FDA Is Ignoring Dangers of Bovine Growth Hormone
By Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Special to the American-Statesman
On May 8, 1990, Rep John Conyers, D-Md., chairman of theHouse Committee on Government Operations, requested Inspector General RichardKusserow of the Department of Health and Human Services to immediatelyinvestigate the Food and Drug Administration for "abdication of regulatoryresponsibility" with regard to its review of biosynthetic bovine growthhormones used to artificially boost milk production.
On the basis of recently available confidential industryfiles, Conyers charged that "Monsanto and the FDA have chosen to suppressand manipulate animal health test data—in efforts to approve commercial use ofBGH." In prompt response to theserevelations, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressured the FDA into accepting anindependent review by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate consumerhazards from BGH milk.?Europeanreactions and concerns are not lagging far behind.
In flagrant contradiction of repeated industry and FDAassurances, on the basis of which unlabeled milk and dairy products from secretnationwide trials on BGH have been sold to the public for the past six years,the confidential files reveal unarguable evidence of serious disease inBGH-injected cows and of contamination of their milk.
These revelations have climaxed growing consumer concerns onthe dangers of BGH.?They have alsovindicated recent national and international regulatory actions including theApril 1990 ban on the sale of BGH dairy products in Wisconsin and Minnesota,the moratorium on BGH until December 1990 by the European Economic Communityand the proposed ban by the European Parliament.?Nevertheless, the FDA has made no secret of its continuing intentto ignore these concerns and to approve the commercial use of BGH by the springof 1991.?In this, the FDA is fullysupported by the administration.? Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter in a recent letter to the EEC,warned that a European ban on BGH "would certainly contravene our mutualobjective of achieving international harmonization in the sensitive area offood safety." Ambassador ThomasNiles, in a confidential April 6, 1990, letter to the EEC, urged approval of BGHand reiterated FDA claims "that milk and meat from treated cows are safeand wholesome for human consumption."
BGH is a product for which there is no demand by consumersor the overwhelming majority of dairy farmers.?
Increased milk production due to BGH will be more than offset by costsof the hormone and extra cattle feed, by currently unrecognized costs due toinfertility, mastitis, other cattle diseases and their treatment and bydecreased milk consumption reflecting well-based consumer concerns.
Epstein is a professor of occupational and environmentalmedicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago.