The Mystery in Your Milk

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May 26, 2001 | 22,132 views


by Jane Akre & SteveWilson

Thereport that Monsanto and Fox TV didn't want you to see.Published for the first time.

Jane Akre andSteve Wilson, a respected reporting team at WTTV, a FoxNetwork Station in Tampa, Florida, werefired from their jobsafter refusing to broadcast what theyknew and documented to be false and distorted informationabout Monsanto's bovine growth hormone (BGH) -- a geneticallyengineered product that has been linked to the proliferationof breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells in humans.

On August 28,2000, a Florida jury unanimously decided that Akre had beenfired for threatening to blow the whistle on Fox for pressuringher and Wilson to broadcast a false, distorted and slantednews report and awarded her $425,000 for lost wages anddamages. Fox is appealing.

This is thefirst time that the script that got the reporters in troublehas appeared in print. This important document has beenedited for length but not censored. For the full version,go to the website:

Reporters'Version - Part I

"Nature'smost nearly perfect food" - that's how most of us havealways thought of milkSwholesome, nutritious and pure justlike it says on some of the trucks that deliver it. Butdown on the farm where most of us never see? Some Floridafarmers have been quietly squeezing more cash from theircows by injecting them with an artificial growth hormoneso they'll produce more milk than nature intended.

ThurmanHattan, Florida Dairy Farmer:"Yes I would say, people in Florida are using it. (ReporterJane Akre) And you yourself? (Hatten) Ahh ...

Narration:Hatten is one of many Florida dairymen reluctant to admitthat they're injecting their cows every two weeks ...

Hattan continues:" ... it's possible I could be using it."

Narration:The drug some Florida farmers don't want you to know they'reusing is a Monsanto laboratory version of bovine growthhormone known as BGH.

Here's how itworks: when the cow gets injected with extra BGH, it stimulatesthe production of another hormone called IGF-1. That's reallythe stuff that speeds up the cow's metabolism, causing herto produce up to 30percent more milk.

But some scientistslike Dr. Samuel Epstein are warning what might be good forthe farmers' bottom line might be big trouble down the linefor people drinking the milk from treated cows.

Samuel Epstein,Scientist, University of Illinois:" ... thereare highly suggestive if not persuasive lines of evidenceshowing that consumption of this milk poses risks of breastand colon cancer."

Narration:Dr. Epstein is a scientist at the University of IllinoisSchool of Public Health. He's earned three medical degrees,written eight books, and is frequently called upon to adviseCongress about things in our environment which may causecancer. He and others like Dr. William von Meyer point towhat they say is a growing body of scientific evidence ofa link between IGF-1 and human cancers which might not showup for years to come.

WilliamVon Meyer, Research Scientist:"We're going to save some lives if we review this now.If we allow BGH to go on, I'm sure we're taking excessiverisks with society."

Narration:Dr. Von Meyer has spent 30 years studying chemical productsand testing their effects on humans. He's supervised manysuch tests on thousands of animals at schools such as theUniversity of London and UCLA. He's headed agricultural,chemical and genetic research at some of America's mostprestigious companies.

Monsanto isthe giant chemical company which sells the synthetic hormoneunder the brand name PosilacSand Monsanto has consistentlyrejected the concerns of scientists around the world.

Dr. RobertCollier, Chief Monsanto BGH Scientist:"In fact, the FDA has commented several times on thisissue after there were concerns raised. They have publiclyrestated human safety confidence ... this is not somethingknowledgeable people have concerns about."

Narration:While other companies have dropped by the wayside, Monsantohas invested a mountain of money into Bovine Growth Hormone.

Companysales tapes encourage farmers to use it as a tool to milkmore profits out of every cow.

Video Clipof Monsanto sales tape:"Of course you'll want to inject Posilac into everyeligible cow, as each cow not treated is a lost income opportunity."

Narration:A numberof critics, including at least one state agriculture commissioner,have called it "crack for cows" for the way itspeeds up the cow's milk production ... but despite itspromise of profit, some dairymen say the product doesn'talways lead to happy trails for the cows or for those whotend them.

CharlesKnight, Florida Dairy Farmer:"It's a tool that can be used, but you better be careful,'cause it can burn you..."

Narration:Near Wachula, Charles Knight won't use Monsanto's syntheticBGH anymore. He is one of many farmers who say they've watchedPosilac burn their cows out sooner, shortening their livesby maybe two years.

Narration:Knight says he had to replace 75 percent of his herd dueto hoof problems and serious udder infections. Those aretwo of more than 20 potential troubles listed right on theproduct warning label. But apart from potential sufferingfor the animals, the major concern is how the hormone injectedinto the cow changes the milk that ends up on our tables.

Robert Collier:" ... this is the most studied molecule certainlyin the history of domestic animal science."

Narration:While that claim may be open to dispute, Monsanto ... didput the product through a decade's worth of testing beforeit was approved by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicineas an animal drug. But that's part of the problem, accordingto many scientists who say since BGH alters the milk wedrink, it should meet the higher safety standards requiredof human drugs. The critics say tests on BGH milk that couldhave answered these concerns about long-term risk to humanswere just never done.

Dr. WilliamVon Meyer, Research Scientist:"A human drug requires two years of carcinogenic testingand extensive birth-defect testing. BGH was tested for 90days on 30 rats at any dose before it was approved."

Robert Collier:"Butsuffice it to say the cancer experts don't see the healthissue and it's unfortunate the public is being scared byan issue that shouldn't be of concern."

Narration:Monsanto's dairy research director points to what the FDAhas repeatedly said since the day it approved BGH back in1993: "The public can be confident that milk and meatfrom BGH-treated cows is safe to consume." ...

Part II

Narration:You won't find Ol' Flossie and Bossie on Fred Gore's dairyfarm in Zephyrhills. On Fred's farm, all the cows have numbersinstead of names - and they're watched by electronic eyes24 hours a day.

Farmer Gore,Florida Dairy Farmer:"They help tell me if proper procedures are being followed."

Narration:At a modern dairy farm, cows wear transponders that eventell a computer how much milk she gave today.

Farmer Gore:"She's giving 121 pounds a day."

Narration:In the competitive business of dairy farming these days,productivity is paramount. That's why Fred Gore and otherslike him were all ears when the giant Monsanto chemicalcompany started promoting its new product called Posilac.

Video Clipfrom Monsanto sales tape:"Posilac is the single most-tested product in historyand it helps increase your profit potential."

Narration:Monsanto promised that Posilac - a laboratory version ofthe cow's natural growth hormone - could get Ol' 2356 andher friends to produce up to 30 percent more milk. Thatwas good news to Florida farmers who need all the help theycan get in a state where high heat, humidity and littlelocal grain make dairy farming a struggle.

The "promiseof Posilac" sounded great to dairyman Charles Knight ... buthe says it didn't turn out that way.

CharlesKnight, Florida Dairy Farmer:"Aboutthe same time we began having a lot of foot problems withour cows because they got so crippled they couldn't walk."

Narration:Right after he started using the drug on his herd near Wachulathree years ago, Knight says his animals were plagued withthose problems and serious infections of his cows' udders.Troubles he attributes to Posilac eventually caused himto replace the majority of his herd. He says when he calleddairy experts at the University of Florida and at Monsanto,they both had the same response.

Farmer Knight:"[T]hey said you're the only person having this problemso it must be what you're doing here. You must be havingmanagement problems."

Narration:The University of Florida, by the way, did much of the researchon BGH and has received millions in gifts and grants fromMonsanto. Knight says neither the university nor the companyever mentioned Monsanto research that showed hundreds ofother cows on other farms were also suffering hoof problemsand mastitis, a painful infection of the cow's udders.

Farmer Knight:If untreated, the infection can get into the cow's milkso farmers try to cure it by giving the cow shots of antibiotics ... moredrugs that can find their way into the milk on your table,which could make your own body more resistant to antibiotics.

Dr. MichaelHanson, Consumers Union Scientist:"In fact, there is over 60 drugs that they believecan be used on farms and they test for a very small percentageof them.

File videoof protesters chanting:"Boycott BGH. Boycott BGHS"

Collier:"Thereare no human or animal safety issues that would preventapproval in Canada once they've completed their review,not that I'm aware of."

Narration:But long-term human safety is exactly the concern expressedby a Canadian House committee on health. Here are the minutesof a 1995 meeting where members voted to ask Canada's HealthMinister to try and keep BGH off the market for at leasttwo more years. Why? " ... to allow members of Parliamentto further examine the human health implications" ofthe drug.

It's still notlegal to sell the unlicensed product north of the border,despite the company's efforts to gain the approval of governmentregulators.

Narration:In the Fall of 1994, Canadian television quoted a Canadianhealth official as reporting Monsanto offered $1-2 millionif her government committee would recommend BGH approvalin Canada without further data or studies of the drug. Anothermember of her committee who was present when Monsanto madethe offer was asked: "Was that a bribe?"

File VideoClip of CBC documentary - CBC Correspondent to committeemember:"Is that how it struck you? (Dr. Edwards) Certainly!"

ReporterJane Akre on camera:"Monsanto said the report alleging bribery was "ablatant untruth," that Canadian regulators just didn'tunderstand the offer of the money was for research. Monsantodemanded a retraction. The Canadian Broadcasting Companystands by its story..."

Hansen:"Monsanto has a very checkered history with some ofits other products ... "

Narration:Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumers Union is another Americanscientist still very skeptical about BGH. He says Monsantowas wrong years ago when it convinced the government PCB'swere safe. Those were put inside electrical conductors foryears ... until researchers in Japan and Sweden showedserious hazards to human health and the environment.

And you've heardof Agent Orange, 2-4-5-T, the defoliant used in Vietnam?Monsanto convinced the government it, too, was safe. Itwas later proven to be extremely harmful to humans ... anda government investigator found what she said was "aclear pattern of fraudulent content in Monsanto's research"which led to approval.

In the caseof BGH, Monsanto was required to promptly report all complaintsfrom farmers. Florida dairyman Charles Knight says he wascomplaining loud and clear that Posilac was decimating hisherd ... but four months later hefound the company had not passed one of his complaints tothe FDA as required.

CharlesKnight, Florida Dairyman:" ... so how many more hundreds of complaints outthere sat and were not registered with FDA?"

Narration:Monsanto admits a long delay in reporting Knight's complaints.A company spokesman claims despite a series of on-farm visitsand telephone conversations with Knight, it took four monthsfor them to understand he was complaining about BGH. Asfor those safety claims for previous Monsanto products thatturned out to be dangerous, the company offered no comment.

Part III

Narration:Whether you know it or not, by the time it's bottled, chancesare milk from treated cows ends up in the jug you carryhome. It's made the milk on your table one of the firstgenetically engineered foods ever to be fed to your family ...and the population at large.

JeffLeMaster, Consumer/Dad: "And for her, nowthat she's eating people food, we want to give her as muchgood stuff without the chemical additives as possible."

Narration:Grocers and the dairy industry know synthetic BGH in milkworries consumers like Jeff and Janet LeMaster. A whopping74 percent of those questioned in this University of Wisconsinstudy released just last year expressed concern about unknownharmful human health effects which might show up later.

Robert Collier,Chief Monsanto BGH Scientist:"What they need to know is that the milk hasn't changed...."

Narration:That's the assurance of Monsanto ... It's the companyposition, despite scientific studies which show the milkwe're getting from BGH-treated cows has a higher level ofsomething called IGF-1, a hormone believed to promote cancer.

Narration:Governmentregulators in Canada, New Zealand and all of Europe haveexpressed similar concerns and refused to license the drugfor sale in all those countries.

File Video,consumer protesters chanting:"Boycott BGH!"

Narration:So three years ago when the drug was approved in Americaand protesters started dumping milk that contained the synthetichormone, your grocer and your milkman decided somethinghad to be done to protect sales.

Riley Hogan,Tampa Dairy Co-op:"For good business reasons, Publix [a marketing chain]and I both wanted to avoid the use of the product untilthere was public acceptance."

Narration:Maybeyou recall these media reports from 1994 when Albertsonsreassured Florida consumers "Swe will do our utmostto ensure that (people) don't get it" in their milk.Publix issued similar assurances ...

Thetruth is, nobody ever did anything but go through the motionsof asking farmers to keep BGH out of the milk supply ...

And when we visitedseven Central Florida dairy operations chosen at random,how many were heeding the grocers' request? Nota one.

Albertsonsacknowledged: "It is widely accepted inthe industry that most all dairy farmers now use BGH"but "we do not know which or how many dairies use it." ...

But not everybody'susing it. Ben and Jerry, America's icons of ice cream, don'twant anything to do with it ... and they're leading thefight to give you a choice at the grocer's dairy case.

Part IV

Ben Cohen,Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream:"A big part of the issue is that consumers are wellaware that what the FDA said was fine and healthy 10 and20 years ago, the FDA is saying is really bad for you today ...

Narration:It's one of the big reasons Ben and Jerry, makers of someof America's favorite ice cream, are so opposed to farmersinjecting their dairy cows with Bovine Growth Hormone geneticallyengineered in a Monsanto chemical lab ...

Narration:Ourinvestigation has found only one dairy in Florida whichproduces milk from cows not treated with BGH and what happenedwhen the folks at the Golden Fleece dairy in Central Floridawanted to label their products as synthetic BGH-free?

Well, firstthey say Commissioner Crawford's people strongly discouragedit, but what really deterred them was a fear Monsanto -the company which makes the hormone - would come after themin court.

Glen Norton,Golden Fleece Dairy:"From the information I heard and read, I was afraidat some point that if we tried to do extra labeling, thatMonsanto could cause damage to my small, fragile business."

Narration:Norton and others like him may have reason to be scared.Right after Monsanto started marketing its BGH three yearsago, a number of dairies that didn't use it began to labeltheir products so consumers would know.

Robert Collier:"Infact, there are quite a few co-ops that do just that andwe have not opposed that at all."

Narration:But that's not true. Monsanto did file lawsuits againsttwo small dairies, forcing them to stop labeling. Then thecompany spread the news with follow-up letters to otherdairies that apparently saw the writing on the wall ... andthey also stopped ...

The labels onBen and Jerry's ice cream will soon be different, too ...The label will also carry wording that says the FDA hassaid there is no significant difference between milk fromtreated and untreated cows - a claim some scientists sharplyquestion. That wording, by the way, was written by MichaelTaylor, an attorney who worked for Monsanto both beforeand after his time as an FDA official.

Some dairy peoplesay Ben and Jerry have jumped on the anti-BGH bandwagonas just a way to sell more of their ice cream.

Ben Cohen:"The tremendous amount of chemicals that's used inconventional agriculture is having a horrible effect onthe environment and on the health of our citizens and ourcustomers and you know, (laugh), if you want to say is itour self-interest? Yeah! We want to keep our customers alive.They eat more ice cream when they're alive!"

Narration:As part of an effort to influence these reports, a lawyerhired by Monsanto wrote a Fox television executive sayingthe discussion of any possible link between the use of syntheticBGH and cancer is " ... the most blatant form of scaremongering."

In a secondletter, he said Monsanto critics are in all probability"scientifically incompetent." He is referringto critics such as Dr. Samuel Epstein at the Universityof Illinois School of Public Health. Epstein has three medicaldegrees, he's the author of eight books, and is frequentlycalled to testify before Congress about the environmentalcauses of cancer.

Like other BGHcritics, Epstein contends it's just wrong to introduce aproduct into the marketplace when there are so many importantand still-unresolved human health questions.

Samuel Epstein,Research Scientist: "We'reliving in the greatest democracy in the world in many waysbut in other ways were in a corporate dictatorship in whichbig government and big industry decide what informationthe consumer can and should have and it's the objectiveof me and the CancerPrevention Coalition to assure that this informationbe made available and let the public decide ... and letgrassroot citizens take over where government and industryhas failed."

This is thefirst time that the script that got the reporters in troublehas appeared in print. This important document has beenedited for length but not censored. For the full version,go to the website:


This is an excellent example of the challenge that that truth frequently faces in getting to the public. This information is not presented through the media as a result of economic and political pressures.

I am delighted to be able to work with Dr. Epstein in promoting some of his outstanding efforts to inform the public about some of these dangers. If you live in Illinois please be sure and attend the Symposium he is sponsoring next month.

If you are still drinking regular milk I would encourage you to discontinue this practice as soon as possible. The growth hormone issues discussed above are only one of the reasons why this should be considered.

The major issue is the pasteurization of the milk which completely changes the structure of the milk proteins (denaturization) into something far less than healthy. Then, of course there is the issue of the antibiotics and pesticides and the fact that nearly all commercial dairy cows are raised on grains, not grass, like they were designed to. This will change the composition of the fats, especially the CLA content.