"The US Department of Agriculture is, by law, both inspector of and promoter for the meat industry. It must inspect meat and poultry on behalf of the public as well as promote consumption of meat and poultry to the public."
- The Economist April 25, 1998
The Food and Drug Administration's approval of Posilac, Monsanto's synthetic bovine growth hormone (rBGH) was based on the company's own 90-day study in rats from which FDA scientists concluded that there were "no toxicologically significant changes" seen in rats who had been fed the hormone.
In reviewing unpublished data from the same study, however, Canadian scientists found that 20% to 30% of the rats fed high doses had developed antibodies, indicating that their bodies found it necessary to put up resistance. In addition, some of the male rats had developed thyroid cysts and prostate abnormalities.
In December, Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords asked Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to investigate but as of January 19 had had no reply.
Also in December, dairy farmer and consumer groups threatened to sue FDA for failing to require additional safety studies. The 90-day study did not show rBGH to be hazardous to humans, but neither did it show it to be safe (How could it when it was done on rats?). According to Dr Michael Hanson, a research associate with Consumers Union: "It's clear that FDA grossly misled us."
Dr Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said his agency had seen the thyroid and prostate data but dismissed them because they were the same in low dose rats as in high dose rats.
Meanwhile, two Harvard University studies, the Physicians' Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study, have determined that insulin-dependent growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which occurs at slightly higher levels in milk from hormone-treated cows than in milk from untreated cows, increases he risk for breast and prostate cancer. As IGF-1 occurs in somewhat higher amounts in human milk, there seems to be no question of short term harm from consuming a little extra in cows' milk.
The effect of a lifetime of milk consumption is another matter. Humans naturally have rather high levels of IGF-1. The Physicians' Health Study found that those with the highest levels in their blood were four times as likely to develop prostate cancer as those with the lowest levels.
The Nurses' Health Study reported a seven-fold risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women with the highest levels.
Susan Gilbert, The New York Times January 19, 1999
COMMENT: Consequently, Canada does not permit the use of rBGH. It is clear that FDA based its approval partly on trust in Monsanto, hardly surprising when employees have been known to migrate back and forth between the two entities. The rat study was not valid for humans, of course, which serves to show how many harmful products get approval because human data is non-existent or unheeded. All of this fuss distracts attention from nutritional studies revealing that cows' milk, particularly milk produced by intensive modern methods beyond the use of growth hormone, is not a healthy food for humans.
Volume 10 Issue 1 Spring 1999
The Civil Abolitionist
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