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There is a very quiet, national campaign afoot that you may want to learn about. True, it seems each new sunrise brings new national campaigns about something or other, and so I understand the activist-panic fatigue. This one is a bit more intriguing, if only because it involves our kids. The Center for Food Safety has launched a national letter-writing campaign to change the milk being served in America’s schools. Change it for the better.

(Some) Milk Does a Body Good

There is a very quiet, national campaign afoot that you may want to learn about. True, it seems each new sunrise brings new national campaigns about something or other, and so I understand the activist-panic fatigue.

This one is a bit more intriguing, if only because it involves our kids. The Center for Food Safety has launched a national letter-writing campaign to change the milk being served in America’s schools. Change it for the better.

This is a nonprofit group in DC, whose stated purpose is to “challenge harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives”. They are endeavoring to force schools to stop serving milk from cows who have been fed (read: injected with) the rBGH hormone.

This seems a grassroots effort, and seems so low-key that I delved a bit into rBGH to see what the low-key fuss is about.

Seems this is an FDA-approved hormone for cows, and up to 80% of the bovine have this stuff pumped into them. Food and Water Watch, a favorite of mine, reports that although this hormone has been approved for cattle and sheep, it is not allowed for chickens or pigs—a curious division that probably warrants some more investigation in itself.

The hormone, of course, boosts milk production—up to 10% which would seem the obvious reason it’s being so widely used.

All that seemed passable to me—overlooking for the moment the idea of engineering an animal to exceed itself—but the flags went up when I learned two other things: one, rBGH was developed by Monsanto, and two, it’s been linked to cancer.

The Organic Consumers Association reports that rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) is a genetically engineered version of a naturally occurring hormone. Monsanto sells it as Posilac; it does increase milk production by about 10%, and also increases the incidences of mastitis, lameness, and reproductive complications.

Monsanto, king of all things genetically modified has curiously decided to cease manufacturing rGBH; they cite declining sales and several legal setbacks as the reasons (Eli Liilly has purchased Posilac from Monsanto, so this discussion is likely not over).

More to the point, rGBH is being increasingly called a danger to human health, and there are more and more scientists and health experts who doubt the safety of using hormones in dairy and beef cattle. And, when this milk is being served at the scale it is—some 84 million gallons a year in the schools—it means that 1 of every 5 pints of milk being drunk in American schools has rGBH in it.

Such widespread use of hormones is also affecting the international market for American dairy and beef. The European Union prohibited the use of hormones for non-therapeutic purposes in 1985, and banned the importation of U.S. beef in 1988 to avoid importing hormone-treated meat.

In April of 1999, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) released a report indicating that the use of the six growth hormones posed a risk to consumers. The EU ban remains in place.

What can we do?

We don’t need government regulation; we just need to get smart and exercise our right to choose–and then, to choose health and safety above all else.

Buy organic milk; buy ethically produced, locally imported milk (from small farms, so you know what they do and don’t do to the cattle).

And join the campaign to rid the schools of this milk. The children need us to stand up for them—here’s another chance.

About Dean Williamson

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2 comments

  1. Dean, you write that Monsanto “curiously decided to cease manufacturing rGBH; they cite declining sales and several legal setbacks as the reasons.”

    Since Monsanto never broke out sales for the hormone in their annual report to investors, do you have any evidence of “declining sales”? Or is that just a guess?

  2. Dean, you do a disservice to your readers by not having the facts stated correctly. First, BST, recombinant or otherwise does not have any action in humans, rats, chickens etc because we have no receptor for it. Second, it does not occur in the milk beyond any levels beyond that of untreated cattle. The reason it is not used in Canada/Europe is for trade barrier reasons and due to animal safety; not human safety at all. The ILF (insulin-like factor) cancer concern is legitimate for the consumption of all milk and not just that produced from treated cattle.

    All of the original publications and FDA files are publicly available and the data stand as solid today as they did in the 80’s when rBST was licensed. I suggest you at least read a little of it.

    From a foreigners point of view, the FDA does a very good job of protecting the public – much more so than in Europe. As a scientist and father of four milk-drinking children, I have no concerns over the use of rBST other than the ethical question of our mass production of food animals and their products for the sake of lower prices. Having said that, I do not want to pay more for chicken, beef, milk etc and so have made my choice – based on facts, not here-say.