Report Shows Hormone
To Make Cows Produce
More Milk Should Be Banned
By Nahlah Ayed
The Canadian Press
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 of Canadians."
"This is a terribly important report, it was so important the government tried to sweep it under the rug," she said.
"It gives us a great amount of the proof that we need to demand that the government of Canada not grant the application."
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 analysis."
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 necessary.
"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 BST files.
A consumer group released the study Monday in the U.S., calling for a moratorium on the use of the hormone until further investigation.
"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.