Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Clean is Your Cow?

What we're talking about here is whether or not your cow that provides you with milk, cheese, yogurt, and a host of other products has been dosed with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST. This is a genetically engineered hormone injected into cows to increase milk production by a mere 8-17 percent. The Monsanto Corporation manufactures the product, which is sold under the trade name Posilac. While 8 to 17 percent in increased production may not seem like a lot, for dairy producers this equals big profit increases. The big question is- what is it costing you, the consumer? The FDA approved rBGH in 1993 but scientists all along had questions how a bovine hormone could affect humans consuming products made by animals injected with it. The concerns were great enough that the European Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia all have banned the use of the hormone in their homelands. If that's not enough to raise your eyebrows, consider this. Codex Alimentarius, the U.N. body that sets food safety standards, has refused to approve the safety of rBGH three times.

Scientists are concerned because rBGH causes certain harm to livestock injected with it. Logically, if it harms the cows, it is likely it can harm us too. Injections of rBGH increase another hormone, called IGF-1, in the cow and the cow’s milk. Studies indicate that IGF-1 survives digestion. Over production of IGF-1 in humans is linked with increased rates of colon, breast, and prostate cancer. What is not clear is if rBGH given to cows significantly increases
IGF-1 in humans.
There is great evidence that rBGH makes for not a happy cow. Use of rBGH on dairy cows increases the rate of mastitis, a bacterial udder infection, by 25%. If you have ever been a nursing mother with this condition you know the pain a mastitis can cause all too well. We'll spare you the details of the photographs showing this condition, but suffice it to say, infectious pus has no place in your milk. And dairy farmers milk right through the infection while shooting yet more drugs into the cows in the form of antibiotics.

What is important to realize is that not every dairy farmer uses rBGH. About 54% of large herds consisting of 500 animals or more, 32% of medium herds, and only 8% of small herds are known to use the hormone. Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream makers in Vermont has long been opposed to rBGH refusing to use dairy products produced in this manner. They have this to say. “We think its use is a step in the wrong direction toward a synthetic, chemically-intensive, factory-produced food supply.” So yes, you really can eat your Cherry Garcia guilt free. The people of the State of Maine had such an adverse opinion of the practice of using rBGH that the state hardly sells any dairy products produced this way.

So what's a milk lover to do?
Purchase dairy products that are labeled “rBGH-free,” “rBST-free,” or “organic.” Tell your local supermarket, favorite dairy brand, and school district that you want dairy products that were not made with rBGH. Children, infants, and pregnant women should be especially careful when eating dairy products to be sure their dairy is hormone free. Little bodies are more susceptible to hormones as they are developing. Kids and milk, ice cream, and American Cheese go together hand in hand- just make certain their cow is clean.

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