Genetically Engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone In Your Milk

Genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/BST) in your milk
Both the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, have warned of the potential hazards to human health caused by consuming products derived from rBGH-treated cows.
Why is BGH is banned in Europe and Canada? Mad Cows Disesase Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

Genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
What is rBGH?
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is a genetically engineered copy of a naturally occurring hormone produced by cows. Manufactured by Monsanto Company, the drug is sold to dairy farmers under the name POSILAC, though you’ll also find it called BGH, rBGH, BST and rBST. When rBGH gets injected into dairy cows, milk production increases by as much as 10-15%. The use of rBGH on dairy cows was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late 1993 and has been in use since 1994. 

Both the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, have warned of the potential hazards to human health caused by consuming products derived from rBGH-treated cows.

While rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada, and has been boycotted by 95 percent of US dairy farmers, the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture continue to license the drug (and other new genetically engineered foods) without pre-market safety tests. Thanks to industry pressure, genetically engineered foods are NOT required to carry identifying labels. According to the US Federal Office of Management and Budget the projected increase in milk production caused by rBGH introduction will cost American taxpayers an additional $116 million of dollars for further price supports in 1995 alone. And what about the cows? rBGH use will cause suffering to millions of animals: rBGH is like “crack” for cows. It “revs” their system and forces them to produce a lot more milk – but it also makes them sick. Even the FDA admits that cows injected with rBGH could suffer from increased udder infections (mastitis), severe reproductive problems, digestive disorders, foot and leg ailments, and persistent sores and lacerations.

 Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It    a companion piece to the documentary Food Inc
There have been no long term studies of BGH’s effects on humans. The congressional General Accounting Office has warned of the potential human health hazards from the consumption of milk or flesh (about 40% of the beef used to make hamburgers come from “old” dairy cows) derived from BGH-treated cows. The Consumer’s Union went on to state that the FDA should not have even approved it. BGH “treatment” causes significantly increased levels of another growth hormone called IGF-1 in the milk, according to a 1990 study sponsored by Monsanto and published in Science. Bovine IGF-1 is identical to the IGF-1 naturally found in humans.

BGH: Monsanto and the Dairy Industry’s Dirty Little Secret

BGH: Monsanto and the Dairy Industry’s Dirty Little Secret
Seven years ago, Feb. 4, 1994, despite nationwide protests by consumer groups, Monsanto and the FDA forced onto the US market the world’s first GE animal drug, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH, sometimes known as rBST).  BGH is a powerful GE drug produced by Monsanto which, injected into dairy cows, forces them to produce 15%-25% more milk, in the process seriously damaging their health and reproductive capacity. 
Despite warnings from scientists, such as Dr. Michael Hansen from the Consumers Union and Dr. Samuel Epstein from the Cancer Prevention Coalition, that milk from rBGH injected cows contains substantially higher amounts of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-1, and despite evidence that rBGH milk contains higher levels of pus, bacteria, and antibiotics, the FDA gave the hormone its seal of approval, with no real pre-market safety testing required. 

Moreover, the FDA ruled, in a decision marred by rampant conflict of interest (several key FDA decision makers, including Michael Taylor, previously worked for Monsanto), that rBGH-derived products did not have to be labeled, despite polls showing that 90% of American consumers wanted labeling — mainly so they could avoid buying rBGH-tainted products. 

All of the major criticisms leveled against rBGH have turned out to be true. Since 1994, every industrialized country in the world, except for the US, has banned the drug.  In 1998, Canadian government scientists revealed that Monsanto’s own data on feeding rBGH to rats, carefully concealed by the company and the FDA, indicated possible cancer dangers to humans. 

Since rBGH was approved, approximately 40,000 small and medium-sized US dairy farmers, 1/3 of the total in the country, have gone out of business, concentrating milk production in the hands of industrial-sized dairies, most of whom are injecting their cows with this cruel and dangerous drug.

In a 1998 survey by Family Farm Defenders, it was found that mortality rates for cows on factory dairy farms in Wisconsin, those injecting their herds with rBGH, were running at 40% per year. In other words, after two and a half years of rBGH injections most of these drugged and supercharged cows were dead.  Typically, dairy cows live for 15-20 years. 

Alarmed and revolted by rBGH, consumers have turned in droves to organic milk and dairy products or to brands labeled as rBGH-free. Nonetheless, use of the drug has continued to increase in the US (and in nations like Brazil and Mexico) especially in large dairy herds, so that currently 15% of America’s 10 million lactating dairy cows are being injected with rBGH. 

Compounding the problem of rBGH contamination, most of the nation’s 1500 dairy companies are allowing the co-mingling of rBGH and non-rBGH milk, thereby contaminating 80-90% of the nation’s milk and dairy supply (including all of the major infant formula brands). For a list of organic and rBGH-free dairies in the US consult the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) website.

The major reason that rBGH is still on the market is that it is not labeled. Supermarket dairy managers, following guidelines circulated by the rBGH and biotech lobby, routinely lie to consumers, telling them either that rBGH is not in their products, or that there’s no way to tell, and reassuring them that the FDA has certified that rBGH is safe.  Of course, every survey conducted since 1994 shows that if consumers were given a choice, they would boycott rBGH-tainted products. 

Responding to the global controversy surrounding the drug, Monsanto put BGH for sale in 1998, but there were no takers. Transnational PR firms working with the biotech industry have categorized Monsanto’s handling of the rBGH controversy as a “public relations disaster.”  Starbucks has been a target as 3/4 of the 32 million gallons of milk it buys every year in the US are coming from dairies that allow cows to be injected with rBGH. 

Once Starbucks’ 15 million customers learn that most of the latte or cappuccino drinks they’re paying top dollar for (3/4 of the volume of these drinks are milk) contain an extra dose of pus, antibiotics, and growth hormones and that Fair Trade and organic coffee constitute less than one percent of company sales, they may decide to take their business elsewhere.  Total annual sales for the company are approximately $2.5 billion.

The worst nightmare of Monsanto and the biotech industry is starting to materialize: a mass-based consumer and environmental marketplace pressure campaign in the heartland of GE foods-North America. A number of major US food companies are already responding to public pressure and starting to sweep GE foods off their products lists and their grocery shelves: Gerber (baby food), Heinz (baby food), Frito-Lay (at least for their corn), Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe’s, and even McDonald’s (at least for their French fries).