Dear Dr. Barnard,
In the early 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration reviewed a very flawed study funded by Monsanto, the sole manufacturer of the genetically engineered bovine growth-hormone rBGH. If you want to know just how flawed that study actually was, read the detailed reports from the University of Vermont. It is clear from their report they feel pretty bad about being duped into complicity with Monsanto and how such a flawed study could be used to support a product causing such clear problems in animals -- over 15 different problems in fact -- from increased rates of painful mastitis (and subsequent overuse of antibiotics to control it, thereby contributing to the ever increasing problem of human antibiotic resistance), to higher rates of teratogenic defects in offspring of injected cows. Better still, read any of the reports from the scientists of the European Union who unanimously rejected the use of rBGH due to concerns over exactly these animal health concerns, as well as a growing body of human health concerns.
After you've finished with those, you might want to read the May 2008 report titled "Monsanto's Harvest of Fear" in Vanity Fair from the double Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist team of Donald Barlett and James Steele. I promise it will be an eye opener, not only on the use of rBGH, but also on the generally horrific (to put it mildly) business practices of its manufacturer, Monsanto. Then read how no long-term studies have been conducted on animals with rBGH; the longest toxicological study conducted prior to the FDA approving rBGH was only 90 days. But as Barlett and Steele so aptly point out, humans drink milk over a lifetime, not over a mere three months. Long-term studies to this day are not forthcoming and Monsanto funded the short studies that exist. Did I mention that those on the FDA approval committee for rBGH had deep professional ties to Monsanto? After you've finished that, then read everything from respected scientists, medical professionals, healthcare and consumer advocates from the Consumers Union, Healthcare Without Harm and Food & Water Watch, just to name a few.
You are right Dr. Barnard that one of the growing concerns with rBGH is the elevated level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) that occurs in milk when cows are injected with rBGH. Read the studies of Health Canada's scientific review team who reported that when administered, rBGH produced a "distinct immunological effect". Then read in respected medical journals such as The Lancet, Epidemiology and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute how higher levels of IGF-1 are suspected links to breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancers. Even the Journal of Dairy Research reports the level of total increase in the secretion of IGF-1 into milk of these rBGH-injected cows was six-fold. And that the European Commission found that injected cows milk "may contain truncated IGF-1, which was found to be even more potent than IGF-1 in its anabolic response". Is it starting to make sense yet why this is a real concern to dairy consumers? All 27 countries in the EU as well as Canada, Japan, and Australia have banned the use of rBGH. Should we trust the full weight of the science behind 30 nations, or should we trust Monsanto with our health? After all, didn't Monsanto bring us pcbs, dioxin, and Agent Orange, as well as being responsible for over 50 toxic EPA superfund sites? Why yes Dr. Barnard, they did.
Simply asking 'does milk really do a body good?' rather begs and belittles the point (not to mention our intelligence). Consumers want legitimate answers, not ad agency concocted platitudes. Personally I think milk does a body good too, milk that is rBGH-free, and clearly labeled as such. Every one of us deserves the right to know exactly how our food is produced. If Monsanto thinks rBGH is so wonderful for cows and humans let dairies advertise "proudly injecting our cows with rBGH since 1994". No, Monsanto is too savvy for that ad campaign, they know their rBGH sales would plummet even further. Consumers today want to know how their foods are produced and they don't want a corporation with Monsanto's track record deciding for them. And consumers are choosing and making their voices heard. Organic and rBGH-free dairy products are the fastest growing sector of the entire dairy industry right here in Ohio. This is despite the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Governor Strickland's recent rule, which handed Ohio consumers to Monsanto on a not so clean white plate. How did they do it? Well, they made it almost impossible for rBGH-free dairies to let consumers know they don't use rBGH. If Monsanto had their way consumers would never know how their milk is produced, period.
While milk may do a body good, rBGH and Monsanto? Not so much.
Mitzie McElhaney, RN
( her letter was a response to a letter from Ft. John Barnard here )