Biotech Behomoth Dumps GMO Growth Hormone 🙂
Maker of Prozac & Cialis Buys 🙁
In a stunning consumer victory the biotech behemoth Monsanto announced on August 8th that they want to dump their business of producing rBGH and hope to find a buyer for the product. rBGH is a lab produced, genetically modified artificial growth hormone that is being administered to about 15-17 percent of America’s milk producing dairy cows. r = recombinant which means it’s artificially produced in a lab; BGH, Bovine-Growth-Hormone is the common description for the hormone bovine somatotropin (BST) sold to dairy farmers under the commercial name of Posilac. The label on a bottle of Posilac lists 20 possible toxic effects. Posilac was approved by America’s Food and Drug Administration in 1993 but the product has always been banned in the European Union, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and other countries that have more sense than our own.
The beef with rBGH? Many farmers and animal advocates believe this growth hormone is harmful to cows and many mothers worry that it might actually cause cancer in humans — all this just to get cows to pump up their production of milk by one gallon a day?
rBGH did pump up Monsanto’s bottom line, for awhile. But due to continued consumer backlash many corporations that sell milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese are realizing that their customers do not want to feed their children milk containing genetically modified growth hormones and have discontinued selling milk that contains rBGH. Thank you Wal-Mart (did I really just say that?!?!) and a shout out to Starbucks, Kroger supermarkets and Kraft who have all announced earlier this year that they were going to only source their milk from dairy processors that have rBGH-free cows. And the Nurses, again on the forefront, have passed an official resolution at the latest American Nurses Association stating that they support state laws and policies that aim to reduce rBGH. This is a huge issue because many states, including Pennsylvania, have tried to pass (or have already passed) laws that would make it illegal to label milk “rBGH Free.” The nurses go even further and announce they favor hospital and health care industry purchases of rBGH free products — in other words, the whole shebang anything that will reduce the use of rBGH. [So Doctors, what’s up with you?]
One of the creepiest results of cows being treated with rBGH is a common side effect, mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, aka mammary gland, aka utter. It causes the cow pain which is enough of a reason (for me) to stop using this drug. But if you don’t care about things like that what about this — cows that get mastitis from rBGH have to be treated with antibiotics. As you know, increased use of antibiotics in animal husbandry puts everyone at risk of new antibiotic-resistant-diseases. Ok, you say that will never happen to me, I won’t catch one. Fine. How is this? Cows with mastitis produce milk filled with pus. So not only will your milk from rBGH cows have trace amounts of artificial growth hormone and antibiotics it may very well have pus in it too.
In a strange twist of fate, cows with mastitis produce less milk. If the primary purpose of rBGH is to increase milk production but it causes mastitis which significantly decreases milk production, what’s the use? Money for sure. But now, the money isn’t there anymore and Monsanto wants out.
As I said at the top this is a stunning consumer victory. The public doesn’t want to drink milk with artificial, genetically modified growth hormones. They spoke with their pocketbooks and it was noticed, big time, by the corporations involved all the way down the supply chain. But there is still a cloud ahead and it may not have a silver lining. On August 20th the 10th largest maker of pharmaceuticals has offered to purchase the rBGH division from Monsanto. Eli Lilly, the infamous maker of such drugs as Prozac and Cialis has offered to pay $3 million upfront.
People, our work is not done. (See Eli’s official press release at end. Quite a spin on this horrible product).
Sources and For More Information:
From the book What’s In Your Milk? by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.: An Exposé of Industry and Government Cover-Up on the DANGERS of the Genetically Engineered (rBGH) Milk You’re Drinking.
Monsanto, supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), insists that rBGH milk is indistinguishable from natural milk, and that it is safe for consumers. This is blatantly false:
* rBGH makes cows sick. Monsanto has been forced to admit to about 20 toxic effects, including mastitis, on its POSILAC label.
* rBGH milk is contaminated by pus, due to the mastitis commonly induced by rBGH, and antibiotics used to treat the mastitis.
* rBGH milk is supercharged with high levels of a natural growth factor (IGF-1), which is readily absorbed through the gut.
* Excess levels of IGF-1 have been incriminated as a cause of breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
* IGF-1 blocks natural defense mechanisms against early submicroscopic cancers.
* rBGH factory farms pose a major threat to the viability of small dairy farms.
* rBGH enriches Monsanto, while posing dangers, without any benefits, to consumers.
From The Christian Science Monitor: ‘Hormone-free’ milk spurs labeling debate
Some say chemical company is behind efforts to sink ‘rBGH-free’ milk choice. By Peter Smith
What used to be a decision between whole, low fat, and skim is now a choice between whole, low fat, skim, lactose-free, flavored, organic, conventional, soy, and milk made without artificial hormones.
The dairy aisle has grown increasingly cluttered with options – and state lawmakers are now wrestling over labeling one of those options: Milk made without recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH).
The synthetic hormone – linked by some to health problems in humans when ingested – artificially reproduces a naturally occurring hormone found in dairy cows. It’s produced by Monsanto Corp. and sold under the name Posilac. Dairy farmers administer Posilac to lactating cows to increase yields. Its use is banned in Europe and Canada, but the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the artificial hormone in 1993.
In tandem with the rise in organic milk sales, more dairies, supermarket chains, and retailers are offering milk from untreated cows. Because there are no commercially available tests for the artificial hormone, dairy farmers sign affidavits stating they do not use Posilac. Along with dairy processors, this year Starbucks, Kraft, and Wal-Mart rolled out rBGH-free milk products.
“For marketers and processors this is a way to present ‘quasi-organic’ or ‘organic lite’ products and extract a premium from consumers,” says Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation in Washington, which represents conventional dairy marketing cooperatives. The rBGH-free label used to offer a competitive edge; now it merely serves to keep marketers up with the times. “It’s the old joke about why did the chicken cross the road? Because it can,” Mr. Galen says.
Sales of milk labeled “artificial hormone-free” do not appear to be affecting the organic market, says Eric Newman, a representative at Organic Valley, a cooperative that sells milk under the Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm labels. But many in the dairy industry see Wal-Mart’s recent decision to sell rBGH-free milk as a bellwether. “It’ll probably put the death knell to synthetic growth hormone,” Mr. Newman says.
Despite Wal-Mart’s announcement, sales of Posilac remain strong, says a spokeswoman for Monsanto.
What also remains strong is state-level debate over labeling, which appears to be reaching a peak. Pennsylvania, the fifth-largest dairy state, essentially banned labeling claims in October 2007, but rescinded the ban after considerable consumer backlash. Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, and Michigan all have pending legislation or rule changes that would limit labeling claims about hormones.
Some say Monsanto is behind attempts to remove mentions of hormones. “Clearly what’s going on is Monsanto is trying to get states to thwart the market from working,” says Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union. “If the market wants blue corn and not yellow, and people want blue, that’s the way the market works.”
Many consumers appear to favor milk without Posilac – marketed under both organic and artificial hormone-free labels. But Monsanto contends that milk from cows treated with Posilac is safe and no different from milk from cows with naturally occurring hormones. They say labeling claims about hormones mislead consumers into thinking there is a difference in milk quality.
Furthermore, Monsanto spokeswoman Lori Hoag says that farmers decrease their profits by not treating cows with Posilac. “It makes [cows] more efficient and productive,” she says. “In general, the producers are not getting compensated for the ability not to use that product.”
Maine dairy processor Stanley Bennett, of Oakhurst Dairy, contests that statement. He was the first bottler to tout rBGH-free milk. “In addition to premiums to not use growth hormone,” he says, “there are basic incentives for a dairy farmer to ‘go off the needle.’ They relate to wear and tear on the animal.” Poor management can lead to health problems in cows treated with rBGH, he says.
Among dairy farmers, though, there’s no consensus about the bottom line. “There’s a place for it on some farms, but not my farm. It’s because of our values,” says Angie Facey, a farmer and co-op manager at Our Family Farms, a small distributor of rBGH-free milk in western Massachusetts. “A high-producing cow has to be a healthy cow. I honestly don’t think it hurts the cow.”
Monsanto has unsuccessfully petitioned the Federal Trade Commission for a rule change about what it says is deceptive labeling. Other legal action taken by the company and lobbying by farm bureaus to block such labeling has largely failed. Legal precedent appears to uphold the free-speech interest of dairies and the consumer’s right to know.
But Monsanto’s Ms. Hoag says the company has no plans to pull Posilac. “We continue to hear from producers that this is a profitable product they can use.”
As other new agricultural technology reaches the market, labeling debates appear likely to increase, industry analysts say. For example, milk made from cloned animals and their offspring, approved Jan. 15 by the FDA, has already prompted one labeling bill in California.
In addition, cheese and other products made with milk have not faced the same level of labeling scrutiny that milk has. “This issue will not go away,” says the Consumer Union’s Mr. Hansen.
Organic vs. hormone-free
Consumers strolling by the dairy aisle at their local grocery story may wonder: What’s the difference between organic and hormone-free milk?
The US Department of Agriculture has established rules so you can know the answer.
USDA regulations for organic milk prohibit the use of artificial growth hormones and antibiotics while mandating that cows are given access to pasture and fed organic grains.
Dairies that produce and market hormone-free milk have essentially agreed to abide by just one of the principals of organic milk production.
While organic dairy farmers are required to be inspected by independent third parties who verify a farmer’s compliance, artificial hormone-free dairy farms are not inspected. In most cases those farmers sign a legally binding affidavit instead.
April 21, 2008 edition
From the New York Times: Monsanto Looks to Sell Dairy Hormone Business By ANDREW MARTIN and ANDREW POLLACK
After struggling to gain consumer acceptance, Monsanto on Wednesday announced that it would try to sell its business of producing an artificial growth hormone for dairy cows. The company will focus instead on its thriving business of selling seeds and developing ways to improve crops.
The decision comes as more retailers, saying they are responding to consumer demand, are selling dairy products from cows not treated with the artificial hormone.
Wal-Mart, Kroger and Publix are among the retailers that now sell house-brand milk from untreated cows. Almost all of the fresh milk sold by Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk bottler, also comes from cows that were not treated with the artificial hormone, a spokeswoman said.
Monsanto officials said the decision was not related to the retail trend and that business for the artificial hormone, sold under the brand name Posilac, remained brisk. Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis and is the only commercial manufacturer of the hormone, declined to provide sales numbers.
Selling Posilac “will allow Monsanto to focus on the growth of its core seeds and traits business while ensuring that loyal dairy farmers continue to receive the value of Posilac in their operations,” Carl Casale, Monsanto’s executive vice president for strategy and operations, said in a statement.
The growth hormone, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993, was one of the first applications of genetic engineering used in food production. When the artificial hormone, which is made in genetically modified bacteria, is injected into cows, it increases milk production by about a gallon a day. A 2007 survey by the Department of Agriculture said 17 percent of the nation’s dairy cows were receiving it.
Despite the government’s approval, many advocacy groups have long maintained that Posilac is bad for the health of cows. Some even claim it could pose a cancer risk in people, though little scientific evidence has emerged to support that view. Their concerns have been fueled by the refusal of many countries, including Canada and members of the European Union, to permit the use of the hormone.
“I think they saw the handwriting on the wall and gave up,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington. “It’s a major victory for consumers.”
Mr. Kimbrell said the original idea of marketing a growth hormone for milk production was flawed because milk is so emblematic of childhood. Fear of the effects of the artificial hormone was one of the primary drivers behind the growth of the organic dairy industry, he said.
But Elena Gonser, a dairy farmer in Everson, Wash., contended that consumers had been misled by misinformation. She added that Posilac, which is also known as bovine somatotropin or BST, was safe and effective.
“I believe it’s just catering to ignorance to tell people it’s BST-free, and it’s better for you,” said Ms. Gonser, who along with her husband runs a farm that has 70 cows.
But she added: “I’m not surprised to find they want to step back from it. It’s gotten a bad rap for so long.”
Monsanto’s announcement comes after a year of pitched battles over labeling on dairy packages. A year ago, Monsanto tried unsuccessfully to persuade federal officials to crack down on labels that say the milk has been produced without the hormone, arguing that milk from treated cows was the same as that from untreated cows.
In the months since, a Monsanto-backed advocacy group and a handful of dairy organizations have struggled to have similar laws or regulations passed at the state level. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the secretary of agriculture banned the labels, only to have his order overturned by the governor amid a consumer uproar.
Monsanto will continue to sell and market the product until a buyer is found, said Christie Chavis, who leads commercial development and strategy for the company’s animal agriculture business unit. Posilac is sold in 20 countries.
Ms. Chavis said that the artificial hormone was safe and also good for the environment, saying that it takes fewer cows and less resources to produce the same volume of milk.
Jim Werkhoven, a dairy farmer in Monroe, Wash., said he was disappointed when he learned of the move on Wednesday from a Monsanto industrial relations executive.
“I certainly understand from a business perspective why they may be doing this,” he said. “At the end of the day, the customer is going to be the one that sets the rules, and at the end of the day, it’s going to be the customer that pays the price.”
Elanco Announces Acquisition of Posilac® Dairy Business
Deal Provides Strategic Fit with Lilly’s Animal Health Division
August 20, 2008
CONTACT: (317) 277-7464 – Joan Todd (Elanco)
(317) 276-5795 – Mark Taylor (Lilly)
Greenfield, IN – Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY), today announced that
Lilly has signed an agreement to acquire the worldwide rights to the dairy cow supplement, Posilac® (sometribove), as well as the product’s supporting operations, from Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON).
“Global dairy demand is increasing, outstripping supply, and consumers are seeing rapidly rising
prices,” said Jeff Simmons, president, Elanco. “With the purchase of Posilac, Elanco can enhance its overall product portfolio and work together with the industry to provide dairy farmers more options and give consumers affordable choices. Critically, we remain focused on the health and care of the cow in working with farmers to increase global milk supply.
“With our rich history and experience in the dairy industry, Elanco is the ideal steward of this vital technology,” Simmons said. “Elanco remains committed to using science to address the growing need for safe, affordable food; and to choices for consumers, retailers and producers.”
Elanco has exclusively sold sometribove outside of the United States for a decade. Posilac has been safely used for more than 14 years.
Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will acquire all rights to the Posilac brand, as well as the
product’s U.S. sales force and its manufacturing facility in Augusta, Georgia. In return, Monsanto will receive a $300 million upfront payment, as well as contingent consideration. The Posilac dairy business manufacturing and sales teams will be integrated into the Elanco business. The transaction is expected to close near the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2008, contingent upon clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Anti-Trust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions.
Posilac (rbST) is approved by numerous regulatory authorities worldwide to help dairy farmers
improve milk productivity. BST (bovine somatotropin) is a natural protein produced in all cattle,
helping adult cows produce milk. Milk from cows receiving Posilac is unchanged from milk from cows not receiving this supplement.
Since it received U.S. FDA approval in 1994, Posilac has become a leading dairy animal supplement in the United States and many other countries. Supplementing dairy cows with Posilac enhances milk production and serves as an important tool to help dairy producers improve the efficiency of their operations and produce more milk more sustainably.
Elanco is a global innovation-driven company that develops and markets products to improve
animal health and food animal production in more than 100 countries. Elanco employs more than
2,000 people worldwide, with offices in more than 30 countries, and is a division of Eli Lilly and
Company, a leading global pharmaceutical corporation. Additional information about Elanco is
available at www.elanco.com.
About Eli Lilly and Company
Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of first-in-class and best-in-class pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers – through medicines and information – for some of the world’s most urgent medical needs. C-LLY
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