12. Milking the Public

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Source: CHICAGO LIFE MAGAZINE Date: October 1995, Title: “Milking the Public” Author: Hilary Varner

SSU Censored Researchers: Richard Henderson, Lisa Zwirner

New research suggests that our milk supply may be increasingly more dangerous. With the increased use of hormones and antibiotics in milk-producing cows comes an increase in the levels of the naturally occurring growth hormone regulator known as “insulin-like growth factor-I” (IGF-I), which has been linked to major health problems. It has been suggested that drinking milk with high levels of IGF-I may lead to an increase in breast or colon cancer.

When the bovine growth hormone Posilac (rBGH), manufactured by Monsanto, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, many felt the debate on its safety was a moot point. But since the FDA approval, health experts claim new findings concerning the bovine growth hormone are cause for alarm. The growth hormone regulator IGF-I is present in both cows and humans. IGF-I controls milk production and growth, but the Consumer Policy Institute’s Jean Halloran asserts that it is also known to be a “tumor growth promoter.” This means that while IGF-I helps us to grow, it also accelerates the multiplication of cancer cells. Studies done on rBGH-injected cows show that IGF-I levels are increased anywhere from 25 to 700 percent.

Dr. Samual S. Epstein, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition states that “IGF-I is a growth factor for human breast cancer cells, maintaining their malignancy, progression, and evasiveness. IGF-I has been similarly associated with colon cancer.”

The main concern by many is simply that IGF-I is very potent and no one is sure of much about how it works. Keith Ashdown of the Cancer Prevention Coalition in Chicago says about IGF-1, “It was never really looked at carefully.”

While there are many controversial issues surrounding the use of rBGH, this is one that has direct implications that can dramatically affect us all. However, since the FDA does not mandate labeling of rBGH milk (rather, it prevents the labeling) it is nearly impossible to tell what milk is safe to drink.

Further clouding the issue is the disturbing fact that three former Monsanto employees now work for the FDA-including the executive assistant to the FDA commissioner, Michael Taylor-who signed both the FDA’s approval of rBGH and the decision that stores could not label dairy products as “rBGH-free.”

In short, Dr. Epstein charges that the FDA has “allowed for uncontrolled, unlabeled sales of treated milk to unwitting customers,” and believes that the FDA should revoke its restrictions on the labeling of milk and consider banning the use of the hormones.

COMMENTS: Hilary Varner, an intern at Chicago Life Magazine when she wrote her article on rBGH, says most of the related articles she uncovered during the course of her research were found in magazines such as Mother Earth or Parents, which she says, “definitely struck me as not reaching the general population, especially since almost all of the articles seemed to be simply publishing Monsanto’s point of view, a biased source of information, to say the least.” Varner believes the public would benefit from mass media exposure of rBGH “by having a chance to choose not to use products from cows that were injected with the hormone; to me it was horrific that such knowledge was deemed not only unimportant, but also as unfair advertising. In addition, however, there remains the possibility that products produced by cows injected with rBGH might cause those who ingest them serious damage, so the public would benefit from more information about rBGH by maybe saving themselves from unnecessary bodily harm.

“The chemical companies, of course, benefit from the lack of media coverage, because as long as the dairy world is satisfied with the results of the hormone and the public continues to buy rBGH-produced products, the dairy world will go on buying rBGH. Those who utilize the hormone benefit from its lack of coverage as well, because they are ensured that they will continue to sell their products to a public who would have something to say if they knew what they might be ingesting.”

Varner says she is not aware of any recent developments, and she believes media coverage of rBGH has been insufficient. Since publication of the article, a Monsanto representative wrote a letter to Chicago Life stating the article was badly researched and one-sided. The magazine published the letter, along with Varner’s sources of information and proof of her conclusions.