|Consumers Call for Ban on Growth Hormone in Milk (24/4/2007)|
1.Crying over Labeled Milk - LiveScience
EXTRACT: On its website Monsanto posts a fact sheet reportedly from the FDA but actually written by a scientist from Cornell University. The dead giveaway is that FDA fact sheets don't use underlining and exclamation points... The so-called fact sheet is comically slanted in industry's favor. Also note the lack of "r" in "bST," Monsanto's way of minimizing the artificialness of rBST. ["r" stands for recombinant, ie genetically engineered]
Similarly, Monsanto's posting called "Questions And Answers About BST From The United States Food And Drug Administration," with language not typical of an FDA factsheet, doesn't seem to appear on any FDA website. (item 1)
1.Crying over Labeled Milk
Monsanto, the multinational biotechnology corporation and leading producer of genetically engineered seed with a near monopoly on many crops and annual revenue exceeding $7 billion, is worried that you are being misled.
For this reason, the company wants to ban shady dairy farmers like those rascally Amish and weirdo hippies from labeling their products free of artificial hormones.
Earlier this month, Monsanto complained to the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Committee about the proliferation of labels with language such as "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones," as found on milk sold by Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine.
Monsanto says this scares consumers into thinking there's something unhealthy about its human-made recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or by the Monsanto brand name, Posilac, now in about one-third of American dairy cows.
Probably safe for humans
Monsanto's rBGH, approved by the FDA in 1993, increases milk production by more than 10 percent. Monsanto takes somatotropin, a natural protein hormone, and mass-produces this using DNA-recombinant technology similar to how insulin medication is made.
Although the FDA deemed rBGH safe, nearly every government in the world as well as the Coded Alimentarius Commission, which sets international food standards, disagreed and placed a ban on rBGH-a ban that is only now slowly being lifted. There were economic concerns about rBGH's affect on milk production and price as well as health concerns.
Numerous studies have since shown that rBGH is likely safe for human consumption. Early on, however, studies published in prominent journals found that milk from rBGH-treated cows had elevated levels of another bovine hormone called IGF-I. And unrelated research, such as a highly regarded study from Harvard published in 1998 involving 15,000 men, found a connection between IGF-I and prostate cancer.
What about the cow?
The cows don't seem to be faring as well as humans, though. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research in 2003, analyzing numerous other studies, found that rBGH-treated cows were 25 percent more likely to have an udder infection called mastitis, 40 percent more likely to fail to conceive, and 55 percent more likely to develop clinical signs of lameness.
Dairy cows are already bred for high milking output, and the artificial boost from rBGH takes a toll on their bodies. Monsanto Posilac's label in fact warns, "Cows injected with Posilac are at increased risk for clinical mastitis." Infections often are treated with antibiotics, raising concern about their overuse.
For animal welfare reasons alone, consumers have the right to know how their milk is produced.
Freedom of speech
Monsanto was aggressive about rBGH from the get-go and infamously stopped a Fox news affiliate in Florida in the early 1990s from broadcasting a report on it, which most consumers knew nothing about because of the lack of labeling. When the reporters, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, refused to yield, Fox fired them.
Ultimately the plan backfired after the reporters successfully sued Fox under the Florida whistle-blower law and eventually won the 2001 International Goldman Environmental Prize.
In 1994 the FDA placed limits on wording rBGH foes could use, and some states prohibited labeling outright. Ben & Jerry's and three other companies needed to sue Illinois and Chicago for the right to say their products did not come from cows treated with rBGH.
Ben & Jerry's adds the FDA-preferred wording: "The FDA has said no significant difference has been shown and no test can now distinguish between milk from rBGH treated and untreated cows." Oakhurst Dairy and many other producers do not have this voluntary disclaimer, which Monsanto says violates the FDA's rules on misleading labels.
No such disclaimer is needed for organic labeling, stating the conventional foods are just as safe.
Truth in labeling
It is difficult to ascertain the truth about rBGH's safety because Monsanto itself doesn't do well with accurate labeling. On its website Monsanto posts a fact sheet reportedly from the FDA but actually written by a scientist from Cornell University.
The dead giveaway is that FDA fact sheets don't use underlining and exclamation points-as in "YES!"-to answer such softball questions as "Are milk and meat from bST-supplemented cows safe?" The so-called fact sheet is comically slanted in industry's favor. Also note the lack of "r" in "bST," Monsanto's way of minimizing the artificialness of rBST.
Similarly, Monsanto's posting called "Questions And Answers About bST From The United States Food And Drug Administration," with language not typical of an FDA factsheet, doesn't seem to appear on any FDA website.
Proposed FDA rulings include not telling consumers when food is irradiated or derived from clones . Monsanto goes the extra step to limit what the other guy can say as well.
2.Consumers Call for Ban on Growth Hormone in Milk
One of the largest groups of milk producers in the United States has set an August first deadline for its members to stop treating their cows with a growth hormone, or pay more to get their milk to market. The move is a reaction to pressure by consumer groups opposed to the use of the hormone rBST, which increases milk production. VOA's Melinda Smith reports on the health and economic concerns of the hormone's use.
Millions of advertising dollars are spent every year by American dairy farmers and processors to promote the message that milk is good for us. It is a big business, made up of dairy farmers' cooperatives and companies that bottle and distribute the milk.
In 1993, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a genetically engineered growth hormone called rBST. It is sold under the brand Posilac, and stimulates as much as 10 percent more milk in cows.
Dennis Areias is a dairy farmer in California who uses rBST. "What it does, it enhances her appetite to get her to eat more. The more she eats, the more she will milk."
But not everyone is happy with that idea. In February 2007, three health advocacy groups asked the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of rBST. They say the hormone increases the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers, and may be linked to early puberty.
Representatives of the dairy industry and Monsanto, the hormone's manufacturer, say there is no scientific proof that links rBST to cancer.
So who is behind the effort to stop production of rBST? Some say it is driven by consumers who will not buy hormone-laced food.
"...I just thought it better to be safe than sorry," expressed one shopper. "Well, it just makes sense to me to try and make sure that our food is as clean as possible," said another.
Or, is it simply pressure from advocacy groups opposed to any food additives? Patty Lovera is with the organization, Food and Water Watch. "We are headed in the right direction, which is more and more companies are saying they are not going to buy milk that's produced that way."
One of the largest dairy associations is California Dairies Incorporated. It distributes at least 10 percent of the milk in the United States. It has told its members they must stop using rBST by August 2007 or pay more to ship their hormone treated milk to stores that will take it.
Richard Cotta of California Dairies says the company is responding to consumer preference for milk free of hormones. "Our attitude is if the consumer wants it and is willing to pay for it, we are going to try and make it available to them," he said.
There are about 60,000 herds in the U.S. and some estimates say that one-third have been treated with rBST. But a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents most of the dairy cooperatives in the United States, believes that figure may be lower now because of the negative publicity surrounding the hormone.