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At Some Loss as to the Precise Object you have in Mind: Enacting Estrogenic Substances with Canada’s Food and Drug Act, 1939-1944

Lara Tessaro, LLM candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

Lara Tessaro gave a presentation titled At Some Loss as to the Precise Object You Have In Mind, a conversation on enacting estrogenic substances with Canada's Food and Drug Act 1939-1944. The presentation was part of the People and Food: Intersections of Law, Politics Technology and Culture session held during the Technologies of Justice Conference, which took place at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



Tessaro presented on law and hormones, and how in terms of substances and toxicity, the dose makes the poison. She spoke about her study on the history of potency and hormones in food, explaining the process of estrogens entering the realms of therapeutic drugs. She posed questions on the prescription of sex hormones to many women regardless of its side effects, and how the triangle of lab, pharmaceutical industry and clinic also came to include the regulators over time. She described the catalyzation of regulatory techniques and labeling from estrogen, and how under Canada's Food and Drug Act, new drugs did not need approval like those in the U.S. act did. She revealed the conflicts of interest in drug regulation at the time, how measurement units were all over the place and reference standards were non-existent. She explained that the potency of a substance was up to the discretion of the departments and that there were no regulated standards of animal testing at the time.

She described how at the time, estrogens were seen as products instead of active substances, which caused a major lack of drug uniformity. She highlighted that the reason a current standard in dosing and regulation of products outside of medicine-containing estrogens exists is almost entirely because of this period in time and this act in Canadian history.