(This was originally posted on dKos on 12/2. I am cross posting here at the request of members of the Booman community)
Throughout the course of our days, we consume all manner of foods and beverages. Some are more aware and concerned about their diets, and therefore more careful. I often find myself running to the vending machines in my office to grab a snack, a soda, etc. This got me to thinking about the things that I swallow without a second thought, and the possible effects that they may be having on my health.
This is what lead me to what I write today. Over the next few weeks, I will be looking over the labels of foods, searching for those ingredients that seem out of place and trying to find out more. I will share what I find – mostly through your usual internet search engines. Hopefully, the response will be such that a concrete idea of the health hazards and possible benefits of these ingredients will become available.
First up is something that I heard whispers of some years ago, something that caught my attention and required a deeper look.
Join me on the flip as I take a look at recombinant bovine growth hormone – rBGH
OK, first things first. I am aware that rBGH is not technically an “ingredient” in our foods, but based on what I know, products derived from the use of this hormone will contain rBGH – at levels that may have an impact on our bodies.
- WHAT IS rBGH?
Per wikipedia, rBGH is a genetically engineered hormone used to increase milk production in dairy cows – also known as rbST (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin). But how widely used is rBGH, and where did it come from? Well, the wikipedia has more:
Monsanto developed a recombinant version of bST (rbST), which goes by the brand name Posilac®. Injected into dairy cattle, the product can increase milk production from 10% up to 40%. In November 1993, the product was approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA, and its use began in February 1994. The product is now sold in all 50 states. According to Monsanto, approximately one third of dairy cattle in the U.S. are injected with Posilac; approximately 13,000 dairy producers use the product. It is now the top selling dairy cattle pharmaceutical product in the U.S. The FDA does not require special labels for products produced from cows given rbST.
Sounds good so far, right? I mean, we could always use more milk, I guess. Although, I never heard of any shortage that would really require increasing production so dramatically. But, I digress…
So, now we know that dairy farmers in all 50 states use rBGH, so it must be good, right? Well, what about the rest of the world? I wonder what they think…
While it is used in the United States, it is banned in Canada, the EU, Australia, and New Zealand.
Hmmm….our northern neighbors, the whole of Europe and the land down under must know something we don’t, right?
Well, let’s take a look at rBGH and its impact to find out more….
- WHAT ARE SOME POSSIBLE rBGH HAZARDS?
Starting February 3, 1994, milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, beef and infant formula sold and consumed throughout the United States will be laced with genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) – also known as “Bovine Somatotropin” or BST. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of rBGH in dairy cows without long-term testing of the hormone’s health effects on consumers.
The FDA has also refused to require labeling of milk and other dairy products derived from use of the genetically engineered hormone, even though more than 90% of consumers favor labeling of rBGH products so they can avoid buying them.
Wait, this stuff is in baby formula? Well, I would imagine that the FDA really made sure that it was safe prior to allowing it to reach the market of course (more on that later)….
The Food and Drug Administraition (FDA) admits that the use of rBGH in cows may lead to increased amounts of pus and bacteria in milk.
Equally disturbing, the powerful antibiotics and other drugs used to fight increased disease in rBGH-injected cows may lead to greater antibiotic and chemical contamination of milk and dangerous resistance to antibiotics in the human population.
The FDA has released studies showing that milk from rBGH-treated cows could have more saturated fat and less protein that regular milk.
Both the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and the Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, have warned of the potential hazards to human health caused by consuming products derived from rBGH-treated cows.
Well, that is disturbing. I don’t know about you – the reader – but, I prefer my milk to be as pus free as possible. But, what could the possible long term effects be? Well, to answer that, I think we must first look at how rBGH miraculously makes cows produce more milk.
Well, let’s take a look at this, from the Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIG):
When a genetically-engineered version of BGH is injected into a cow, (called rBGH) the immediate effect is to release an unnaturally large amount of a second powerful growth hormone — IGF-1 (short for insulin-like growth factor-1). It is this second hormone, IGF-1, which directly stimulates milk production.
The cow’s body is now overstimulated to produce 10 to 15% more milk. Instead of 16,800 pounds per year, she now produces over 19,000 pounds.
The Monsanto Corporation manufactures recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) by removing the section of bovine DNA which controls the production of natural BST and combining it with the DNA of the e.Coli bacterium. Large quantities of BST-laced e.Coli are grown in vats and the result – rBGH – is sold to dairy farmers by the dose.
Cows make more milk because they make more IGF-1. So, with the process of pasteurization, the IGF-1 should be removed from our milk and dairy, right?
Well, apparently, no, it is not…more from VPIG:
A number of studies have shown cows treated with rBGH produce milk with levels of IGF-1 two to ten times as high as normal cow’s milk. IGF-1 is also found in humans; human IGF-1 and bovine
IGF-1 are chemically identical, which means milk from rBGH-treated cows contains an increased level of a growth factor which is biologically active in humans.
While humans naturally produce IGF-1, that IGF-1 breaks down quickly in our bodies. IGF-1 in milk, however, does not break down quickly because that reaction may be inhibited by the presence of casein (a primary milk protein). In addition, IGF-1 found in treated milk is much more potent than that found in regular milk because it is less firmly bound to its accompanying proteins.
Well, that doesn’t sound good at all. I wonder, what does an increased level of IGF-1 mean to those who drink rBGH effected milk?
Well, VPIG has more:
A European review of the potential human health effects of rBGH concluded that evidence supports an association between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer. The report said:
“the relative risk of breast cancer increases with the amount of dairy products consumed…”
These concerns are particularly acute when applied to children. Children drink more milk than adults, and their exposure is higher because they have less body mass with which to process contaminants in milk.
Because their bodies, especially their reproductive and immune systems, are still developing, premature growth stimulation is a real concern with sustained intakes of high levels of IGF-1.
Some of the potential mechanisms of the way in which IGF-1 increases cancer risk are as follows:
IGF-1 could be a surrogate for the activity of sex steroid hormones, which in turn influence the risk of cancer.
IGF-1 may increase cell turnover and the susceptibility of cells to malignant transformation both directly and by modulating the effects of sex steroids.
IGF-1 might increase the risk of cancer by preventing the programmed death of cells that have been transformed, thus interrupting an important process, which retards the development of cancer.
So, now we see, rBGH and, conversely, IGF-1 are pretty clearly not something we would want to put into our bodies. But, this begs the question:
- HOW DID rBGH MEET WITH FDA APPROVAL?
Let’s go back to the good folks at VPIG for a quick look at this one:
There are many questions about the approval process for rBGH in the U.S. Two of the most significant include:
The Food and Drug Administration official who signed the rBGH approval into law in 1994 is Michael Taylor. Prior to his employment by FDA, he worked for a law firm which represented rBGH to the FDA on behalf of Monsanto, engineers of rBGH. Since approving rBGH, he has returned to work for Monsanto.
Also, the FDA employee (Margaret Miller) who initially signed off on the human safety issue and was involved in virtually every major decision about rBGH – including whether a residue test was needed (which would have led to labeling) – was a former Monsanto rBGH researcher.
Well, shit…who saw that one coming, huh?
So, in conclusion, what we have seen is: a product – not determined to be safe for human consumption – placed on the market to solve a non-existent problem – there is not now, nor was there a milk production shortage in the US; a product that may lead to increased cancer rates, early onset puberty in children and a myriad of other health concerns; a product that met with FDA approval due to a corrupted system based more on financial gain than the public’s safety.
One final thought: take a quick look next time you grab that gallon of milk from your fridge, or while you peruse the dairy aisle at your local supermarket. Let me know if you notice something strange. That gallon of milk will expire in a few days per the stamp, right? Why do I recall milk lasting much longer when I was younger? It couldn’t possibly just be me right? Well, one glance at the carton of organic milk in the dairy case will show you why: rBGH tainted milk goes bad faster than non-rBGH infected milk, thus creating a need for the consumer to purchase milk more frequently. Thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy of milk supply and demand…
Please check out the links below for more info on rBGH and its impact: