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A sign of Freedom in Research: Microwave Ovens

It took seven long years. Research papers that were published in 1991, have been suppressed - by law - until the 25th of August, 1998.

Swiss scientist Hans Ulrich Hertel and a Lausanne University professor published the result of their research - on microwave cooking in 1991. The conclusions of the report were clear: Microwave cooking changed nutrients so that changes took place in the participants' blood. These were not healthy changes: decrease in all haemoglobin values and cholesterol values, especially the HDL [good] and LDL ['bad' cholesterol] values and ratio. Lymphocytes [white blood cells] showed a more distinct short-term decrease. All indicators of degeneration - of health and immunity.

Further, they found a highly significant association between the amount of microwave energy in the test foods and the luminous power of luminescent bacteria exposed to serum from test persons who ate that food. Hertel concluded that such technically derived energies may be passed along to man.

The report also stated that the consumption of food cooked in microwave ovens had cancer type effects on the blood.

As mentioned, this was in 1991. The Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Suppliers of Household Appliances swiftly brought action against this report, followed by the trade organisation, the Swiss Association of Dealers in Electroapparatuses - simply known as FEA. They forced the President of the Court of Seftigen, Canton Bern, to issue a 'gag order'.

Following this, in March of 1993, the court handed down this decision based upon the 'complaint' of the FEA:

"Consideration 1. Request from the plaintiff [FEA] to prohibit the defendant [Dr Hertel] from declaring that food prepared in the microwave oven shall be dangerous to health and lead to changes in the blood of consumers, giving reference to pathologic troubles as also indicative for the beginning of a cancerous process. The defendant shall be prohibited from repeating such a statement in publications and in public talks by punishment laid down in the law...."

And so it remained for over 5 years.

On the 25th of August 1998, that decision was finally reversed. In a judgement delivered at Stasbourg, by the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Hertel v. Switzerland, the Court held that there had been a violation of Hertel's rights in the '93 decision.

The Court of Human Rights decided that the 'gag order' issued by the Swiss courts against the Bern scientist, prohibiting him from declaring that microwave ovens are dangerous to health, was contrary to the right to freedom of expression. In addition, Switzerland was ordered to pay compensation of F 40,000. I salute Hans Ulrich Hertel for his courage, commiserate for all he must have been through over the years and applaud his victory.

Will this decision put an end to judicial censorship? We shall see.

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