Growth Hormones Would Endanger Milk
Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1989
FDA Ignores Evidence on Cancer
With the Food and Drug Administration ready to approve
the use of genetically engineered growth hormones in cows to boost
production, concerns are mounting among dairy farmers, state legislatures,
animal-rights activists and consumer and public-interest groups.
hormones, known as rBGH, are manufactured by chemical companies
- Monsanto, American Cyanamid, Upjohn and Eli Lilly together with
Dow - who anticipate $500-million annual worldwide sales.
Their promotional hype claims that the hormones are natural," that
they are not found in milk, that they increase milk yields up to
25%, that they do not harm cows, that they do not alter milk quality
and that they are safe for humans. The FDA also agrees that bovine
growth hormones are safe and have allowed the sale of unlabeled
milk and meat from rBGH cows for about five years. These claims,
which are based on industry-contracted research at more than 20
U.S. university dairy science departments, are misleading in the
Apart from the national surplus of milk and anticipated foreclosure
of thousands of small dairy farms if milk production is increased
and milk prices reduced, the effectiveness of bovine growth hormones
is exaggerated. Furthermore, the nutritional quality of milk and
cheese is altered; fat is increased and casein decreased. Stress
effects have been noted in cows hyper-stimulated by rBGH. These
include increased susceptibility to infection, infertility, loss
of fat, heat intolerance and "burnout" or lactational
failure; severe stress diseases including gastric ulcers, arthritis
and kidney and heart abnormalities have also been induced in pigs.
Additionally, bovine growth hormones are likely to be misused as
a growth promoter in calves, pigs and sheep, particularly as there
are no practical methods for detecting the hormone in meat, and
in view of the abusive track record of the meat industry regarding
hormonal and other feed additives.
Apart from economic and veterinary concerns, bovine growth hormones
pose grave consumer health risks that have not been investigated
by the industry or FDA.
-Bovine growth hormones are not "natural." The FDA now
admits that they are up to "3% different in molecular structure" from
the normal hormone. Increased rBGH levels in milk and blood have
been found in injected cows. rBGH and its digested products could
be absorbed from milk into blood, particularly in infants, and
produce hormonal and allergic effects.
-Increased levels of cell-stimulating growth factors, apparently
identical to those in humans, have been reported in rBGH milk.
These could induce premature growth and breast stimulation in
infants, and possibly promote breast cancer in adults.
-Increased bacterial infections in rBGH cows will require treatment
with antibiotics that will pass into milk. This is likely to
result in antibiotic-resistant infections in the general population.
the stress effects of bovine growth hormones in cows could
suppress immunity and activate latent viruses, such as bovine leukemia
(Leukosis) and bovine immunodeficiency viruses, which are related
to the AIDS
complex and may be infectious to humans.
-Steroids and adrenaline-type stressor chemicals induced in
cows by these hormones are likely to contaminate milk and
may be harmful,
particularly to infants and young children.
-The fat and milk of cows are already contaminated with a wide
range of carcinogenic contaminants, including dioxins and
pesticides. Bovine growth hormones reduce body fat and are likely
these carcinogens into milk, with cancer risks to consumers.
What is to be done? State legislatures should be pressured
to ban rBGH. The FDA should be petitioned to ban the manufacture,
sale and export of the hormones until all safety questions
be resolved. Congressional oversight should focus on industry's
misleading and self-interested claims on rBGH, and the
FDA's regulatory abdication. Finally, consumers should recognize
as industry's latest unsafe contribution to the brave new
world of chemicalized food and mechanized farming.
Statement by the Cancer Prevention Coalition on IGF-1 and Breast
and Colon Cancer
January 23, 1996
The FDA has ignored the wide range of converging evidence that
associates increased consumption of insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-
1), which increases in milk from rBGH treated cows, with a potential
risk of breast and other types of cancer.
Published research shows that rBGH use on dairy cows induces
a marked and sustained increase in levels of insulin-like growth
factor-1, or IGF-1, in cow’s milk. This is admitted by FDA
(Juskevich & Guyer, 1990), and more explicitly by others (Prosser
1988; Prosser 1989; Mepham, 1992). A recent admission by another
manufacturer of rBGH (Eli Lilly & Co.) reports a ten fold increase
in IGF-1 levels. Furthermore, there is suggestive evidence that
IGF- 1 in rBGH milk is more bioactive than in non-hormonal milk
IGF-1 regulates cell growth, division and differentiation, particularly
in children. Human and normal bovine IGF-1 are identical, they
are largely bound in protein and thus probably less biologically
active than unbound IGF1 in rBGH derived milk.
IGF-1 is not destroyed by pasteurization. In fact this process
substantially increases IGF-1 levels in milk. (Juskevich and Guyer,
1990). Nor is IGF-1 destroyed by digestion. Moreover, FDA admits
that IGF-1 is readily absorbed across the intestinal wall (Juskevich & Guyer,
1990); this was also previously admitted by Monsanto in 1987. Further
confirmation is also provided by other authorities (e.g. Mepham,
1992). Additionally, recent research indicates that IGF-1 can be
absorbed into the bloodstream where it can effect other hormones.
(Donovan and Odle, 1994)
FDA and other industry sources have not published any detailed
studies on the oral toxicity of IGF-1 Rather, they have consistently
refused to make available their findings and raw data. A highly
condensed summary of an IGF- 1 Monsanto short term test in mature
rats was released by FDA (Juskevich & Guyer, 1990). The agency
alleges that this study confirms IGF- 1's "lack of oral activity." At
the outset it should be noted that the Monsanto test was contracted
out to Hazelton Laboratories, which has a two decade history of
misrepresentation of scientific data. (Epstein, 1978). However,
even the cited Monsanto/Hazelton data explicitly reveal statistically
significant evidence of growth promoting effects. Feeding relatively
low doses of IGF-1 to mature rats for only two weeks resulted in
statistically significant and biologically highly significant systemic
effects: increased body weight; increased liver weight; increased
bone length; and decreased epiphyseal width. These results are
confirmatory of prior theoretical predictions.
The FDA has completely failed to investigate the effects of long-term
feeding of IGF- 1 and treated milk on growth, or on more sensitive
sub-cellular effects, in infant rats or infants of any other
Significantly, cows injected with rBGH show heavy localization
of IGF-l in breast (udder) epithelial cells; this does not occur
in untreated cows. (Furlanetto, et al, 1984; Gregor, et al, 1985;
Campbell, et al, 1986.) IGF-1 induces rapid division and multiplication
of normal human breast epithelial cells in tissue cultures. It
is highly likely that IGF- 1 promotes transformation of normal
breast epithelium to breast cancers. (Furlanetto, et al, 1984;
Harris, et al, 1992, growth factors such as IGF-1 "are responsible
at least in part for the evolution of normal breast epithelia to
breast cancer...'). Moreover, IGF-1 maintains the malignancy of
human breast cancer cells, including their invasiveness and ability
to spread to distant organs. (Lippman, 1991, 1993). IGF-l has been
similarly associated with colon cancer (Tricolo, et al, 1986).
The undifferentiated pre-natal and infant breast is particularly
susceptible to hormonal influences. (Ekbom, et al. 1992) Such imprinting
by IGF-1 may increase future breast cancer risks, and may also
increase the sensitivity of the breast to subsequent unrelated
risks such as mammography and the carcinogenic and estrogen-like
effects of pesticide residues in food, particularly in pre-menopausal
women. (Elwood, et al, 1993).
Concerns about increased levels of IGF- 1 in milk from cows treated
with rBGH are not new. In 1990, the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) Consensus panel on rBGH expressed concerns on adverse health
effects of IGF-1 in rBGH milk, calling for further study on the
treated milk's impacts, especially on infants. (NIH, 1991). In
a 1989 letter to the FDA, I warned that the effects of IGF-1 "could
include premature growth stimulation in infants, [breast enlargement]
in young children and breast cancer in adult females." More
recently, the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical
Association stated: "Further studies will be required to determine
whether the ingestion of higher than normal concentrations of bovine
insulin-like growth factor is safe for children, adolescents and
adults." (AMA, 1991). Instead of further study, the FDA allowed
for uncontrolled, unlabeled sales of treated milk to unwitting
Given the potential health impacts of consumption of milk and
other dairy products derived from rBGH treated cows, all such products
at a minimum be labeled so that consumers are aware of what they
are purchasing and consuming. More prudently the FDA approval of
rBGH should be withdrawn until the agency performs adequate long
term testing on the impacts of increased levels of IGF- 1 in milk
and other dairy products derived from rBGH treated cows.
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growth factor-1/somatomedin-C receptors in bovine mammary gland.
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Donovan, S.M. and Odle J., 1994. Growth Factors in Milk as mediators
of Infant development. Annual Review of infant development. Annual
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Ekbom, A. et al. Evidence of prenatal influence on breast cancer
risk. The Lancet Oct.24, 1992:1015-1018.
Epstein, S.S. Polluted Data, The Sciences, Vol.18, 16-21, July,
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Lippman, M.E. The development of biological therapies for breast
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Cancer Prevention Coalition
University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health
2121 W. Taylor St., MC 922
Chicago, IL 60612