Scientists are at odds over the dangers of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH. On one side, for instance, is John E. Rushing, who studies processing and residues associated with dairy products at N.C. State University. Milk with rBGH is perfectly safe, he says. "The FDA is very tight about approving anything. I can't imagine that they'd approve of this otherwise."
After a challenge to its decision to approve use of rBGH, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found "that there are no new scientific concerns regarding the safety of milk from cows treated with rBGH.
Monsanto, the biggest producer of rBGH under the name Posilac, says "research has shown that cows given supplemental BST in the form of POSILAC become more efficient milk producers, without jeopardizing milk quality or wholesomeness in the process."
On the other side are experts like Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, emeritus professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Epstein, an internationally recognized authority on avoidable causes of cancer and winner of the 1998 Right Livelihood Award (also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize") has been pointing out the dangers of rBGH in milk since the late 1980s. According to his findings, rBGH milk is supercharged with high levels of a natural growth factor (IGF-1), which has been identified as a potential causes of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
His opinion is supported in a report by the European Commission. It comes to the conclusion that the use of rBGH in dairy cows appears to be related to an increase in IGF-I levels in milk, which raises the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Other risks cited by the EC, which has banned the sale of rBGH milk, include allergic reactions and increased human resistance to antibiotics. That's caused by milk that contains heightened levels of antibiotics given to cows to treat mastitis, an inflammation of the udders caused by rBGH.
Some Web sites that address the issue:
The FDA: www.fda.gov/cvm/index/bst/bst.htm
An N.C. organic foods group: www.purefoodpartners.org
An anti-rBGH advocate: www.notmilk.com
The European Commission's report: http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scv/out19_en.html