the Cancer Biology Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, according to Medical News Today.
Requests to the FDA from the Associated Press on whether they know about the results before approving the microchips were declined, as were requests to specify which studies it reviewed.
Conflict of Interest Further Clouds Matters
In addition to the study results above, the report mentioned a possible conflict-of-interest that further clouds things. Similar to drug companies and chemical corporations like Monsanto, at least one prominent FDA employee took a job that raises serious questions about such a conflict.
Tommy Thompson previously served as the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA.
Two weeks after the VeriChip’s approval was announced, Thompson left his post in the Cabinet and within five months become a board member of VeriChip Corp. itself, along with its parent company Applied Digital Solutions. The AP report said that he was then compensated in both cash and stock options.
His response is as follows:
“I didn’t even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said, according to the report.
He added that he had no personal relationship with the company during the time of evaluation and said he did not play any role in the FDA’s approval of the RFID chip, but the timing seems curious in today’s day and age of “revolving doors” between big money corporations and government agencies.
Further Studies Raise Questions
While the company says that the many domestic animals implanted with chips demonstrates their safety, along with the government’s approval, multiple other studies from 1997-2008 show higher incidences in cancer in lab animals. For more on these studies, check out the full NBC News report by clicking here.
The forgotten links to cancer added to the skepticism of the chips when they originally came out, but little follow-up has been done.
In response, however, a New York Times reporter called the report was based on “flimsy science” and “brilliant advocacy work” by CASPIAN, an anti-RFID activist group that corresponded with an AP reporter on the story (see the 2007 report here for more info).
Regardless of the possible risks, RFID chips and other cashless forms of payment are big business, and this is an issue that will become far more prominent in the coming years. Ultimately, the microchips’ success or failure will depend on whether consumers accept them, and the possible health and privacy risks that come along with them, in the near future.
For more on how an microchip implant under the skin may some day work as a form of payment (and a likely tracking device for that matter), check out a video of a reporter’s recent use of an RFID chip implant as his own personal credit card in Sweden below:
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