What is rBGH?

Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a genetically engineered hormone that is marketed to dairy farmers to increase milk production in cows, and which is manufactured by a company named Monsanto.  The human form of growth hormone, also called somatotropin, is made by the pituitary gland. It promotes growth and cell replication. Bovine growth hormone (BGH), also known as bovine somatotropin (BST) is the natural form of this hormone in cattle.  Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) refers to bovine growth hormone that is made in a lab using genetic technology. Some rBGH products on the market differ chemically from a cow’s natural somatotropin by one amino acid. Both the natural and recombinant forms of the hormone stimulate a cow’s milk production by increasing levels of another hormone known as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).  This hormone is being given to more than 30% of cattle in the USA.

Why rBGH is not Good for Cows

Whenever cows are forced to produce more milk, they become more susceptible to udder infections called mastitis. Mastitis is a condition which can increase the amount of cow’s pus which ends up in the milk. Monsanto’s own data shows that there is a 79% increase in mastitis (udder infections) and a resulting 19% increase in somatic cell counts (pus & bacteria in the milk). In fact, the warning label on Monsanto’s Posilac drug (their brand name for rBGH) explicitly states: “Cows injected with POSILAC are at an increased risk for clinical mastitis (visibly abnormal milk). The number of cows affected with clinical mastitis and the number of cases per cow may increase…. In some herds, use of POSILAC has been associated with increases in somatic cell counts [pus & bacteria].” The warning label goes on to say “use of POSILAC may result in an increase in digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloat, and diarrhea…. Studies indicated that cows injected with POSILAC had increased numbers of enlarged hocks and lesions (e.g., lacerations, enlargements, calluses) of the knee…and…of the foot region.” RBGH causes udder infections in cows, which are treated with antibiotics. Increased antibiotic use in food animals is a serious problem because it creates antibiotic resistant bacteria and is strongly linked to human infections that are difficult to treat. Injections of rBGH also increase another hormone, called IGF-1, in the cow and the cow‚ milk. Too much IGF-1 in humans is linked with increased rates of colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

FDA and rBGH

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved rBGH in 1993, despite criticism that the effects of rBGH were never properly assessed. The FDA’s approval was based solely on one study administered by Monsanto in which rBGH was tested for 90 days on 30 rats. Although the FDA stated that the results showed no significant problems, the study was never actually published.  The FDA continues to assure consumers that rBGH is safe for cows and humans, despite evidence to the contrary. In 1994, the FDA prohibited dairies from claiming there is any difference between milk from rBGH-injected cows and milk produced without the artificial hormone.  In 1998, an assessment by Health Canada determined that the results of Monsanto’s 90-day study provided reason for review before approval of rBGH.    Today, the European Union (all 27 countries) ,  Japan , Australia, New Zealand and Canada banned the use of rBGH due to animal and human health concerns.

 What’s the Risk?

Growing evidence of antibiotic resistance due to routine use of antibiotics in animal feed – including for dairy cows – is increasingly worrisome for health policy makers as well as individual consumers. The routine use of hormones such as rBGH for milk stimulation also adds to the worry, because of limited evidence regarding long-term effects on human health. It is suggested that the use of these types of hormones could be linked to increased cancer risk.  In addition to that excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated as a cause of breast, colon, and prostate cancers and IGF has shown to block natural defense mechanisms against early submicroscopic cancers

In the News

Despite the efforts of Monsanto and the dairy industry to promote rBGH, farmers, the public has largely rejected the artificial hormone.

In response to growing consumer concern, some dairies label their milk as “rBGH-free” or “No artificial growth hormones.” In attempt to make these labeling practices illegal, a pseudo “grassroots” nonprofit called American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT) was formed in February 2008.   Created by a public relations firm founded by two ex-Monsanto employees, AFACT received funding from Monsanto before it was dissolved in 2011.

The fight over milk labels took place across the US; attempts to ban rBGH-free labeling occurred in:

Pennsylvania: In October 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture outlawed hormone-free labeling, claiming the labels are “false” and “misleading” to consumers.    FIn reaction to public outcry, Governor Ed Rendell allowed hormone-free labeling to be reinstated in January 2008.    F

Ohio: In February 2008, Ohio Agriculture Director, Robert Boggs, approved the use of rBGH-free labeling only if the FDA’s disclaimer, “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows,” was also included, in a way that made labeling virtually impossible.  However, in October 2010 a federal court overturned the rBGH labeling rule: the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stated that there is a “compositional difference” between milk from cows receiving growth hormone and those that don’t, and ruled that companies are free to label their products as “rBGH free” and “rBST free.”

Indiana: In 2008, the Indiana legislature considered a bill to make artificial hormone-free labeling illegal, claiming milk would be “misbranded” if “compositional claims cannot be confirmed through laboratory analysis.” The bill did not pass the legislature.

Kansas: In 2009, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that deemed any milk, milk product or dairy product label with a statement related to milk composition including “No Hormones,” “Hormone Free,” “rBST Free,” “rBGH Free,” and “BST Free” as false and misleading.  Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the bill.

Similar labeling controversies took place in Missouri, New Jersey, Utah and Vermont, but ultimately, no state made it illegal to label milk or dairy products as rBGH-free.

Despite industry efforts to keep consumers in the dark, food producers and suppliers have been listening to consumer concerns. In 2007, United States grocery chains Kroger and Safeway prohibited the use of rBGH-treated milk in their store-branded dairy products. In March 2008, WalMart    prohibited rBGH use in their store-brand milk products. In August 2008, Monsanto sold the division of the corporation that produces rBGH to Eli Lilly.

The Truth

In closing, we here at Muscle Elements took the time to look in to some of the facts and articles surrounding this highly debatable issue with rBGH being used in cows to stimulate milk production and does it really have an end effect on the end consumer.  We feel that with the lack of science supporting that it has no effect like the FDA states, in conjunction with a lot of the articles, and legislation that is going in to place combine with Fortune 500 companies refusing to accept product in which rBGH was used in the animal, led us to complete one of the purest protein production on the market by spending the extra money to use protein sources that are certifiably hormone free. Our all new – all natural product called The TRUTH, which stands for Taking Responsibility to Utilize Transparency & Honesty, will not only be free of artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors, and has fully disclosed  the gram amount of each of the 4 protein blends, will also have the added benefit of being hormone free sources of protein.