According to the Center For Food Safety — a non-profit public interest group– rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), also known as rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), has been a staple in the dairy products consumed by Americans for over a decade. But since these products are not labeled as containing rBGH / rBST, consumers have no idea that a growth hormone to induce dairy cows to be more productive in order to maximize profits is in much of their milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Research has shown conclusively that the levels of a hormone called “insulin-like growth factor-1″ (IFG-1) are elevated in dairy products produced from cows treated with rBGH; the increased IGF-1 in rBGH milk could survive digestion and make its way into the intestines and blood stream of consumers. “These findings are significant because numerous studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of cancers of the breast, prostate and colon.”
When the FDA wrote the labeling guidelines for rBGH/rBST (recombinant bovine growth hormone) in 1993, Michael Taylor — former Monsanto Vice President for Public Policy — was in charge as Deputy Commissioner for Policy with the FDA. Excuse the pun, but the guidelines were tailor-made for Monsanto. Taylor is the reason milk from rBGH/rBST cows aren’t required to be labeled.
Food activist Jill Richardson notes that Monsanto, who owned rbGH at the time, helped found a group of rbGH-loving dairy farmers called AFACT. AFACT then pushed to ban any label claims telling consumers which milk came from cows that had not been treated with rbGH. Collective consumer outrage rendered AFACT unsuccessful in most states where they attempted to ban any label claims.
Ohio, says Richardson, was the one last state where it looked like they might win. The fight went to the courts and last month a court decision was reached in Ohio — a decision Richardson claims is a BIG VICTORY against rbGH. The Ohio court decided milk in Ohio can still say “rbGH-free” but it must also contain an FDA disclaimer saying “[t]he FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows.”
But what’s far more important is that the court challenged the FDA’s finding that there is “no measurable compositional difference” between milk from rbGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows. “The FDA’s claim that there was no compositional difference between milk from rbGH-treated and untreated cows was THE MAJOR roadblock to any good regulation,” says Richardson.
The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said there is a “compositional difference” between milk from cows given growth hormones and those without, and cited three reasons why the milk differs: 1. Increased levels of the hormone IGF-1, 2. A period of milk with lower nutritional quality during each lactation, and 3. Increased somatic cell counts (i.e. more pus in the milk). Read more on the ruling here.
As NPR notes, the labeling battle may go beyond milk.
Why? Because the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon, and has no intention of labeling AquaBounty’s salmon as genetically engineered. The FDA claims that since there’s no material difference between the flesh of the GE fish and the flesh of regular farm-raised Atlantic salmon, they aren’t required to be labeled separately.
Such a label would be false and misleading, says AquaBounty, who is apparently speaking on behalf of the FDA by proxy. You can bet your bottom dollar the people at AquaBounty are paying close attention to the fallout from the Ohio court’s recent decision. Consumer groups are already planning a frontal attack against FDA labeling restrictions of companies who want to label their salmon as non-genetically engineered.
“If we don’t get mandatory labeling – everybody’s going to want non GE labeling,” says Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union.
“There’s no growth hormone added to the fish,” says a spokeswoman for the biotechnology trade association. “The fish are given DNA from an eel pout that allows the fish to produce their own hormone, and grow year-round, instead of just in the summer, she says.”
Oh really? AquaBounty added a protein from an Ocean Pout that acts like antifreeze and inserted the genetic code in their salmon to Unnaturally activate growth hormone. Last time I checked, that convoluted brand of genetic musical chairs is adding growth hormone to a fish that otherwise wouldn’t naturally be there.