How about a little pus in your milk? That, plus something worse (if you can imagine that) is what you are likely to get as a result of the newest assault on a once healthy product. The travesty now being perpetrated on the milk-drinking public is the use of Monsantoís genetically engineered bovine growth hormone rBGH (also called rBST). By artificially stimulating milk production, the individual cow's life is reported by many farmers to be shortened by an average of two years. And during this shortened lifespan, the cows suffer reproductive problems, lameness from hoof problems, and increased instances of mastitis, an udder infection which can result in pus being added to the collected milk.
It is clear that this added hormone harms the cows, but what about the people who drink their milk? The FDA, which gave approval to rBGH in 1993, said that Monsantoís product was no different from the natural BGH already present in cow's milk and that it would have no specific impact on humans (untrue). BGH acts as a growth hormone only in cows, we were told, and the extra hormones in milk from injected cows would not be absorbed into the bloodstream (false again).
The problem for people may not be the rBGH per se, but rather what it does inside the cow. rBGH creates elevated levels of another hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) which occurs naturally in the human body and is useful for a variety of metabolic functions. One study showed a 6-fold increase of IGF-1 in milk from cows injected with rBGH. Elevated amounts of IGF-1, however, are of great concern. It is absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby raising levels of this potent hormone which causes cells to divide. The concern, of course, is with high amounts of IGF-1 and its ability to promote cancer. The British journal "Lancet" reported a 7-fold increase in the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women with the highest levels of IGF-1 in their blood. The publication "Science" reported a 4-fold increased risk of prostate cancer in men with elevated levels of IGF-1 even though these levels were within the normal range. This growth hormone has also been implicated in cancers of the lung and colon. British researchers have cautioned against consuming substances which increase concentrations of IGF-1 because of the increasing evidence of the risk of cancer.
Did the long period of testing on animals before approval reveal no risks at all? Well, the FDA has kept these details under wraps. You see, a key 90-day study on 30 rats conducted by Monsanto, which convinced the FDA to approve their drug, has never been made public--or even made available to the independent scientific community. Monsanto and the FDA refuse to reveal the results.
In Canada, however, their scientists found enough convincing evidence of harm to cows that rBGH was, after nine years of study, rejected in 1999. Evidently, the influence of Monsanto is not quite as great in Canada as it is in the U.S.
Today consumers still have difficulty in knowing whether their milk, cream, cheese, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. are produced from rBGH-treated cows. About 30% of all U.S. cows are injected with this hormone, and much of their milk is blended at processing plants with the milk from dairies not using it. In some states, however, consumers can find labels stating that the milk or cheese is rBGH (or rBST) free. Look for those products. Demand those products. Best yet, request and buy only organically-produced or raw milk products, particularly from dairies which allow their cows to graze on grass.
By Michael Barbee
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