by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
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Whistle on rBGH:Dairy Farmers and Monsanto employees Speak Out
What compelled Sam Epstein to write GOT (Genetically
From March 1989, I started receiving a
series of phone calls from dairy farmers, mainly in the mid-west,
inquiring about possible
consumer risks of genetically-engineered or recombinant bovine
growth hormone (rBGH) milk to all of which I had to plead ignorance.
The most memorable call came from a farmer who met my response
with an irate comment to the effect that: If it makes my cows sick,
their milk will also make people sick, so it’s damn well
your job to find out about it. This wake-up call was my introduction
I soon discovered that as early as 1985, Monsanto
had become aware of possible negative consumer reactions to the
word hormone, and
had attempted to change the name rBGH to the more neutral bovine
somatotropin, rBST. However, this was too late in the U.S. as the
term rBGH had already become well-established in the promotional
and scientific literature. This was not, however, the case in Canada
and Europe where the name rBST was readily accepted and so remains.
I first checked all major public health and
medical journals and found no reference to any studies on possible
human risks from
rBGH milk. I then reviewed the 1987 and 1988 supplements of the
Journal of Dairy Science. These contained numerous publications,
virtually all by Monsanto or other rBGH industries and their indentured
scientists in some 20 nationwide land grant colleges and universities,
reporting results on some 60 milk production trials dating back
to 1985. While abstracts of these publications were invariably
highly reassuring with regard to the veterinary safety of rBGH,
analysis of their texts and data, however, revealed a very different
picture. Most of the trials were based on fewer than 10 cows, thus
minimizing their statistical significance. Also, the data on health
effects were sparse and almost incidental to milk production, to
the complete exclusion of any long term, multi-lactational, and
multi-generational safety studies. In spite of these limitations
and the gross insensitivity of the trials, analysis of their underlying
data revealed a high incidence of mastitis and reduced fertility,
apart from major changes in the nutritional quality and composition
of milk. By the time I had completed reviewing these trials, it
had become clear that Monsanto, and the other rBGH industries (Dow
Chemical, Eli Lilly, Upjohn, and American Cyanamid), had not only
monopolized the research field and publications on rBGH but had
also suppressed or manipulated evidence on its adverse veterinary
effects. The FDA’s complicity was evidenced by their explicit
assurances on the safety of rBGH milk, which was falsely claimed
to be identical with natural milk. The FDA’s complicity was
compounded by its decision to allow the sale of rBGH milk, since
the inception of large scale milk production trials in 1985, to
the unknowing public in the total absence of any questions, let
alone studies, on human safety, particularly routine toxicological
tests on rBGH milk and its altered ingredients and contaminants.
Of particular concern in this connection was
evidence from sparse publications, unrelated to the industry trials,
of elevated levels
in rBGH milk of IGF-1, a natural growth factor whose levels are
under control of natural growth hormones, whether bovine (BGH)
or human (HGH). This raised a red flag in relation to cancer
risks, particularly as converging lines of evidence in the endocrinology
and cancer literature had already incriminated IGF-1 as a critical
factor in the promotion of breast cancer.
Based on these considerations, I went public
with a July 1989 editorial in the Los Angeles Times, followed by
a report to the FDA outlining
the basis of my public health, and veterinary concerns. The FDA’s
response was non-substantive and replete with misstatements and
By then, it had become clear that U.S. consumers
were faced with the imminent prospect of the replacement of natural
milk by rBGH
milk, with its suspect or known hazards apart from the absence
of any routine safety studies. I then decided to systematize
my concerns and prepare a fully referenced and detailed scientific
publication for submission to the leading international peer-reviewed
public health journal, the International Journal of Health
which was published in January 1990.
While awaiting publication, a large box with
name or identification arrived at my office towards the end of
October. To my amazement, it contained an extensive set of “Company
Confidential” Monsanto files, presumably leaked from the
FDA. These files provided details on a wide range of critical adverse
health effects, all at striking variance with explicit contrary
industry and FDA assurances, as detailed in my article co-authored
by Peter Hardin in The Milkweed, January, 1990. These effects included:
high levels of rBGH in treated milk; serious pathology in rBGH
injected cows; a high incidence of reproductive failure; and the
use of illegal drugs to treat mastitis and other adverse effects
in rBGH cows. I then forwarded selected rBGH files to Cong. Conyers,
then Chairman of the House Committee on Government Operations who,
on the basis of their detailed investigation, charged Monsanto
and the FDA with conspiring to manipulate critical health data,
notwithstanding contrary public assurances. These confidential
files posed further evidence of white collar crime, with which
Monsanto besides other chemical industries, had been charged in
my 1979 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Hearings
on White Collar Crime (H.R. 4973). This testimony documented evidence
of Monsanto’s suppression of health and safety data on nitrilotriacetic
acid, a proposed substitute for phosphate detergents, which I had
documented while working as a consultant to the U.S. Senate Committee
on Public Works in 1970. Similar concerns relate to Monsanto’s
subsequent track record with regard to other carcinogens including
acrylonitrile and Agent Orange.
Since the inception of the Cancer Prevention
Coalition in 1994, my interests on the hazards of rBGH milk have
extended from the
scientific to include frank advocacy, an essential mission of public
health. This monograph is a compilation of all my writings in both
the scientific and advocacy aspects of rBGH from 1989 to 2000.
It is also responsive to an ongoing stream of requests over the
last decade for reprints or copies of my various writings.
The critical role of a wide range of public
interest and citizen groups and their coalitions is also fully
mainstream environmental organizations such as the Environmental
Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council have remained
largely uninvolved. The monograph also provides disturbing details
on Monsanto’s promotional and defensive strategies. Of particular
note, these include harassment and intimidation of critical scientists,
aided by a Dairy Council “hit squad,” and strong influences
on trade policy involving “revolving door” relationships
with the White House, Congress, regulatory agencies, and the Geneva-based
Food and Agriculture/World Health Organization’s industry
and regulatory dominated Joint Expert Committees on Food Additives.
It is of particular interest to emphasize
that rBGH milk is a genetically engineered (GE) food, a fact
not generally recognized by the public,
let alone most citizen and consumer advocacy groups that have played
such a critical role in the fight against rBGH, and also such national
and international groups fighting against non-milk GE foods and
ingredients. The hormone itself is unarguably a GE variant of normal
BGH with distinct molecular, chemical, and immunological differences.
Additionally, rBGH milk differs from natural milk in a wide range
of parameters including nutritional, biochemical, pharmacological,
immunological and hormonal, besides being contaminated with the
GE hormone itself, excess levels of IGF-1 including a highly potent
variant, and sometimes pus and antibiotics.
So what is the bottom line of this monograph’s saga? First and foremost,
shoppers should avoid, if not boycott, all milk and dairy products in favor
of those which are certified as rBGH-free. Supermarkets failing to sell these
safer products should be pressured by individual consumers and consumer groups
to make them freely available. Second, Monsanto’s and the FDA’s
reckless two-decade track record of frank manipulation and suppression of health
and safety data on GE milk sends the strongest possible warning to reject similar “trust
assurances” on the safety of non-milk GE foods -- soy, corn, and other
whole and processed foods and ingredients. These concerns are compounded by
the total absence of any long-term safety testing of these GE products by Monsanto
and other biotech industries, as is the case with rBGH, and emerging independent
evidence on their grave and possibly irreversible public health and environmental
Introduction to GOT(Genetically Engineered) Milk!
by Ben & Jerry Greenfield
Cofounders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream
Since the earliest days in the fight to keep
rBGH out of the food supply, Dr. Samuel Epstein was the authoritative
voice in the wilderness
who, unlike the Food and Drug Administration, was warning the public
about the ill effects of rBGH. He was criticized and belittled
in the scientific community then, but now his way of thinking is
gaining widespread acceptance.
From every vantage point save one, the genetically-engineered
artificial growth hormone rBGH is a bad idea, a conclusion we reached
in 1993 when the FDA approved it. In our view, rBGH is a bio-technological
solution to a problem that does not exist.
rBGH is not needed to increase America's supply
of dairy products. Over supply by factory farms is a problem, not
rBGH is not needed to improve the health of dairy cows. The manufacturer's
own label warns that the growth hormone can triggers adverse side
effects that harm cows.
rBGH is not needed to help family farmers. Their
costs already are too high, without another artificial chemical
to buy. And the
artificial hormone makes cows sick, leading to higher costs for
veterinary care and antibiotics.
Its sole benefit is to enrich the coffers of
the drug company that makes it and the corporate farms that use
Because of the harm to cows and family farms,
Ben & Jerry's
took a stand against its use. The family farmers of the St. Albans
Cooperative from whom we get all our milk and cream pledge not
to use rBGH on their cows. We wanted to educate our customers on
rBGH issues and inform them that our suppliers don't use it. That
didn't sit well with the proponents of this drug, and we were forbidden
by three states from making these consumer-right-to-know statements.
Along with Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley,
Ben & Jerry's
sued to preserve our right, and the right of every other food manufacturer,
to label our products rBGH-free. We won, and now consumers can
look on food labels and make an informed choice as to whether they
want dairy products made with or without artificial growth hormones.
As a food company reliant on Vermont's family
farms, we have strong views on these agricultural and consumer
issues. We have followed
the regulatory review of rBGH across the border in Canada, where
concerns about possible human health impacts were raised. The Canadians
said no to rBGH. With this new book, our friend Sam Epstein brings
together the scientific evidence of the threats to human health
by rBGH -- yet another chilling aspect of this unnecessary chemical.
Our thanks go to Dr. Epstein for this very useful
compilation. It will contribute to the debate and help regulatory
see the error of their rush to judgement in approving this unnecessary
and harmful drug.
As Arthur Schopenhaur said, "There are three steps in the
revelation of any truth: in the first, it is ridiculed; in the
second, resisted; in the third, it is considered self-evident." May
Dr. Epstein's work help move us to the realization of that truth.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream
Forward to GOT (Genetically Engineered) Milk!
by John Hagelin, Ph.D.
• President, University of World Peace
Dr. Samuel Epstein is a rare specimen of a dwindling
species: a scientist with a conscience. While so many molecular
have been swept up by the flood of biotechnology, with its allure
of money and world-transforming technology, Dr. Epstein has maintained
his scientific objectivity. Against the tide of inflated claims
and excessive media hype, he has stood his ground. And his book
is a wake-up call, alerting us to the extensively documented
health risks of genetically engineered (GE) rBGH milk-and the
dangers of a government firmly in the grip of biotech special
interests. It is also a wake-up call to the U.S. public who have
been misled by the "trust us" assurances of Monsanto
and other biotech industries on the safety of GE food, especially
in the absence of published scientific evidence.
In the tradition of The Silent Spring by Rachael
Carson, Dr. Epstein highlights the very real dangers of genetic
Epstein presents unequivocal evidence linking the consumption
of rBGH milk to increased risks of breast, colon, and prostate
cancer-and clearly documents the suppression of this crucial
data by the FDA, Monsanto, and a roll-over mainstream media,
suppression which he characterizes as "white collar crime."
Genetic engineering, or "recombinant DNA technology",
is a radical new technology for transferring fragments of DNA,
and their associated genetic characteristics, from one species
to another. It has been used thus far primarily for agriculture-for
the creation, patenting and commercializing of genetically modified
living organisms. For example, the splicing of a flounder gene
which produces a blood "antifreeze" protein into tomatoes,
to render them frost resistant; or creating corn endowed with
its own built-in pesticides.
Already, more than 60% of the foods on our grocery
store shelves contains genetically modified ingredients-from infant
to corn chips. None of these foods have been safety tested on
humans, and none are labeled. Hence most Americans are eating
these foods without knowing it, despite unique health risks posed
by these experimental foods. Some scientists believe this experimental
food technology will lead to abundant harvests, and thus help
feed our expanding world population.
Others believe genetic engineering
is one of the most dangerous technologies ever developed, and if
we do not create proper safety
guidelines for the release of genetically altered organisms into
the fields and the market, the world's food supply will be irreparably
damaged. As a nuclear physicist, I have witnessed first-hand
the hasty commercialization of nuclear technologies, technologies
that have brought severe health risks and even threatened mankind
with annihilation. I am similarly concerned that the short-term
financial interests of a few biotech firms are forcing the hasty
commercialization of equally dangerous genetic technologies.
Throughout the world, heated debates on the
health and environmental risks of genetically engineered foods
are raging. The Canadian
government has banned rBGH milk, and the European Union has mandated
that all genetically engineered foods be clearly labeled. Yet
in the US there has been a near press blackout, with newspapers
featuring mainly positive stories about biotechnology and its
promise to humanity.
Now, finally, Dr. Epstein breaks the silence,
presenting compelling scientific evidence of the dangers of genetically
foods, and in particular, of genetically engineered milk (rBGH/BST).
Samuel Epstein is a renowned scientist and humanitarian, Professor
of Environmental Medicine at the Illinois School of
Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition,
and author of some 260 scientific publications and 10 books.
He is the leading international scientific authority on the causes
and prevention of cancer. He is also the leading critic of the
U.S. cancer establishment, the National Cancer Institute and
the American Cancer Society, besides similar establishments worldwide,
for their indifference to cancer prevention and fixation on damage
control - diagnosis and treatment - and gene therapy, with indifference
or even hostility towards cancer prevention.
in these areas have been recently recognized by his 1998 Right
Livelihood Award (better known as the "Alternative
Nobel Prize"), and his 2000 Project Censored Award (better
known as the "Alternative Pulitzer Prize" for investigative
journalism) for his 1999 publication critiquing the American
Cancer Society. In Dr. Epstein's highly commendable scholarly
work he provides extensive documentation on the grave health
risks of GE milk. He also provides clear, shocking evidence of
our government's efforts to cover up evidence of the dangers
of GE milk.
In 1989, Dr. Epstein began writing a series
of editorials, letters to Congress and federal agencies, and articles
press releases, and also held a series of press conferences on
the dangers of GE milk. In spite of this evidence, rBGH was approved
by the FDA in November, 1983 for injecting cows to boost their
milk production. The hormone is now manufactured in Austria,
and marketed worldwide by Monsanto, besides other US biotech
companies. These biotech companies and the FDA still persist
in their claims that GE is natural and completely safe.
Epstein's research, published in leading international peer-reviewed
scientific journals, has clearly shown that milk
from cows injected with rBGH is entirely different, qualitatively
from natural milk. Moreover, consumption of GE milk increases
the risks of breast, colon, prostate, and other cancers in humans.
Epstein clearly documents the harmful, carcinogenic effects of
this supposedly "natural and safe" GE milk-and the
industry's and FDA's attempts to suppress evidence of these life-threatening
Dr. Epstein has faced fierce opposition and
vilification from industry for his bold and principled stance on
Monsanto and other biotech corporations have countered with multi-million
dollar ad campaigns designed to paint Epstein and other food
safety as "radicals." Yet Dr.
Epstein has stood his ground.
Recall that when Rachael Carson wrote her book
on the environmental and health risks of DDT in 1962, she was derided
as a fanatic
by industry and complicit federal agencies. Today, DDT is banned
in the US (though American corporations continue to profit
by selling DDT abroad). Carson's book helped spark the environmental
movement and the awakening of America to the dangers of pesticide
abuse, areas in which Dr. Epstein has played a major role.
1978 The Politics of Cancer and his 1998 The Politics of Cancer
Revisited has similarly galvanized public awareness on the
industrial causes of the modern cancer epidemic. Now, in this latest
Epstein is awakening millions to the dangers of genetic engineering.
As a scientist, I am equally concerned about
the unique environmental risks posed by genetic engineering-in
particular, the gene
pollution that results from breaking down genetic barriers
put in place
by Nature. Biotechnology produces living organisms that could
never have emerged in a natural environment-for example,
food crops with insect, bacterial, or viral characteristics. Biotechnologists
have embarked on an ambitious, relentless campaign to rewrite
the Earth's genetic library. Yet the long-term ecological
of even one man-made, genetically engineered organism released
into the environment have not been the subject of a single
study-and are, in fact, incalculable.
Whereas a nuclear disaster releases radioactive
pollutants that remain deadly toxic for thousands of years, gene
by genetic engineering is forever-self-perpetuating and
That is why I have called for a moratorium on
the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment.
is why I have drafted legislation calling for mandatory
labeling and safety testing of genetically engineered
legislation is now making its way through the US Congress
under the bold
sponsorship of Congressman Denis Kucinich of Ohio and
Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
And that is why I helped found the Natural Law
Party, a grassroots political movement dedicated to sustainable
policies and programs in harmony with natural law.
party has quickly
become the fastest growing political party in America,
with thousands of citizen candidates (non-politicians
for federal, state and local offices, on the ballot
in all 50 states.
In 1999, the Natural Law Party supported a nation-wide
grass-roots campaign to alert the American public
of the dangers of genetically
engineered foods and collected over 600,000 signatures
protesting the use of rBGH milk and other genetically
In the 2000 US campaign, NLP candidates will
run in almost every congressional district. These candidates
Republican and Democratic incumbents as to where
stand on labeling and safety testing. Do they stand
for the people
were elected to represent, who overwhelmingly support
labeling and safety testing? Or do they stand for
biotech lobbyists who are bankrolling their campaigns?
In this way,
I hope, the pressure of public opinion and the
need for votes will
shame our Congress into responsible action-a Congress
that, until now, has been a co-conspirator in the
GE food revolution.
Ultimately, the future of America belongs to
us, the voters. Because no matter how much biotech
financed media hype
is thrown at us during a political campaign,
ultimately it is
vote-it is we who choose our elected leadership.
So if Dr. Epstein's astonishing book frustrates
and upsets you, as it truly should, then remember-we
hold the reigns
in this country. We elected our Republican
government-bought and paid for by special interest
groups. And we can de-elect
them. It's time we did.
John Hagelin, Ph.D.
President, University of World Peace
Presidential Candidate, Natural Law Party