03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Reckless Claims That Hormonal Milk Is Safe

A widely publicized recent report, "Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin" (rBST) claims that milk from cows injected with this genetically engineered hormone is safe.

The report was authored by eight consultants to rBST companies, including manufacturers of the hormone, Elanco and Monsanto. All were paid for their "safety assessments."

The hormone is injected in about 20% of USA dairy cows to increase milk production. While the industry claims that the hormone is safe for cows, and that the milk is safe for consumers, this is blatantly false.
• rBST makes cows sick. Monsanto has been forced to admit to about 20 toxic effects, including mastitis, on its Posilac label.
• rBST milk is contaminated by pus, due to the mastitis commonly induced by rBGH, and also by antibiotics used to treat the mastitis.
• rBST milk is chemically, and nutritionally different than natural milk.
• Milk from cows injected with rBST is contaminated with the hormone, traces of which is absorbed through the gut into the blood.
• rBST milk is supercharged with high levels of a natural growth factor (IGF-1), which is readily absorbed through the gut.
• Excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated, in well documented scientific publications, as causes of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Additionally, IGF-1 blocks natural defense mechanisms against early submicroscopic cancers, known as apoptosis.

Warning of these risks, in 1990 by the Cancer Prevention Coalition, was endorsed by the National Family Farm Coalition, representing 30 organizations, and by the Campaign Against rBST, representing 10 organizations.

A 2007 Cancer Prevention Coalition petition to the FDA, "Seeking Withdrawal of the New Animal Drug application for rBST," was endorsed by the Organic Consumers Association, Farm Defenders, and the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Of particular concern are risks to infants and children in view of their high susceptibility to cancer-causing products and ingredients. Nevertheless, few schools make organic milk available, nor do most state governments, under low-income food programs, particularly by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

However, these risks are readily avoidable. According to The Hartman Group, a prominent Seattle consulting firm, organic milk is now among the first organic products that consumers buy. Organic milk is also becoming increasingly available, with an annual growth rate of about 20%, while overall milk consumption is dropping by 10%.

Nevertheless, the FDA has remained indifferent to these risks, in spite of longstanding Congressional concerns. Illustrative is the 1986 report, "Human Food Safety and Regulation of Animal Drugs," by the House Committee on Government Operations. This concluded that the:

FDA has consistently disregarded its responsibility--has repeatedly put what it perceives are interests of veterinarians and the livestock industry ahead of its legal obligations to protect consumers--jeopardizing the health and safety of consumers of meat, milk, and poultry.

Wal-Mart is now the biggest seller of certified organic milk, followed by Horizon Organic, owned by Dean Foods, the nations largest dairy producer, and by Groupe Danone, the leading French dairy company. While growth in this market is still held back by the higher price of organic milk, this problem is likely to be resolved by Wal-Mart's competitive pricing.

In sharp contrast to the U.S., Canada, 24 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Japan have all banned the use and imports of hormonal milk and dairy products.

It is anticipated that Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the highly respected new Commissioner of the FDA, will take prompt action to protect the unsuspecting public from the dangers of rBST milk.

Samuel S. Epstein M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. He is a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention, and the Alternative Nobel Prize. He is author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on cancer, including the ground breaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Whats In Your Milk, Trafford Publishing (2006).

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