AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN June 2, 1990 p. A15
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 the House Committee on Government Operations, requested Inspector General Richard Kusserow of the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately investigate the Food and Drug Administration for "abdication of regulatory responsibility" with regard to its review of biosynthetic bovine growth hormones used to artificially boost milk production.
On the basis of recently available confidential industry files, Conyers charged that "Monsanto and the FDA have chosen to suppress and manipulate animal health test data—in efforts to approve commercial use of BGH." In prompt response to these revelations, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressured the FDA into accepting an independent review by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate consumer hazards from BGH milk. European reactions and concerns are not lagging far behind.
In flagrant contradiction of repeated industry and FDA assurances, on the basis of which unlabeled milk and dairy products from secret nationwide trials on BGH have been sold to the public for the past six years, the confidential files reveal unarguable evidence of serious disease in BGH-injected cows and of contamination of their milk.
These revelations have climaxed growing consumer concerns on the dangers of BGH. They have also vindicated recent national and international regulatory actions including the April 1990 ban on the sale of BGH dairy products in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the moratorium on BGH until December 1990 by the European Economic Community and the proposed ban by the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the FDA has made no secret of its continuing intent to ignore these concerns and to approve the commercial use of BGH by the spring of 1991. In this, the FDA is fully supported 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 mutual objective of achieving international harmonization in the sensitive area of food safety." Ambassador Thomas Niles, in a confidential April 6, 1990, letter to the EEC, urged approval of BGH and reiterated FDA claims "that milk and meat from treated cows are safe and wholesome for human consumption."
BGH is a product for which there is no demand by consumers or the overwhelming majority of dairy farmers. Increased milk production due to BGH will be more than offset by costs of the hormone and extra cattle feed, by currently unrecognized costs due to infertility, mastitis, other cattle diseases and their treatment and by decreased milk consumption reflecting well-based consumer concerns. These broadly based society costs are no balanced by profits to the BGH manufacturing industries, Monsanto, American Cyanamid, Upjohn Co., and Elanco in conjunction with Dow Chemical Co., form anticipated sales of $500 million in 1991.
Epstein is a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago.