Monsanto's Genetically Modified Milk Ruled Unsafe by TheUnited Nations

CHICAGO, Aug. 18 /PRNewswire/ ?The following was releasedtoday by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine,University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago:

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the U.N. Food SafetyAgency representing 101 nations worldwide, has ruled unanimously in favor ofthe 1993 European moratorium on Monsanto's genetically engineered hormonal milk(rBGH). This unexpected ruling, revealingly greeted by the U.S. press withdeafeningsilence, is a powerful blow against U.S. global trade policies whichare strongly influenced by powerful multi-national corporations, such asMonsanto.The Codex Commission ruling has also forced the U.S. to abandon itsthreats to challenge the European moratorium before the World TradeOrganization later this year. As importantly, the ruling represents the firstlarge scale defeat of genetically modified foods on unarguable scientificgrounds, apart from ethical and ideological concerns.

Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale ofunlabeled rBGH milk in February 1994, the U.S. has exerted considerablepressure on Mexico and other trading partners to approve rBGH in efforts toincrease pressure on Europe through the World Trade Organization. In this, theyhave been strongly supported by reports from the Food and Agriculture/WorldHealth Organization's (FAO/WHO) Joint Expert Committees on Food Additives(JECFA), including its latest September 1998 report, which unequivocallyabsolved rBGH from any adverse veterinary and public health effects. However,these JECFA committees, besides others such as those claiming the safety ofmeat from cattle treated with sex hormones, operate under conditions of non-transparencyand conflicts of interest, and are predominantly staffed by unelected andunaccountable U.S. and Canadian regulatory officials and industry consultantswith no expertise in public health, preventive medicine and carcinogenesis. The1998 JECFA report on rBGH was then submitted to the Codex Committee on Residuesof Veterinary Drugs in Foods, chaired by FDA's Director for Veterinary MedicineDr. Stephen Sundloff who also played a prominent role in the 1998 JECFACommittee. The Codex Committee promptly rubber stamped JECFA's seal of approvalfor rBGH with the confident expectation that this would be subsequentlyendorsed by the parent Codex Commission. However, the best laid plans ofMonsanto and the FDA were aborted by an unexpected turn of events.

Bowing to growing pressure in 1998 by Canadian advocacygroups, "dissident" government scientists and the Senate AgricultureCommittee. Health Canada convened expert committees on veterinary and humansafety under the auspices of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association andthe Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, respectively. Based onconclusions on the adverse veterinary effects of rBGH, particularly anincreased incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive problems, HealthCanada reluctantly broke ranks with the U.S. in January 1999, and issued aformal "notice of non- compliance", disapproving future sales ofrBGH.

Meanwhile, the European Commission had commissioned twoindependent committees of internationally recognized experts to undertake acomprehensive review of the scientific literature on both the veterinary andpublic health effects of rBGH. The veterinary committee fully confirmed andextended the Canadian warnings and conclusions. The public health committeeconfirmed earlier reports of excess levels of the naturally occurringInsulin-like-Growth Factor One (IGF-1), including its highly potent variants,in rBGH milk and concluded that these posed major risks of cancer, particularlyof the breast and prostate, besides promoting the growth and invasiveness ofcancer cells by inhibiting their programmed self-destruction (apoptosis). Facedwith this latest well documented scientific evidence from both Canada andEurope, the U.S. bowed to the inevitable and failed to challenge the Codex rulingin support of the European moratorium.

It is now 15 years since Monsanto embarked on a series oflarge scale veterinary trials on rBGH all over the U.S., and sold milk fromthese trials to an uninformed and unsuspecting public with the full approval ofthe FDA. Since then, Monsanto and the FDA, strongly supported by a network ofindentured university academics, aggressive lobbying by the National DairyCouncil and its well organized "hit squads" targeting rBGH opponents,and an overwhelmingly uncritical media, have ignored or trivialized substantialscientific evidence on the hazards of rBGH milk, including a series ofpublications over the last decade in the International Journal of HealthServices, the most prestigious international public health publication. Alsoignored by the media have been charges in 1981 by Congressman John Conyers(then Chairman of the House Committee on Government Operations), on the basisof a leaked confidential Monsanto study revealing serious pathology in cowsinjected with rBGH, that "Monsanto and the FDA have chosen to suppress andmanipulate animal health test data in efforts to approve commercial use ofrBGH".

These considerations reinforce growing concerns on theextreme unreliability of Monsanto and other biotech industry claims of thesafety of genetically modified soy and other foods, especially in the absenceof comprehensive testing by independent scientific experts, who should befunded by industry and not consumers.

Source: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Contact: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of EnvironmentalMedicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, andChairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, 312-996-2297 Web site:

Postscript to PR Newswire, August 18 Press Release on"Monsanto's Genetically Modified Milk".

August 23,1999

In response to the strong interest and supportive calls,apart from some narrow legalistic questions, on this press release, I would liketo further clarify the Codex ruling.

Since 1995, the U.S. has pressured the Codex Commission toadopt a standard, based on tolerances or Maximum Residue Limits, for residuesof rBGH in milk in attempts to prove its safety and promote its internationalexport. At its June 30 meeting, the Commission unanimously rejected furtherconsideration of this U.S. proposal, particularly in light of the recentCanadian ban or "notice of non-compliance", and of recent reports tothe European Commission by two committees of independent international expertson the cancer and other risks of Monsanto's milk. By such action, theCommission explicitly ruled that national governments have absolute rights todecide whether or not to permit imports of rBGH milk in view of well basedpublic health concerns. My August 18 press release is clearly consistent withthese events, notwithstanding the self -interested protestations by spokesmenfor the FDA, the highly flawed and unaccountable Joint Expert Committee on FoodAdditives and Monsanto.

It may be further noted that the premier health and scienceU.K. journalist George Monbiot in his July 22 article in The Guardian, reportedthat "three weeks ago the European Union routed an American attempt toforce - - (Europe) to accept (rBGH milk) since safety concerns about rBGH milkcould not be ignored". Monbiot also commented on the "deluge ofabsolutely no coverage at all" with which this unprecedented and momentousruling against genetically modified food has been greeted.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.