Why “Bad Seed Theory” promoted by a Navy Consultant will ultimately backfire.

Speaking from the “Ivory Towers” of Oregon State University, 530 miles north of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Kathryn Higley, PhD serves as the Navy Community Technical Advisor for HPNS. According to the February 2022 Annual Report issued by the Navy Base Realignment & Closure, Higley is a “highly qualified independent resource available to the public to assist with HPNS radiological issues.” Higley holds a doctorate in philosophy in health physics. The Navy has misrepresented her as a medical expert in meeting announcements titled “The Doctor Is In.” []

According to the Oregon State newsletter Higley is “one of the go-to experts on the impacts of radiation, serving as a consultant for affected areas and offering guidance to governmental agencies in the aftermath of hazardous events.”

“Last year she was brought to the former shipyard at Hunters Point outside of San Francisco, which for decades was the site of the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory. After the environmental contractor overseeing the cleanup of radioactive waste at the site was accused of falsifying data, Kathryn was called in to clarify the potential risks.”

“I work with people in the international community to try and develop tools to better understand radiation dose to nonhuman organisms,” she says. For the past two decades Higley has focused more on environmental rather than human risks of radiation.”


According to attendees of the February 28, 2022 meeting of the Hunters Point Shipyard CAC, speaking from an office “in a galaxy…far…far…away”, Higley minimized the impacts of radiation exposure at Hunters Point and attributed the mapping and detection of chemical and disease clusters in residents and workers to “bad genes!”

“From her research, Oregon State University scientist Dr. Kathryn Higley said she isn’t too concerned debris from the Fukushima tsunami will be radioactive when it reaches the West Coast.” []

Kathryn Higley is not a doctor of medicine. She is a doctor of philosophy paid by the Navy and spoon fed Navy talking points. She lacks a basic “boots on the ground” understanding of the shipyards impact on its workers and neighbors. From the security of a classroom 530 miles away, Higley addresses medical topics on behalf of the Navy outside of her scope of practice and professional expertise.

Regarded as a friend of the nuclear industry, Higley wrote in the Democratic Herald that based on her studies of uranium uptake in plants, radiation in the 2011 Fukushima tsunami debris threatening the entire west coast “won’t be unsafe.” In 2012, Higley countered the findings of Stanford University environmental engineer Mark Jacobson who broke with “party line propaganda” that the cancer death toll from the Fukushima disaster would be negligible and estimated up to 1300 excess deaths worldwide. Higley called the findings uncertain “given how much cancer already exists in the world, it would be difficult to prove anyones cancer was caused by the incident at Fukushima.” []

On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Dr. Higley was joined by a contingent of Bayview Hunters Point residents, activists and community leaders during her monthly “community outreach” virtual meeting hosted by the Navy. Arieann Harrison — Director of the Marie Harrison Community Foundation verified that despite her touted credentials, Higley has not conducted field survey work at Hunters Point. Indeed, Higley has not conducted research on human radiation exposure period! Her on-line bibliography consists of 31 research investigations published from 2000 to 2016 that center on radiation effects in plants and animals. []

Hunters Point residents and community organizers Tiffany Williams, Tony Randell and Chalam Tabati probed Higley about proven disease disparities in BVHP including breast cancer clusters in women under 50 detected in seven census tracts by Frances Taylor lead investigator and Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control in 1995.

While admitting she is paid by the Navy to attend meetings as an “independent consultant”, Higley doubled down on her dismissal of the cancer clusters mapped at the shipyard entry stating “one third of people will be diagnosed with cancer” and that HP Biomonitorings’ urinary toxic exposure screenings are “only reliable in detecting uranium.”

This misinformation amounts to “Higley fake news”! The lifetime risk you will be diagnosed with brain cancer is less than 1%. It is 0.6% to be exact and the clustering of brain and central nervous system tumors around the main gait to the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratories and its radiation contaminated industrial landfill is an anomaly. The detection of three residents with multiple brain tumors within blocks of the shipyard main gate and shoreline is an anomaly. The detection of a string of breast cancers encircling the shipyards six block western perimeter like a red pearl necklace is an anomaly. The detection of a cluster within a cluster of brain, thyroid, lung and canine cancers in Building 606 occupied by the San Francisco Police Department on the shipyards southern shoreline is an anomaly. The urinary screening of a UCSF worker that detected uranium in concentrations 17 times higher than acceptable for the normal population is an anomaly.


Bad Gene Theory suggests the BVHP community is comprised of long term residents who are “bad seeds” genetically predetermined to be at higher risk of cancer and disease. Bad Gene Theory is intrinsically racist!

I believe Bad Seed Theory is at the heart of systemic racism and fuels societal acceptance that dark skinned people are inherently bad and deterministically at fault for their oppression and victimization. I believe the promulgation of Bad Seed Theory contributes more to African American health disparities, social and criminal injustice and environmental racism than psychologists will ever admit. I believe Bad Seed Theory operates as a fundamental tenet in American education systems contributing to high suspension rates and academic failure.

Bad Seed Theory is the notion that nature prevails over nurture and that negative genetic traits are passed down through generations. Bad Seed Theory is most often applied to psychopaths who inherit criminal traits and violent behaviors. The strategic use of Bad Seed Theory is evident in flippant comments made publicly by the Navy’s community technical expert who blames the clustering of brain, breast and thyroid cancers epicentered around the main gate of the radiation laboratory at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on “BAD GENES”.

If Higley, as a Navy spokesperson, truly believes the historical record of environmental disease clusters documented in the 94124 zip code and census tracts are due to gene damage in nearby residents caused by long term exposure to shipyard toxins then blaming the exposed community is exactly like the drug abusing parent of a child born with birth defects blaming the child for its disabling condition.

Higleys strategic use of Bad Gene Theory to explain cancer clusters at the shipyards front door is an example of Bad Seed Theory deliberately applied to shift medico legal tort liability away from government agencies responsible for generating toxic pollution.

Bad Gene Theory proposes the damaging generational effects of chronic toxic exposure on the genes of BVHP residents has spawned a population of “Bad Seeds” more vulnerable to cancers induced by radiation and cancer causing chemicals at the shipyard.

The use of Bad Gene Theory by government paid scientists and development interests to dismiss cancer and disease clusters in census tracts within the one mile buffer zone of the Hunters Point Shipyard is doomed to backfire for the following reasons:

  1. Bad Gene Theory is factually inaccurate in explaining cancer clusters mapped by HP Biomonitoring within the one mile perimeter of the federal Superfund system at Hunters Point. Bad Gene Theory presumes those in the cancer cluster are long term residents who are black, brown, poor and disabled — whose genetic codes have been damaged by chronic generational impacts caused by exposure to cancer causing chemicals and ionizing radiation. In fact, the cancer and chemical clusters mapped by HP Biomonitoring include non resident workers and short term residents of every race, gender, age, education and income levels with high intensity radiation exposures. The cluster includes three ministers, business owners, educators, medical and legal professionals, community leaders, a ten year old boy and employees of the City & County of San Francisco, UCSF and Muhammad University of Islam.
  2. The promotion of Bad Gene Theory to undermine the medicolegal significance of cancer and disease clusters detected in residents and workers within the shipyards one mile perimeter directly incriminates the Navy as the principal party responsible for damaging the genetic heritage of BVHP long term residents caused by toxic exposures from the system of federal Superfund sites at Hunters Point.
  3. Bad Gene Theory offers an intrinsically racist explanation for excess cancer and environmental disease clusters historically documented in BVHP designed to blame the victim and relieve the victimizer of guilt and liability.
  4. Bad Gene Theory is undermined by the simple fact that the Hunters Point Biomonitoring Foundation has conducted urinary screenings on residents and workers diagnosed with radiation induced cancers that detect Proposition 65 listed cancer causing chemicals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, thallium, vanadium and the radioactive biomarkers cesium, uranium, strontium, rubidium and gadolinium. These chemicals are documented by the United States Navy and the federal EPA as being chemicals and radionuclides of concern at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

For those who agree it’s time for the United States Navy to put a muzzle on the junkyard dog guarding the Hunters Point Shipyard from a dog house in Oregon, email your thoughts to — Rebecca Johnson Interim — President Oregon State University . Email: or call (541) –737–4133



Founder, Director, PI - HP Biomonitoring/ Founding Chair- Radiological Committee Hunters Point Shipyard RAB 2001, Former Attending MD VA Toxic Registry & SFDPH

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Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD

Founder, Director, PI - HP Biomonitoring/ Founding Chair- Radiological Committee Hunters Point Shipyard RAB 2001, Former Attending MD VA Toxic Registry & SFDPH