American milk is banned in European nations and Canada, get the facts on why!
It may surprise you to learn that American milk has been banned in 25 European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, it sure surprised me. The safety concerns stem from some American dairy farmers use of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH), a hormone that increases marketable milk in dairy cows. The genetically engineered rbGH has also been linked to increased cancer risks, thus other nations took action to protect their citizens, but not the U.S. This is an issue that has been unfolding somewhat quietly in America; there are even documented efforts to keep the public in the dark. Before you pour another bowl of that organic cereal you should better understand where your milk comes from.
To better understand the technology around rbGH you need to have done very well in your high school science classes or let iSustainableEarth.com break it down for you. First of all, bovine somatotropin (BST) and bovine growth hormone (BGH) are interchangeable terms referencing a naturally occurring hormone produced in a cow’s pituitary gland. Since 1937 it was known that BST would improve a cow’s milk production, though BST was only able to be collected from dead cows, thus its use was not common. This changed in 1994 when the Monsanto Company first developed the recombinant or synthetic version of the hormone named Posilac. It is created in a laboratory and produced by combining genetically engineered E. coli. bacteria with amino acids that make up BST. This is how they come up with rgBH or rbST, the synthetics associated to the inject-able hormone. If you are science nerd like me I recommend reading up on the detailed process of creating this hormone, it seems straight out of a science fiction movie.
Now that you understand the basics of the hormone you need to understand what dangers exist, the dangers that led to the ban of rbGH in Europe and other countries. The real danger is not from the hormone rbGH itself, but a byproduct of increased Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). The growth hormone rbGH stimulated the cow’s liver producing excess IGF-1 level in milk, which is not destroyed during the pasteurization process. Some reports have indicated that pasteurization actually increases the level of IGF-1 in the milk. Humans can absorb this through the normal digestion process where it enters the bloodstream and interacts with your body’s natural hormones. Additional studies have shown increased levels of IGF-1 in people consuming rbGH milk with breast, prostate, colon and other forms of cancer. Sure sounds appetizing to me.
An FDA ruling from 1993 approved the use of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH), which increases marketable milk in dairy cows by about 10%-20%. The FDA found “there were no significant differences between milk from treated and untreated cows,” therefore did not have the authority to require additional labeling on dairy products. In the same ruling they stated that rbST is safe and effective for the cows and that the milk produced is safe for human consumption. Oddly enough, the FDA does regulate what produces of non rbGH milk can put on their label. Dairies that are labeling milk as “hormone free “ are in hot water since the FDA feels that can be “false or misleading.” Companies such as Monsanto have also taking legal action as they have an economic stake in the continued use of rbGH. Some states have even started to require labeling on milk packaging, not as a protection against the hormone, but justification of its use. An excerpt from a local grocer’s website gives a great example “the FDA has stated that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows.”
Up until this point in the article we have focused on the science around the rbGH milk and the associated regulations. Now we need to reflect on how this can impact you and your family’s health. This issue is not isolated to just milk, consider all the products which are made with milk such as cheese, butter, chocolate, you get the idea. As a health conscious consumer on the going green bandwagon you need to ensure you are reading labels and asking your local grocer to help you find alternative products. The great news is that pressure from consumers have caused many of the big name stores to stop carrying the rbGH milk, I checked my local Publix’s website to confirm they don’t carry it. Other stores such as Safeway, Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s have stopped using the hormone treated milk as well.
The most recent data I could find was from a 2007 USDA study that showed rbGH use in 17.2% of milk producing cows, meaning there is still a market for these products. Ensure you talk with your local stores and ask about hormone free milk options. You can also write the FDA or your local Congressman and inform them about your concern with the FDA’s restrictive labeling policies. At some point the world will wake up and realize that when you mess with Mother Nature very little good can come out of it.