Posted in on March 6, 2008

Got Milk? Monsanto’s Milk is a Murky rBGH Mess.

Monsanto doesn’t want us to know what’s in the milk we’re drinking. Monsanto is fighting to ban labels that claim milk is rBGH free, claiming there is no way to verify the claim is true and there is no difference in milk from cows treated with rBGH and cows that are not treated. Thus they claim, the labels are misleading.

Having recently signed up for a home delivery service which provides rBGH free milk, I thought I’d do a little research into the growth hormone and antibiotic issue. I almost wish I hadn’t. They’re not kidding when they say “Ignorance is Bliss.”

So, what’s the big deal about rBGH?

rBGH is a synthetic growth hormone that is injected into cows to increase milk production. According to the National Family Farm Coalition, there are plenty of problems with rBGH including udder infections. The cows must be treated with antitbiotics which contributes to human antibiotic resistance. The cows also suffer from birth disorders, pus in their milk, hoof problems, heat stress, diarrhea and other gynecological and gastrointestinal problems. Cows treated with rBGH also have significantly elevated levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) which spurs cellular growth and is linked to increased rates of breast, prostrate and colon cancer.

Bovine somatotropin (bST or BST) is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary glands of cattle. It is also called bovine growth hormone (BGH). BST can be produced synthetically, using recombinant DNA technology. The result is recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), or artificial growth hormone. It is injected into the cow and to increase milk production. Monsanto is the only company that markets rBST, under the trade name Posilac.

Straight from the horses, um I mean cow’s mouth, “Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.”

This from the company that has brought us Agent Orange, PCBs, Terminator seeds and recombined milk, among other infamous products.

According to Wikipedia, The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup”. Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70% – 100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 16,000 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of US $7.344 billion reported for 2006.

Sounds like Monsanto is having an identity crisis. Are they an agricultural company helping the world be successful with healthier foods or a international, biotechnology behemeth leading the world in producing bioengineered food?

Monsanto has an aggressive litigation and lobbying program to support the development and marketing of genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, making it a primary target of the anti-globalization movement and environmental activists. While other chemical and biotech multinationals face similar criticisms, ever controversial, Monsanto tends to be targeted more routinely and more strongly.

“RBST is a supplement that helps the cow produce more milk,” Monsanto spokesperson Lori Hoag explains. “It is injected into the cow, not into the milk. There is no way to test because the milk is absolutely the same. Neither the public nor a scientist can tell the difference in the milk because there is not a difference. Consumers absolutely have a right to know if there is a difference in foods they are buying. In this case, there simply is not a difference.”

“Monsanto has an unfortunate habit of mixing some things together that confuse the issue,” counters Rick North, director of Campaign for Safe Food from Physicians for Social Responsibility‘s Oregon chapter. “It’s true that all cows have natural bovine growth hormone. But only cows injected with recombinant, genetically engineered bovine growth hormone have rBGH. And this isn’t a ‘supplement.’ This is a drug that revs up cow metabolism so high that they’re typically burned out after two lactation cycles and slaughtered. Non-rBGH cows typically live four, seven, ten or more years.” As shown in the Westland/Hallmark beef recall, animals are treated inhumanely in order to maximize profits. Maybe some of those sick cows shown in the Humane Society video were suffering from side effects caused from rBGH.

Again, here’s another case of Corporate America (in this case, Corporate International) putting profit before safety.

I’d like to know…what happened to just milk?

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