Recently, however, the Ohio court came to its decision. First, they ruled that milk in Ohio can still bear an "rbGH-free" label as long as it also bears the disclaimer stating that, "[t]he FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows."
But there's more important news out of Ohio -- the court also challenged the FDA's finding that there is "no measurable compositional difference" between milk from rbGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows. This FDA finding has been the major roadblock to rbGH regulation, and the court struck it down.
According to La Vida Locavore:
"The court ... [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)."
With a federal court overturning Ohio's ban on 'rBGH-free' labels on dairy products, raw dairy producers and consumers can again bask in new hope. This ruling means that companies that want to clearly state that their products are "rBGH free," "rBST free," or "artificial hormone free" are now allowed to do so.
The fight for labeling of rBGH-laced milk has been ongoing since its introduction to the US market in 1994. Part of the concern is the fact that rBGH is an artificial hormone. The additional concern is that it's a genetically modified artificial hormone. Disallowing the labeling of rBGH-treated dairy essentially set the precedent for not labeling other genetically modified foods.
The debate about labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods has now flared up again, this time because the FDA is reviewing a GM salmon. If approved, the next step will be to determine whether or not the genetically altered salmon must be labeled.
This federal verdict opens the door not only to use rBGH-free labels; it also opens the back door, so to speak, for consumer groups to push for labeling of NON-GM salmon, should the FDA again decide the altered salmon does not need to carry a GM label.
That's one piece of good news.
In addition to that, this verdict is also significant because, for the first time, a court has recognized that milk from cows treated with genetically modified growth hormones (known as rBGH or rBST) is NOT identical to milk from untreated cows.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what concerned scientists and public health advocates have argued for well over 20 years.
Years before the FDA approved it, scientists like Shiv Chopra, who worked for what is now Health Canada -- the Canadian equivalent of the FDA –were raising serious questions about the safety of rBGH milk.
For an insider's look into the politics that surrounded the approval of rBGH, listen to my interview with Shiv Chopra where he addresses this topic.
The recombinant (genetically engineered) bovine growth hormone (rBGH), is used to significantly increase milk production in cows. Treated cows can produce as much as 15-25 percent more milk. But this increase in milk production, and hence profit, has hidden costs, namely the cows' and your health.
There IS a Significant Difference Between rBGH Milk and Non-rBGH Milk
For the past 17 years, the FDA's has held on to their initial finding that there's "no significant difference" between the milk of cows given genetically modified artificial growth hormone and those that aren't.
This is an astounding decision, when you consider all the evidence to the contrary.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a powerful GE drug produced by Monsanto that can seriously damage the cow's health and reproductive capacity. The milk produced by these cows has also been shown to be anything BUT identical to untreated milk.
In fact, as stated in the court's ruling, there are several compositional and qualitative difference between these two types of milk.
Hormone-treated milk is different from non-treated milk because:
- It contains increased levels of the hormone IGF-1, which promotes cancer tumors. According to Dr. Epstein, excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated as major causes of breast, colon, and prostate cancers
- Hormone use "induces an unnatural period of milk production during a cow's "negative energy phase." Milk produced during this stage is considered to be low quality due to its increased fat content and its decreased level of proteins, the court ruling states
- It contains increased somatic cell counts (SCC's). This means the milk contains more pus, which makes it turn sour more quickly. Increased SCC count also affects the milk's taste, smell, texture and color. Raised SCC levels is typically caused by the high incidence of mastitis in rBGH-injected cows
These are what the federal court cited as reasons to determine that hormone treated milk is different from non-treated milk.
But there's more.
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, is one of the top experts on cancer prevention. He is frequently called upon to advise Congress about things in our environment that may cause cancer, and he has written eight books, including one of the best books on the topic at hand, called Got (Genetically Engineered) Milk?
Dr. Epstein points out several additional differences between rBGH milk and untreated milk:
- Contamination of the milk by the GM hormone rBGH
- Contamination of the milk with illegal antibiotics and drugs used to treat mastitis and other rBGH-induced disease
- Increased concentration of the thyroid hormone enzyme thyroxin-5'-monodeiodinase
- Increased concentration of long-chain and decreased concentration of short-chain fatty acids
- A reduction in levels of the milk protein casein
All of these factors can cause or contribute to health problems.
This Hormone KILLS Cows
It's also quite clear that it's bad for the cows that are injected with this hormone.
One 1998 survey by Family Farm Defenders found that mortality rates for rBGH-injected cows on factory dairy farms in Wisconsin were about 40 percent per year. In other words, after two and a half years of rBGH injections most of these drugged and supercharged cows were dead.
The typical lifespan of a happy, healthy dairy cow (read: organically-raised) is 15 to 20 years!
Conflict of Interest – The Name of the Game
Despite being presented with these findings and concerns, which were also echoed by other experts such as Dr. Michael Hansen from the Consumers Union back in the early 90's, the FDA gave the hormone its seal of approval, with no real pre-market safety testing required...
How did that happen?
Well, considering the fact that several key FDA decision makers, including Michael Taylor, had previously worked for Monsanto, it's easy to see how the FDA could appear to be so completely unfazed by the evidence.
This conflict of interest also explains why the FDA determined that rBGH-derived dairy products did not need to be labeled, even though polls showed that a whopping 90 percent of American consumers said they wanted labeling in order to be able to avoid buying those products.
As it turns out, all of the major criticisms leveled against rBGH have turned out to be true. Since 1994, the hormone has been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and all 27 nations of the European Union.
Still holding on: the United States...
Monsanto has fought tooth and nail all these years to keep rBGH on the market. One of their sleigh-of-hand tactics was to form the grass-roots organization "The American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology," (AFACT).
To further the Monsanto agenda, this organization defended their "right to use rBGH." They were also on the forefront pushing to outlaw "non-rBGH" labels.
Fortunately, AFACT has been largely unsuccessful in spreading their propaganda and more and more dairies have switched over to being hormone-free.
Which Dairy Brands Offer rBGH-Free Products?
For a list of brands that offer hormone-free dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and ice cream, the Organic Consumers Organization has compiled this user-friendly list. They indicate which brands are partially rBGH-free, and which have stopped using artificial hormones entirely.
This can be good to know, since many products still do not bear the rBGH-free label.
For example, Ben & Jerry's make their ice cream with milk from dairies that have pledged not to inject their cows with hormones. But Haagen Dazs, Breyers, and Baskin-Robbins have not followed suit, and their ice creams are labeled "all-natural" even though rBGH dairy is anything but...
Keep in mind that organic milk is also rBGH-free, even if it doesn't specify so on the label. Artificial hormones are not permitted in organic dairy farming.
That said, although organic milk is certainly preferable to hormone-laced milk, I still don't recommend it simply because it's still pasteurized...
You can avoid both the risks of rBGH and pasteurization by only drinking raw milk that comes from a small farmer you know and trust. This is the only way to drink milk if you're interested in protecting your health.
RealMilk.com is an excellent resource if you need help finding a high-quality source in your area.
Get Informed and Protect Your Food Freedom
Looking at the bigger picture though, this issue is about much more than milk. It's about protecting your food supply from all sorts of manipulation -- from rBGH and pasteurization to genetically modified crops as a whole.
A key way you can begin to do this is by avoiding any and all GM products, and there are many of them. Most processed foods now contain one or more GM ingredients.
To gain some insight into how best to protect your health from manipulated foods, I recommend exploring the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT). You can discover the many hidden hazards of GM foods for yourself at Jeffrey's Web site: ResponsibleTechnology.org.
I also highly recommend downloading and using the IRT's Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
As far as healthful, wholesome milk is concerned, I also urge you to a take a stand to protect your freedom of food choice by joining the Raw Milk Campaign to make access to raw milk a right for all Americans.
You can find Local Chapters and Chapter Leaders by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.