Growth hormone scare is overblown

I read with disappointment the announcement in The Augusta Chronicle recently by the Kroger Co. that they would no longer sell milk from cows that have been treated with rBST (a.k.a. recombinant bovine somatotropin, or growth hormone sold under the brand name Posilac). The reason stated was that customers of the grocery chain have preferred purchasing milk "free of hormones and antibiotics."


It is a shame that Kroger has caved in to pressure from the uniformed rather than educating the public on their concerns. rBST has long been manufactured in Augusta by the Monsanto Co., employing more than 200 of our neighbors. It is simply a cost-effective management tool already used on one-third of the entire U.S. dairy herd (an injection into the cow, not the milk) that allows small dairy farmers to compete with the corporate giants in producing milk in an economical manner. Do we want our milk prices to spiral even higher by taking away a safe product that can level the playing field?

THE RBST supplement safely allows underproducing cows to increase the amount of milk produced to levels near naturally high-producing cows -but only if their health, nutrition and care are optimal. It doesn't work on unhealthy or poorly cared-for cows.

The Food and Drug Administration has studied this drug more than any other animal drug to date. Its findings consistently show that milk from cows treated with rBST is identical with nontreated cows; the natural levels of BST are the same in treated or nontreated cows. Natural BST and rBST have no biological effects in humans, even when injected, much less consumed as a wholesome food, as has been the case for generations.

The FDA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture does not allow any antibiotics to be present in milk, and each tank from the dairy farm is tested for drug residues down to the parts-per-million level before it can be processed and sold. If any such substance is found then the entire bulk tank contents of milk are discarded, farmers are fined, and risk their livelihoods. Allowable "somatic cells" (indicators of infection) are a fraction of what was allowed in the 1950s and '60s.

THE AMERICAN Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the Inspector General of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the European Economic Community for Veterinary Medical Products, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association - to name a few organizations - have agreed that rBST treated cows produce the same milk as nontreated cows.

Let's let the dairymen and women care for their herds in the most humane and efficient manner possible, and not let fearmongering conspiracy theorists influence members of the public, who do not have the time to be educated on the facts of modern dairying.

(The writer is an Augusta veterinarian.)