Cancer: We Cause it! We Cure it!

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email

Cancer: We Cause it! We Cure it!

by Boston Science Teaching Collective

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 3, No. 3, July 1971, p. 12

“SEARCH FOR CAUSE OF CANCER LEADING LITTON UNIT TO PROFIT” is the headline of a recent story in the Los Angeles Times. The story explains that the Bionetics Lab, a Maryland subsidiary of Litton Industries, is receiving a large chunk of money from President Nixon’s highly publicized “War on Cancer”. Litton officials are quick to point out that their interest in cancer research is aimed at dollars, not at health. Fred Green, a Litton executive, is quoted in the article: “Money is costly. You don’t trade it off against an image or idea of public service.

This article becomes even more interesting when we examine the history of Litton and the Bionetics Lab. What credentials do these organizations have which qualify them to look after the public health? Litton is a conglomerate which has gotten rich primarily on contracts with various governments. Its Minnesota subsidiary has performed studies of delivery of biological weapons, and its Mississippi subsidiary produces nuclear submarines. Litton holds an $800 million contract with the Greek military junta for economic development of Western Peloponnesus and Crete.

Under a National Institute of Health contract, the Bionetics Lab recently performed a study of the hazards of several hundred agricultural chemicals. Some chemicals in heavy use were found to be quite dangerous, but the Bionetics Lab managed to keep this information hidden from the public. Low doses of 2,4,5-T were shown to produce deformed fetuses in rats. 2,4,5-T is a defoliant widely used in Viet Nam, and recent reports from Viet Nam have indicated a huge increase in the number of malformed babies born. Bionetics said nothing of its findings, and the report might still be secret if a group of “Nader’s Raiders” had not stumbled across it during the summer of 1969. Subsequent attempts by various scientists to obtain a copy of the report met with evasions, “no comments”, and being told it was classified.

With considerable effort a Harvard biologist obtained a bootlegged copy. In December, 1970, after much furor from a few scientists, and two years after the original results were in, President Nixon said he would “phase out” the use of 2,4,5-T in Viet Nam. It is also worth noting that some of the other chemicals in the Bionetics study, pesticides used primarily in the U.S., were found to produce cancer.

Ed.‘s note: We felt that Litton’s all-out efforts in the area of cancer deserved attention.


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