Consumers International Press Release on rBGH (rBST)

Date: 3 July 1997


Acknowledging the concerns of consumer groups, members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food-standards setting body, have roundly rejected a draft standard that would have allowed the use of a genetically engineered growth hormone to increase milk production in cows.

At a meeting held last week (23-28 June) in Geneva, 38 countries voted to postpone passage of the draft standard, called a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). Twenty-one voted for the standard, and 13 delegate abstained.

Consumers International, a federation of more than 225 consumer organisations in over 100 countries, had strongly opposed the draft standard, saying consumers would not benefit in any way by the usage of such hormones. The hormone is known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), which is another name for recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH). It is a genetically engineered version of a natural growth hormone found in cattle.

Consumers International welcomes the decision by Codex to re-examine scientific data concerning the hormone, said Leen Petr, Global Policy and Campaign Unit officer with Consumers International. It is an important step in taking our concerns into account when developing standards that will affect consumers everywhere.

Monsanto, one of the drug's manufacturers, has claimed use of the hormone will benefit consumers through lower prices. However, Consumers International has argued that there is no evidence prices actually will drop. Also, consumer organisations expressed concerns about health and safety issues linked to the hormone - for both humans and animals.

In their report, the Codex Commission noted that delegates who favoured postponing adoption of the standard stressed that new scientific information had come to light indicating that rbST could reduce cows immune deficiencies, which could make those animals more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.

Consumer organisations claimed another success at the meeting, when delegates agreed that participation by consumer and other non-governmental organisations should be strengthened at Codex meetings. It was decided that guidelines should be developed for granting observer status for international NGOs at Codex and possibly setting up a trust fund to enable participation of such groups in Codex meetings.

Consumer groups have long been concerned about the balance of representation between industry-funded groups and the public interest sector. In fact, currently the approved list of 111 organisations that can send observers to Codex meetings stands at 104 industry-funded groups, six health and nutrition foundations and Consumers International.

This certainly is a clear recognition of the consumer role in Codex, Ms Petr said. We are delighted with any move in the direction of greater consumer participation.

Contact: Leen Petr
Tel:+ 44 171 226 6663x206
Fax:+44 171 354 0607

Organic Consumers Association (OCA)
6101 Cliff Estate Rd., Little Marais, Minnesota 55614
Activist or Media Inquiries: (218) 226-4164,  Fax: (218) 226-4157
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