- OTTAWA (CP) -- Consumer, environmental and industry groups in Canada
and the U.S. say they now have more than enough evidence to force their
respective governments to ban the use of a growth hormone that increases
milk production in cows.
- A leaked Health Canada report pointing
to serious flaws in studies assessing the safety of bovine somatotropin,
or BST, is now widely available, giving critics the ammunition they believe
will help their cause.
- The internal report, posted on the National
Farmers Union Web site, is a damning review of what little evidence there
is that BST is safe for use in cows and for human consumption.
- On the eve of Senate hearings into whether
Canada should approve BST use, Canadian farmers and anti-BST groups say
the report will figure prominently in their case to show the growth hormone
should never be approved in Canada.
- "It's good news for our concerns,"
said Peter Dowling, Ontario co-ordinator for the farmers union.
- Maude Barlow, head of the Council of
Canadians who will appear before the Senate committee, said the study gives
notice to the government it cannot "play fast and loose with the health
- "This is a terribly important report,
it was so important the government tried to sweep it under the rug,"
- "It gives us a great amount of the
proof that we need to demand that the government of Canada not grant the
- The hormone was approved in the U.S.
in 1993. Canada has been grappling with the issue for years, but has yet
to make a final decision on the hormone, said to increase milk production
in cows by 10 to 15 per cent.
- The "Gaps Analysis" study,
yet to be officially released by government, was commissioned after the
veterinary drug unit of the Health Protection Branch challenged senior
scientists who believed the hormone was safe for humans.
- The aptly-named study concluded research
into the hormone's safety had a "serious gap" requiring "critical
- The report criticizes, among other things,
a senior Health Canada scientist's decision to agree with manufacturer
Monsanto's claim that long-term study of BST effects in humans was not
- "The usually-required long-term
studies to ascertain human safety were not conducted," concluded the
analysis. "Hence, such possibilities and potential as sterility, infertility,
birth defects, cancer and immunological derangements were not addressed."
- The report says the only short-term toxicology
study, conducted by Monsanto for three months in rats, was "improperly
reported," to conclude that the hormone could not be absorbed into
the blood stream. The results actually showed that absorption did happen
but wasn't investigated further.
- "It's astonishing that bovine growth
hormone ever got registered in the U.S. based on 30 rats and 90 days,"
said Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada.
- "But when you realize they did only
one test and everything didn't go fine, it's absolutely astonishing."
- In mid-September, several scientists
concerned about BST's safety told an internal labour board they were pressured
to approve the drug. They were also concerned about secrecy surrounding
- A consumer group released the study Monday
in the U.S., calling for a moratorium on the use of the hormone until further
- "This report completely undermines
the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration's) conclusions about the safety
of (BST)," said Anthony Pollina of the Vermont Public Interest Research
Group in a Monday release.
- The research group is further charging
that either Monsanto or the FDA covered up human safety studies that showed
negative effects of the hormone, especially in children.