Verichip has gone on the offensive, following news reports that RFID implants had been linked to cancer.

Earlier this week Dailytech covered reports that RFID chip implants had been linked to cancer in studies on lab animals.

VeriChip, the only manufacturer of FDA approved RFID implants, released a statement fiercely disputing claims that its chips might cause cancer.

It cited two studies:

Chronic Evaluation in Rodents to a Microchip Implant Used for Animal Identification (D.J. Ball, R.L. Robison, R.E. Stoll and G.E. Visscher, Sandoz Research Institute): These data show that the implant device produced no adverse side-effects in rodents. No tissue masses or evidence of tumorigenicity was found at any microchip site at any time. This study occurred over a 52-week period and examined 250 mice and rats.

Tissue Reaction to an Implantable Identification Device in Mice (Ghanta N. Rao and Jennifer Edmondson): The implantable micro-identification device did not cause neo-plastic changes at the site of implantation in the subcutaneous tissue or in the perirenal tissue, indicating that the glass used for sealing the device and polypropylene cap of the device are not carcinogenic in the mouse tissue for at least 24 months.This study occurred over a 24-month period and examined 140 mice.

VeriChip also offers the defense that its chips have received FDA approval.  They fail to address or acknowledge, however, the questions of a possible conflict of interest by their board member, Tommy Thompson, who at the time led the Department of Health and Human Sciences who oversaw the approval.  Also, they do not address why the FDA appears to not have even examined the studies indicating a cancer correlation during the approval process.

They also mentioned that millions of pets have received the canine and feline versions of their implant over the last several years.  They acknowledge that there was one unsubstantiated report of an implant causing cancer, but they say there has been no evidence that this is a widespread phenomena, and that the report itself is inconclusive, without further investigation.  They cite that the USDA has recently endorsed their product for pets.

VeriChip also contacted experienced vertinary pathologist researcher, Dr. Lawrence McGill, who discussed how rodents often have an increased risk of cancer at injection or incision sites, much higher than that found in other animals following operation.

VeriChip promises to do its best to protect consumer safety and to examine all press reports and "(determine) their veracity and credibility based on their factual content."

VeriChip's certainly seems to offer a solid scientific rebut of the reports correlating RFID chip implants to cancer.  For definitive findings, further studies need to be performed, on animals other than rodents.

However, in the meantime, VeriChip faces very real moral and societal challenges.

People are rather uncomfortable about the thought that their employers could soon be demanding them to be implanted, which has led to several states passing laws banning this process.

VeriChip's greatest enemy may be simply itself, or rather the wild statements made by some of its head staff.

Last year, Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, proposed a novel solution to the problems of illegal immigration and tracking guest workers.

He stated the following during an interview with FOX News last year:

Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, the chip itself has a unique, 16-digit identification number, and then through a serial port--if I can. Kiran, on the bottom of the scanner. Through a serial port, it attaches to a computer, where a database would pull up and the medical application—your medical records. But in the immigration application, the registration of a guest worker legitimately here in the United States, that could be used at the border. But it could also be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level.

KILMEADE: What if you don't want it in your body? Do you have a choice?

Mr. SILVERMAN: Absolutely. It's an election on the part of the immigrant or an election on the part of the government, when we ultimately define what that technology is that no one has defined yet.
The previous morning President Bush had called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigration, so many found Mr. Silverman's comments to be alarming.

VeriChip has a rocky road ahead, as they walk through the moral and legal mine-field surrounding the ethics of implanting.  From a medical standpoint, they appear to have provided a relatively successful rebuttal of claims that their implants are linked to cancer.  However, as long as they continue to promote involuntary or coerced implanting, many people will likely oppose them. 

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