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Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Milk. Martin Donohoe Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Campaign for Safe Food. The Precautionary Principle.

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Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Milk


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    1. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Milk Martin Donohoe Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Campaign for Safe Food

    2. The Precautionary Principle When evidence points toward the potential of an activity to cause significant, widespread or irreparable harm to public health or the environment, options for avoiding that harm should be examined and pursued, even though the harm is not yet fully understood or proven.

    3. The Precautionary Principle • Give human and environmental health the benefit of doubt. • Include appropriate public participation in the discussion. • Gather unbiased scientific, technological and socioeconomic information. • Consider less risky alternatives.

    4. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) • aka recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), brand name Posilac© • Used to increase milk production by cattle • rBGH raises levels of Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in cows and cows’ milk • IGF-1 survives pasteurization and gastric digestion (due to casein protein in milk)

    5. rBGH • 10-15% of U.S. dairy cows injected with rBGH • May increase costs to dairy farms • Increases growth rate of cattle, which require increased protein feed

    6. rBGH • Marketed primarily to large dairy farms, which are supplanting small dairy farms • Worse environmental impact records • Higher rates of workplace injuries • Contribute to decreasing agricultural diversity

    7. Effects of rBGH • Serum IGF-1 levels increase 10% above baseline in individuals drinking milk from rBGH-treated cattle • IGF-1 interacts with estrogens, androgens, and other growth promoters • Milk is the food most associated with high IGF-1 levels • IGF-1 not important in yogurt, since it is used as a food source by some of the bacteria responsible for yogurt production

    8. Risks of rBGH • IGF-1 is a suspected contributor to breast, prostate and GI cancers • Promotes cell division and reduces apoptosis (preprogrammed cell death) in animals • Inhibits the ability of various anti-cancer drugs to kill cultured human breast cancer cells • Children, who have more years of life to live and drink more milk (and more milk per body weight) than adults, are disproportionately affected

    9. Risks of rBGH • Along with pesticides, other endocrine disruptors, and obesity, IGF-1 may be partly responsible for earlier onset of puberty (9.9 yrs in 2006, compared with 10.9 years in 1991)

    10. Harmful Effects of rBGH • FDA: rBGH causes 16 different harmful conditions in cattle, including heat stress, hoof disorders, GI disturbances, birth disorders, ovarian and uterine problems, and mastitis in cattle • Antibiotic treatment of mastitis leads to increased antibiotic resistance in cattle and humans

    11. rBGH (Posilac©) • Developed and marketed by Monsanto • Sold to Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly, in 2008 for $300 million • Monsanto stock then rises 5%, while Eli Lilly’s drops 1%

    12. Monsanto • Agent Orange, PCBs, dioxins DDT • Largest producer of genetically-modified seeds • Contamination events • Unethical experiments • Harassment of scientists

    13. Monsanto • Pesticide Roundup used in “War on Drugs” in Colombia • Profitable • Member of corporate front groups fighting food safety legislation/organizations

    14. Monsanto • Roger Beachy (long-time president of the Danforth Plant, Monsanto’s nonprofit arm) now chief of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, overseeing almost $500 million in grants and research funding

    15. Monsanto • Islam Siddiqui, VP at CropLife America (US branch of CropLife International, an agribusiness front group led by Monsanto and others) nominated for position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the US Trade Representative’s Office

    16. Eli Lilly • Paid record-setting settlement of $1.42 billion to US Justice Department for illegally marketing Zyprexa to children and elderly for non-FDA approved indications • Marketed DES for almost 2 decades despite data showing link between DES exposure in mothers and clear cell vaginal cancers in offspring

    17. FDA Approval of rBGH • OK’d for use by FDA in 1993; on market since 1994 • FDA official (and former Monsanto attorney) Michael Taylor oversaw process – became Monsanto VP after leaving FDA; now senior advisor to FDA Commissioner

    18. FDA Approval of rBGH • FDA relied on industry summary of internal tests • Several scientists in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine reported undue corporate influence that corrupted the science

    19. FDA Approval of rBGH • GAO investigation: • Found 3 FDA employees involved in decision had conflicts of interest and multiple ethics rules violations • Criticized sloppy, manipulative science, lack of data on human health effects

    20. Repressed Information on rBGH • Fox News report on health risks repressed • One of the reporters awarded $425,000 by jury, which agreed that Fox “acted intentionally and deliberately to distort the plaintiffs news reporting on rBST.”

    21. Repressed Information on rBGH • Appeals court overturned verdict: • Whisteblower statute only protects people who threaten to report a violation of a law, rule, or regulation • Distorting TV news is not technically illegal • Reporters received Goldman Environmental Prize (“the Nobel Prize for the environment”)

    22. rBGH Worldwide • Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the European Union have banned rBGH • However, dairy products produced by rBGH-injected cattle can be imported into many of these nations • EU Food Safety Agency updates ban 2007

    23. rBGH Worldwide • The Codex Alimentarius, the UN’s main food safety body, has refused to certify rBGH as safe • Economic/trade consequences for U.S. farmers using rBGH

    24. Public Opinion and Economics re rBGH • Consumers increasingly aware of rBGH • 80% of consumers want labeling • Most willing to pay more for milk free of artificial hormones

    25. Public Opinion and Economics re rBGH • Many dairies and milk product brands have gone rBGH-free, as have all four major Portland, OR hospital systems (for fluid milk) and over 160 hospitals nationwide • Price for organic/rBGH-free milk products decreasing, especially in markets where most producers have gone rBGH-free (e.g., OR, WA, ME, and most parts of CA)

    26. Public Opinion re rBGH • “We’re not aware of any consumer demand for [an rBGH-free] product.” – Kevin Holloway, Monsanto, Capital Press (Salem, OR), Feb. 2, 2007.

    27. Public Opinion re rBGH • “Our customers' increasing interest in their health and wellness is the basis for our decision [to begin requiring certification that our milk is from cows not treated with rbST].’” – William Boehm, Senior Vice President – Kroger, Atlanta Journal – Constitution, Aug. 3, 2007.

    28. Public Opinion re rBGH • “When it comes to our decision to carry rBST-free milk, we are simply listening and responding to what our customers have asked for.” – Shannon Patten, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, FL Ledger, June 10, 2007.

    29. Public Opinion re rBGH • “When Tillamook’s (rBGH-free cheese) policy became public, we received overwhelmingly supportive feedback. In just two weeks, more than 8,500 consumers contacted us, backing our policy.” – Jim McMullen, former Tillamook (OR) CEO, Cheese Market News, May 13, 2005.

    30. rBGH and Greenhouse Gasses • Causes 10% increase in milk production, but: • May increase food costs • Increased greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, which contribute to global warming (per FDA, NAS, and EPA) • Treated cows burn out faster, slaughtered earlier • FDA turned down Monsanto’s request to label rBGH as feed-efficient (and therefore causing fewer greenhouse gas emissions)

    31. Another potential risk of rBGH-use • rBGH increases growth rate of cattle, which require increased protein feed • One of the cheapest and most commonly-utilized forms of protein is other dead animals, via rendering • Mad Cow Disease • USDA can bar meatpackers from testing slaughtered cattle

    32. Other Issues re rBGH and Milk • Scientific evidence shows that some of the purported benefits of milk may be false • Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are widely available, inexpensive, and contain 0 calories • Many non-Europeans are lactose-intolerant

    33. Other Risks Involving Milk:Melamine • Falsely elevates apparent protein content of milk, allowing milk to be watered-down • Nephrotoxic, by causing crystals to form in kidneys • 19 sentenced (including 2 – death penalty, 3 – life in prison) • 51,000+ children sickened in China (at least 6 deaths) in 2008/9 • Melamine still found in many products sold imported from China

    34. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • rBGH: • Goal – discontinue the production of any dairy products from cows treated with rBGH • Oregon $600 million dairy industry

    35. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • rBGH: • Grassroots education campaign so that citizens can make an informed choice • Oppose efforts by AFACT (Monsanto front group) and others to limit labeling at the state and federal level • 8 states have attempted to ban or restrict rBGH-free dairy labeling • Only OH has succeeded: currently under appeal

    36. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • All fluid milk products in Oregon now rBGH-free • 55 of the top 100 U.S. dairies are now at least partially rBGH-free or have announced that they will be

    37. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • Tillamook cheese (2nd largest producer in U.S. after Kraft) now rBGH-free • Fred Meyer, Eberhard, Alpenrose, Darigold, Yoplait, Meadow Gold, TG Lee, Velda milk products rBGH-free

    38. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • Dean Foods (a few plants), Albertson’s, Publix, Trader Joes, and Safeway (fluid milk in No. CA and Pacific NW), and Darigold rBGH-free • Wal-Mart (store brand), Kroger (includes Fred Meyer, QF, Ralphs, and Smith’s markets) rBGH-free • California Dairies, Inc. (second largest US co-op) rBGH-free

    39. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • Southwest Milk, Inc. (Florida’s largest co-op) rBGH-free • Dannon, General Mills phasing out rBGH products • Campina (Europe’s largest dairy producer) going rBGH-free

    40. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • Lactaid rBGH-free • Starbucks company-owned stores rBGH-free (not franchises) • Subway, Chipotle Restaurants rBGH-free • Some schools going rBGH-free

    41. Opposition to rBGH • APHA • ANA • Health Care Without Harm • AMA President Ron Davis (’07-’08) • BMJ

    42. Opposition to rBGH • ACS – no formal position (2009); previously supported rBGH • Humane Society • Animal Protection Institute • Humane Farming Association • Farm Sanctuary

    43. OR PSR Campaign for Safe Food • rBGH-free milk • Organic milk • No rBGH or other added hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics • Contains more beneficial fatty acids • Sales of rBGH-free and organic milk increasing; demand high throughout U.S.; prices falling

    44. What You Can Do • Buy rBGH-free dairy products • Tell others about rBGH (schools, hospitals, churches, etc.) • Support APHA resolution calling for the precautionary avoidance of hormone growth promoters in beef and dairy cattle production • Sign up for email updates • Donate to food safety groups

    45. PSR Campaign for Safe Food: Available Resources • Fact Sheets on rBGH, biopharming, and food irradiation • rBGH-free Dairy Products Guide (milk and yogurt) • Survey data re consumer opinions on rBGH • Detailed scientific references • This presentation

    46. PSR Campaign for Safe Food: Available Resources • Donohoe MT. Genetically-Modified Foods: Health and Environmental Risks and the Corporate Agribusiness Agenda. Z Magazine 2006 (December):35-40. Available at http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Dec2006/donohoe1206.html

    47. Website • Campaign for Safe Food, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility: http://www.oregonpsr.org/programs/campaignSafeFood.html

    48. Contact Information Public Health and Social Justice Website http://www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org http://www.phsj.org martindonohoe@phsj.org