Although banned in most other industrialized nations due to the health risks to humans and harm to the animals, Monsanto’s genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) is still injected into dairy cows in the US to increase milk-production.
So why was rBGH approved? The approval of rBGH in our country is a story of fired whistleblowers, manipulated research, and a corporate takeover of the US Food and Drug Administration. US dairies, responding to the health concerns of consumers by not injecting their herds, now battle for their right to label their milk as rBGH-free. For those familiar with the history of this controversial drug, and Monsanto, this is no surprise. Monsanto’s past is plagued with toxic disasters, lawsuits and cover-ups.
|Your Milk on Drugs –
Just Say No! (8:54 min)
The Health Hazards in Milk from Cows Injected with rBGH
Milk from rBGH-treated cows has much higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone considered to be a high risk factor for breast, prostate, colon, lung, and other cancers. IGF-1 levels in milk from treated cows with rBGH can be up to 10 times higher. Studies suggest that pre-menopausal women below 50 years old with high levels of IGF-1 are seven times more likely to develop breast cancer. Men are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer. IGF-1 is implicated in lung and colon cancer.
Milk from rBGH-treated cows with its heightened IGF-1 levels also likely increases the rate of fraternal twin births in humans. In the United States, the number of fraternal twins grew at twice the rate as that in the United Kingdom, where rBGH is banned.
Milk from cows injected with rBGH also has lowered nutritional value, increased antibiotics and more pus from infected udders. Cows given rBGH experience higher rates of mastitis, a painful udder infection. When treated with antibiotics that are also used for people, bacteria resistant to these antibiotics end up in the milk, air, soil and water, resulting in increased antibiotic resistance in humans, a major health problem.
|The Health Risks of rbGH|
Labels that Lie
Within the US, many school systems have banned milk products from injected cows and dairies have refused to inject their cow with it. But a milk carton from Maine’s Oakhurst Dairy stating, “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones” became the subject of controversy when on July 3, 2003 the dairy was sued by Monsanto over their labels. Oakhurst eventually settled, agreeing to add a sentence saying that according to the FDA no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from [rBGH]-treated and non- treated cows. But it’s a statement that is not true. Both Monsanto and FDA scientists had acknowledged the increase of IGF-1 in milk from treated cows. Higher amounts of pus and antibiotic residues in the milk were noted are as well. This misleading addition to the label was written by the FDA’s deputy commissioner of policy, Michael Taylor, previously Monsanto’s outside attorney who, after running policy at the FDA, became vice president of Monsanto. Could this revolving door between Monsanto and the government regulators (i.e. the movement from positions as biotech leaders to government policymaker and back again) be the one of the reasons why the FDA isn’t protecting US consumers?
|Flawed FDA Approval|
Bribes, Fired Scientists and Corporate Hijacking of the FDA and Health Canada
In the late 1980s, one FDA scientist was fired after expressing concerns about possible health problems related rBGH-treated cows. Other like-minded FDA scientists at the FDA had been stripped of responsibilities or forced out. Remaining FDA whistle-blowers had to write an anonymous letter to Congress, complaining of fraud and conflict of interest at the agency. In 1998, six Canadian government scientists testified before their Senate that they were being pressured by superiors to approve rBGH, even though they believed it was unsafe. They also testified that documents were stolen from a locked file cabinet and that Monsanto offered them a bribe of $1-2 million to approve the drug. Monsanto responded to the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) story about the alleged bribe, claiming that the scientists misunderstood an offer for research money. (Eventually in 2005, Monsanto was fined for offering bribes to 140 Indonesians, as the company tried to gain approval for their genetically modified cotton.)
Muscling the Media—Fox News Intimidated
In 1989, Monsanto’s PR firm created “the Dairy Coalition,” a group that included researchers funded by Monsanto, to pressure editors of the USA Today, Boston Globe, New York Times and others, to stop reporting on the health concerns about rBGH.
|Fox News Report (10min)|
The potential link between rBGH and cancer was one of the topics revealed in a four-part news series set to air in February of 1997 by a Tampa-based Fox TV station. Just before the series was to air, however, Fox received threatening letters from Monsanto’s attorney, threatening “dire consequences for Fox News.” The show was postponed indefinitely. The reporters who had created the series later testified that they were offered hush money to leave the station and never speak about the story again. They declined.
Progress and New Battles
Over the past few years, several organizations have worked to raise awareness of the rBGH issue, such as the Campaign For Safe Food launched by the Oregon Chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Getting attention to the rBGH issue was slow at first, but by educating consumers about the health dangers associated with rBGH and producers making rBGH-free brands readily available, we have seen a widespread consumer demand for rBGH free dairy products. Within the last two years, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Kroger, and about 40 of the 100 top dairies removed rBGH products as consumer concerns reached a tipping point on this issue.
Having failed to gain a complete ban on “rBGH-free” labeling from the FDA, Monsanto has now gone to the state level by claiming the labels are an “unfair restraint of trade” even with the FDA disclaimer. Also, in an effort to turn public opinion their way, Monsanto has been trying to promote rBGH as having a positive effect on the environment. Of course their position is based on the “bad science” that they have perfected. The reality is that rBGH is anything but green.
The Next Big Consumer Tidal Wave Will be the Complete Rejection of Remaining GMOs in Food Products, and You Can be a Part of It
The market rejection of rBGH demonstrates that consumers are still at the top of the food chain, dictating the direction of this fight. We expect to see the same tipping point kick GM foods out of the US food supply. Almost 87 million consumers in the United States believe that all GM foods aren’t safe, but can’t always avoid them because they don’t know how. By directing the purchasing power of the tens of millions of health-conscious shoppers, we can reach a new tipping point and push GMOs out of the entire food supply.
Here are a couple of things you can do to help. First, view the rBGH free dairy products section of the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and share this with friends. Then, sign on to participate in The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America and you will join the swell that is rising out of the natural food aisles and building into tidal wave of GMO rejection throughout the entire food industry. Adding your name to the Campaign’s growing list of supporters not only addresses you and your family’s health concerns, but also influences the decisions of food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers nationwide.
Finally, we invite you to have house party showings of Marie Monique Robin’s terrific documentary film, The World According to Monsanto, which is a part of a packaged two DVD set that includes Your Milk on Drugs – Just Say No! The World According to Monsanto, takes a hard look at Monsanto’s campaign of deception and use of coercive tactics to gain market supremacy.
Use this link to purchase the 2-DVD set, The World According to Monsanto and Your Milk on Drugs – Just Say No!