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Safety of Mosanto's rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone)


dougery
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Does anyone have links to reliable (scientific research) resources on this topic? I have heard some disturbing, but also conflicting, reports on the safety of this hormone and how consumers of rGHB milk might be at risk.

TIA!

PS here is one site I have found but I would like to find a more unbiased information on this.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/rbghlink.html

Edited by dougery (log)

"Live every moment as if your hair were on fire" Zen Proverb

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I asked something similar about a month back. Opinions on this board about the effects of rBGH vary widely. There was a lot of "It's terrible because it isn't natural", you are what you eat, etc.

While I do try to source the best and highest quality food for myself and more importantly, my family, I could not find any independant scholarly research that showed there were risks involved.

Edited by clifford (log)
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the seminal scientific publication is:

Judith C. Juskevich and C. Greg Guyer, "Bovine growth Hormone: Human Food Safety Evaluation," SCIENCE Vol. 249 (August 24, 1990), pgs. 875-884. (you can find this at the library...one problem with dealing with junk science is that advocacy groups have websites while legitimate scientific research is generally still found in print journals.)

which concluded that it was perfectly safe.

no peer-reviewed scientific study since then has found it possible to distinguish between rbgh and bgh; or indeed found any levels in milk outside of FDA safety limits.

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Organic Consumers have links to a lot of stuff...some of it seems a bit "sensational" but some of it seems "scientific."

I have to say that having watched The Corporation recently, the part about the Monsanto milk additives is the only thing that spurred me to an immediate change: organic milk for me now, never mind that it costs twice as much.

If I can find some more good data, I will add it here.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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"There was a lot of "It's terrible because it isn't natural", you are what you eat, etc."

the "natural" fallacy is difficult to deal with when talking about food because it's both an appeal to emotion and to an intellectual milieu dating back to at least Roussea. not only is "natural" a term fraught with definitional difficulty (maize was always a genetically engineered crops, do people have any idea what tomatoes originally looked like? -- this problem has been with us a while -- arguments used against the steel plow, tractors etc.) but "natural" my no means equates to safe.

the most carcinogenic foodstuff that I am aware of is peanut butter -- and it's the "natural", preservative - free kind that is the worst (peanuts sometimes carry a highly carcinogenic mold); "organic" farmers often use pest-resistant crops that can be quite toxic, etc.

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some of it seems "scientific."

It may interest you to know that this use of quotation marks seems to have caused my left eyebrow to shoot right off the top of my head.

Mike Harney

"If you're afraid of your food, you're probably not digesting it right because your stomach is all crunched up in fear. So you'll end up not being well."

- Julia Child

"There's no reason to say I'm narrow-minded. Just do it my way and you will have no problem at all."

- KSC Pad Leader Guenter Wendt

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because political pressures are often quite un-scientific ("intelligent design", gm foods, etc.)....

of course, food phobias vary from place to place. many Americans think that they are allergic to MSG or have fears concerning its safety while in Germany you can find it in salt-shakers at the table. (in actuality, parmesan cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms "naturally" contain significant amounts).

Americans don't worry (much) about gm foods (after all every crop has been genetically engineered in the past anyway) but Europeans are petrified (the dissembling of their governments in the past over BSE probably has something to do with this).

btw, the Canadian governmental food science branch concluded that rbgh was perfectly safe.

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some of it seems "scientific."

It may interest you to know that this use of quotation marks seems to have caused my left eyebrow to shoot right off the top of my head.

I am not a scientist, and I am at work, looking surreptitiously for good data...I don't want to vouch for the science of something I have not had a chance to look at.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I am not a scientist, and I am at work, looking surreptitiously for good data...I don't want to vouch for the science of something I have not had a chance to look at.

Not complaining...just relating a fun moment.

Mike Harney

"If you're afraid of your food, you're probably not digesting it right because your stomach is all crunched up in fear. So you'll end up not being well."

- Julia Child

"There's no reason to say I'm narrow-minded. Just do it my way and you will have no problem at all."

- KSC Pad Leader Guenter Wendt

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btw, the Canadian governmental food science branch concluded that rbgh was perfectly safe.

I think that's a debatable conclusion.

If they think it's safe, why is it banned for dairy cows? (link to meeting minutes which mention the ban.) If I am understanding what I am culling, Health Canada have concluded that rBGH affects the cows badly (increases in illness, noticeably shortened lifespan), which I suppose we look at as inhumane, rather than necessarily dangerous to humans.

I will have more to say about this later.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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"If I am understanding what I am culling, Health Canada have concluded that rBGH affects the cows badly (increases in illness, noticeably shortened lifespan), which I suppose we look at as inhumane,"

if true, (I haven't seen the studies)...how does this make the milk unsafe? therefore, I don't see this as "debating" the safety of milk.

(edited for snarkiness. sorry :biggrin: )

Edited by Nathan (log)
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My query from a month back dealt more specifically with rBGH and it's effect on early menstruation in children. I found plenty of references to this on organic eating websites and other seemingly biased entities, I could not find any scholarly studies that said so.

I did, however, find several studies that said kids went into menopause early because they were fat. (I am paraphrasing here)

A lot of what Nathan has said here makes logical sense. IMHO.

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From the study (conclusions linked here), you are correct, they have noted no health danger to humans.

Whether, of course, one cares to associate with a product that lessens "condition", increases lameness (by 50%, mostly affecting the joints of the cows), shortens lifespan (by 2 years), increases reproductive problems, and increases mastitis (which is that lovely infection of the udders and teats, mmmm! yes! that's what I want in my milk! and which then requires antibiotics be given to the cow, if I understand correctly)...and then feel perfectly confident that something that can cause these problems in cows will have no effect, long-term, on humans consuming the cows' products...?

Yeah, go ahead and drink up. I wish you well, but I pity the poor beasts. And I will limit my use of non-organic dairy products to the greatest extent I can afford to. And keep my eye on the organic labelling issues, while I'm at it.

Edited to close that pesky parenthesis.

Edited by *Deborah* (log)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I am not a scientist, and I am at work, looking surreptitiously for good data...I don't want to vouch for the science of something I have not had a chance to look at.

Not complaining...just relating a fun moment.

eGullet has had a similar effect on my eyebrows, from time to time.

:biggrin:

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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"and then feel perfectly confident that something that can cause these problems in cows will have no effect, long-term, on humans consuming the cows' products...?"

well, we're both mammals, but different animals react in quite different ways to different things (that was the classic error made with DDT).

but, I can imagine that if we directly injected BGH into humans we might have interesting effects (or maybe none at all)...but we're not. trace amounts (if that) of almost anything are exactly that, trace amounts.

potato skins contain trace amounts of arsenic...I still eat em.

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"There was a lot of "It's terrible because it isn't natural", you are what you eat, etc."

the "natural" fallacy is difficult to deal with when talking about food because it's both an appeal to emotion and to an intellectual milieu dating back to at least Roussea.  not only is "natural" a term fraught with definitional difficulty (maize was always a genetically engineered crops, do people have any idea what tomatoes originally looked like? -- this problem has been with us a while -- arguments used against the steel plow, tractors etc.) but "natural" my no means equates to safe.

the most carcinogenic foodstuff that I am aware of is peanut butter -- and it's the "natural", preservative - free kind that is the worst (peanuts sometimes carry a highly carcinogenic mold); "organic" farmers often use pest-resistant crops that can be quite toxic, etc.

Carcinogenesis is but one concern of potential food related health effects. I agree that "natural" does not necessarily mean "healthy" as there are many natural poisons. I also agree that synthetic does not necessarily mean unhealthy. Nevertheless, I remain quite skeptical of the milk from BGH treated cows as well as any studies that have concluded it "safe".

For example, looking at the world at large, there appears to be some major shifting of some disease profiles going on. Diabetes is probably the most prominent. Now I am not saying that the marked increase in diabetes is due to the use of BGH. That is too far a stretch and too complex a problem to lay at the foot of a single culprit. It is, however, troubling and I cannot say that the hormone is not involved in that or other issues, either.

The problem with declaring it safe is that the epidemiology is very complex and cause and effect associations are very difficult to prove, especially when there is a lot of money behind a particular product. I simply do not trust the current results. As a result, I prefer to avoid the product for now and have my family drink the older product that is relatively tried and true. Everything we eat and drink has some risk. In my job I have to assess risk vs. benefit and balance them as best I can. I do not see that benefit outweighs the risks with this product.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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the seminal scientific publication is:

Judith C. Juskevich and C. Greg Guyer, "Bovine growth Hormone: Human Food Safety Evaluation," SCIENCE Vol. 249 (August 24, 1990), pgs. 875-884.  (you can find this at the library...one problem with dealing with junk science is that advocacy groups have websites while legitimate scientific research is generally still found in print journals.)

which concluded that it was perfectly safe.

no peer-reviewed scientific study since then has found it possible to distinguish between rbgh and bgh; or indeed found any levels in milk outside of FDA safety limits.

I just wanted to note that "Science" is more than just a legitimate journal, but arguably the pre-eminent Scientific journal.

I can't imagine that we could possibly consume via food products even a thousandth of the dose of growth hormone that athletes routinely take to enhance their performance.

In my job I have to assess risk vs. benefit and balance them as best I can. I do not see that benefit outweighs the risks with this product.

Diabetes is more prominent because people are getting fatter.

No, you are saying you don't understand the risk level so you will assume it is high. It could also turn out that organic milk is more dangerous than hormone treated. You don't know the answer, and so can't really judge the risk.

Edited by R Washburn (log)
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I asked something similar about a month back. Opinions on this board about the effects of rBGH vary widely. There was a lot of "It's terrible because it isn't natural", you are what you eat, etc.

Err, ahh, because of the 'r' in rGBH, it IS the natural thing. 'r' stands for recombinant, which means the exact gene from the cow has been spliced into something (usually a bacterium or a yeast, but not always) which then expresses this new (to it) gene.

There is a thing in genetics called the Central Dogma which states quite clearly that all life we have discovered on Earth treats the same genetic sequence the same way. The same sequence that codes for a particular amino acid in cows codes for the same amino acid in Escherichia coli, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

The argument of "it's not natural" reminds me very strongly of people saying that artificial benzaldehyde (a flavorant) is different from naturally occuring benzaldehyde (the flavor of almonds). There is no chemical assay that we can do to show they are different, so they must be the same.

Now, I'm not saying that elevated levels of rGBH are good or bad, but I am asserting that most people argue against this as a FUD-styled aesthetic argument, which I usually discount out-of-hand.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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"For example, looking at the world at large, there appears to be some major shifting of some disease profiles going on. Diabetes is probably the most prominent. Now I am not saying that the marked increase in diabetes is due to the use of BGH. That is too far a stretch and too complex a problem to lay at the foot of a single culprit. It is, however, troubling and I cannot say that the hormone is not involved in that or other issues, either."

by this muddled logic, there are literally thousands of foodstuffs and dietary habits that you should abstain from. dare I assume that you avoid imbibing all of them? put it this way: the current emphasis on "organic" foodstuffs coincides with increasing diabetes rates...if correlation implies causality....

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the seminal scientific publication is:

Judith C. Juskevich and C. Greg Guyer, "Bovine growth Hormone: Human Food Safety Evaluation," SCIENCE Vol. 249 (August 24, 1990), pgs. 875-884.  (you can find this at the library...one problem with dealing with junk science is that advocacy groups have websites while legitimate scientific research is generally still found in print journals.)

which concluded that it was perfectly safe.

no peer-reviewed scientific study since then has found it possible to distinguish between rbgh and bgh; or indeed found any levels in milk outside of FDA safety limits.

I just wanted to note that "Science" is more than just a legitimate journal, but arguably the pre-eminent Scientific journal.

No doubt and the study is probably very good for what it is.

I can't imagine that we could possibly consume via food products even a thousandth of the dose of growth hormone that athletes routinely take to enhance their performance.  
In my job I have to assess risk vs. benefit and balance them as best I can. I do not see that benefit outweighs the risks with this product.

And your point is? These performance enhancing drugs haven't exactly been demonstrated as safe. Smaller doses may be less of a concern, but that does not mean they are not a concern. I still do not see the benefit here. If you do, great. Enjoy it and for your sake as well as your future generations I sincerely hope the risk is as low as you believe it is.

Diabetes is more prominent because people are getting fatter.

That may be one cause, but it is by no means the only one as the incidence and prevalence of diabtes type 2 amongst non-obese and younger people is increasing at an alarming rate. The causes are not clearly understood right now.

No, you are saying you don't understand the risk level so you will assume it is high.  It could also turn out that organic milk is more dangerous than hormone treated.  You don't know the answer, and so can't really judge the risk.

It could, although I find that unlikely. The risk to any given individual from this practice may not be high, but I do believe that as regards individual health and the health of society as a whole (not just medical health), the jury is still out and will be out for some time. I prefer to proceed on the side of caution.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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"Smaller doses may be less of a concern, but that does not mean they are not a concern."

Trace amounts of various substances are present in everything. They're also innocuous. See potato skins.

As for organic milk...on what basis do you deem it healthy? (I'm sure it's just fine, but on what basis do you make that judgment? After all, human lifespans were much shorter in the past when were drinking thinks like "organic" milk.)

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