We consider here some of the legal and political background behind today's laetrile controversy. First, we provide a brief historical review of our present food and drug legislation and discuss details of these laws with respect to attempts by laetrile's backers to use the courts in the legalization of this compound. We analyze one case, Rutherford v. United States, that was won in the lower courts by the advocates of laetrile and conclude that the courts may have allowed emotionalism to interfere with the process of rational decision-making. On a larger scale, this emotionalism manifests itself as political pressure that may bring about changes in our food and drug legislation. These changes could loosen restrictions on the effectiveness requirement and result in the sacrifice of consumer protection in favor of making available more drugs, some of them ineffective, from which the patient may choose for treatment.