UPDATE: the rBGH Petition to Prime Minister Trudeau, as of Oct 19th noon on the West Coast, is 60 signatures short of 21,000. (Nov 11: more than 33,000 have signed.)
Note: to be clear, Monsanto hasn’t owned rBGH (“Posilac”) since 2008. However, the manufacturing plant in Augusta, GA, continues to churn out rBGH. And the new owners after Eli Lilly (as of August 2018), have a large investment in making profits from rBGH.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
I was curious as to where Monsanto’s rBGH (“Posilac”) is manufactured. Answer: Augusta, Georgia.
Along the way, I discovered that American activists have been very effective in their battle against rBGH. If I were them, I’d celebrate a win!
If I were us, I’d do what American activists did, to ensure we don’t get rBGH milk products in Canada.
And then, we should all send information to Mexicans, and to Central and South Americans – – they’ve been set up to become the next big market for rBGH.
A large Brazilian pharmaceutical company (“Agener”) now owns the Posilac manufacturing plant in Georgia. Amount paid is not known.
Agener will have a large investment to recuperate. As I discovered in the research below, there are few markets left for Posilac in the U.S., thanks to American activists. Under NAFTA 2.0, is there a market in Canada, where it is so far illegal? We’ll find out.
In addition to the U.S., The product is approved for sale in Brazil and is allowed in other nearby markets such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. . . .
If you wonder why we should help send info to Mexicans, and to Central and South Americans about rBGH (Posilac), go to the TIME-LINE below, or back to we can Keep Monsanto milk out of Canada,
… CONTINUING: The Time-Line shows:
Monsanto faced huge resistance to rBGH. Sales in the U.S. were “plummeting”. So what do you do?
Monsanto got rid of “Posilac” and the manufacturing plant. (Time-Line below).
Monsanto sold to Eli Lilly, sub-division “Elanco” (duped?) (2008).
Elanco sold Posilac to “AGENER”, a large Brazilian “animal health” (well, not quite) company. (August 2018)
Union Agener is part of the União Química Farmacêutica Nacional group, which is one of Brazil’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers. This deal provides Union Agener with its first manufacturing facility outside of Brazil.
August 6, 2018
Elanco Sells Posilac Business to Brazilian Firm
Feedstuffs Magazine is reporting Elanco Animal Health has sold its Posilac business to Union Agener, one of Brazil’s largest animal health companies.
The sale also includes Posilac’s manufacturing facility in Augusta, Ga. No purchase price has been released. But the sale makes logistical sense, since Posilac is approved for sale in Brazil and 14 Latin and South American countries.
The product is approved for sale in Brazil and is allowed in other nearby markets such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. . . .
Elanco confirmed its intent to sell the Posilac assets last fall. The company entered the agreement with Union Agener prior to revealing details of its upcoming initial public offering.
Sales of Posilac in the U.S. have plummeted in recent years as more and more fluid handlers refused to accept milk from BST-treated cows, citing consumer concerns. But it was also a convenient way for handlers and cooperatives to reduce milk production as plants in the Northeast and Midwest over flowed with milk. Today, just pockets of BST-use remain in the U.S.
Elanco announced last fall that it was seeking a buyer for its Posilac business. For a transitional period, Elanco will continue to support sales of Posilac in markets it currently serves.
WHAT I SEE IN THE TIME-LINE BELOW:
(I expect you will see different things than me.)
- American activists scored an amazing victory on rBGH. Until I did the time-line, I had no idea.
- To understand the seriousness of rBGH, read the early statements (1990’s). By today, the descriptions are watered down.
- In the Time-Line (2000’s), you see States that tried to enact legislation to stop dairies from labeling their milk as being free of rBGH (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Utah . . . ). I remember that time. It seemed that every week there was news that yet another State was serving as an Enforcer for Monsanto. The State didn’t even need civil servants to write the legislation, Monsanto did it for them. I could not imagine that Monsanto and its money could be beaten, with that level of active corruption in place. . . . But! the Resistance in the US met every challenge, even all of that.
- The whistle blowers and the Canadian Senate (Senate Agriculture Report 1999) did an admirable job that saved Canadian activists from directly fighting rBGH. However, the cancer was not removed.
RECOMMENDATION #1 from the Senate Report 1999:
The Committee recommends that Health Canada ensure full adherence to its conflict of interest guidelines and, in cases of perceived conflict of interest, publicly declare its reasons for accepting the appointment of any individuals for whom a conflict is perceived. (page 10).
That was the NUMBER ONE recommendation. We have made zero progress on it, or on other Recommendations.
- The role of Universities, Canadian and American, in supporting Bayer-Monsanto and their brethren is not revealed in the Time-Line.
One day out in a field, I determined to dig out a Canada Thistle. I understood that it would continue to grow from a horizontal root about a foot underground, if I did not get at that part of the plant, too. “The hidden” had to be removed, in spite of all the prickly thistles on top that I didn’t want to touch me. It’s a hard task, to eradicate, so it’s dead.
A Time-Line on “Monsanto Milk” (rBGH) reveals . . .
Samples from a TIME-LINE, not intended to be comprehensive. Constructed from:
– Grace Communications Foundation (http://www.sustainabletable.org/797/rbgh)
– CRG (Council for Responsible Genetics) http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=125
– Info on my blog.
- In this story, the resistance was underway by 1990. In August 2008, Monsanto dumped rBGH. Not enough. By June 2018, the “Monsanto” company name was forced out of existence. It took roughly 30 years. rBGH was just one of the factors.
- Bayer-Monsanto is next. And Agener will pay for its purchase of rBGH, more than it planned on.
- It is important to keep some details alive. “The story” gets re-written over time. Paragraphs like “1991” are reduced to “consumer concerns”.
report by Rural Vermont, a nonprofit farm advocacy group, revealed that rBGH-injected cows that were part of a Monsanto-financed study at the University of Vermont suffered serious health problems, including an alarming rise in the number of deformed calves and dramatic increases in mastitis, a painful bacterial infection of the udder, which causes inflammation, Fswelling, and pus and blood secretions into milk. FThese findings are supported by Health Canada’s 1998 report, which concluded that the use of rBGH increases the risk of mastitis by 25 percent, affects reproductive functions, increases the risk of clinical lameness by 50 percent, and shortens the lives of cows. F
To treat mastitis outbreaks, the dairy industry relies on antibiotics. GCritics of rBGH point to the subsequent increase in antibiotic use (which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria) and inadequacies in the federal government’s testing program for antibiotic residues in milk. F
Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). While humans naturally have IGF-1, elevated levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. . . . more on IGF-1 in the bottom-most article below.
Not sure what year (early nineties):
Dr. Richard Burroughs, a senior FDA scientist overseeing the rBGH safety studies, claims he was fired because his concerns about the safety of rBGH delayed the approval process. F
1993: The US FDA licensed rBGH, in spite of the resistance.
The FDA’s approval was based solely on one study administered by Monsanto in which rBGH was tested for 90 days on 30 rats. Although the FDA stated that the results showed no significant problems, the study was never actually published.
The FDA continues to assure consumers that rBGH is safe for cows and humans, despite evidence to the contrary.
FDA prohibited dairies from claiming there is any difference between milk from rBGH-injected cows, and milk produced without the artificial hormone. F
Michael Taylor, the FDA official responsible for writing the labeling guidelines, had worked as a Monsanto lawyer before joining the FDA.
The deputy director of the FDA’s New Animal Drugs Office had been a Monsanto research scientist working on rBGH safety studies, while another researcher in the same office had conducted Monsanto-funded rBGH research at Cornell University, working under a paid Monsanto consultant.
Congress’ General Accounting Office ruled that none of these cases of longstanding connections to Monsanto posed a conflict of interest. F
1994 – March:
. . . others at the FDA resorted to writing an anonymous letter to members of Congress, saying they were “afraid to speak openly about the situation because of retribution from our director, Dr. Robert Livingston.” They wrote, “The basis of our concern is that Dr. Margaret Miller, Dr. Livingston’s assistant and, from all indications, extremely ‘close friend,’ wrote the FDA’s opinion on why milk from [rbGH]-treated cows should not be labeled. However, before coming to the FDA, Dr. Margaret Miller was working for the Monsanto company as a researcher on [rbGH].”
(full text at bottom)
an assessment by Health Canada determined that the results of Monsanto’s 90-day study provided reason for review before approval of rBGH. F
1998 – June:
Health Canada scientists spoke on Canada AM about rBST. They were officially reprimanded and told that they could not speak in public without permission from the department, for two years.
1998 – :
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture (Senator Eugene Whelan the driving force) looked into rBST. The scientists Hayden and Chopra were subpoenaed and assured that testifying to the Committee would not open them to further reprisals at work. They told of pressure tactics in the department. Hayden revealed that her research files on rBST had been stolen from a locked file cabinet. . . .
Dr. Margaret Hayden, a Health Canada researcher, reported to the Canadian Senate that officials from Monsanto had offered between $1 million to $2 million to Health Canada scientists—an offer she says could only be understood as an attempted bribe. F
(INSERT: I met and talked with Dr. Margaret Hayden at the “Prevent Cancer Now” conference in Ottawa many years ago. She is an unassuming, kind, person who works for the public good.)
Shortly after, Chopra was suspended for 5 days. His supervisor claimed it was for criticizing Health Canada for racism in a public forum. A Senate investigation heard evidence from seven scientists in the department that this action appeared to be in retaliation for his testimony.
The two scientists appealed both the gag order and the suspension.
do not allow the use of rBGH due to animal and human health concerns.
The Canadian scientists won both cases (gag order and suspension). They were eventually fired.
Monsanto aggressively attempted to suppress reports about the health risks of rBGH. Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, two respected investigative journalists at a Fox News television station in Tampa, Florida, were fired after months of controversy surrounding their investigative report on rBGH use in Florida dairies. According to the journalists, the station delayed airing their story and demanded they include inaccurate information about rBGH after Monsanto threatened the station with legal action. F
In response to growing consumer concern, some U.S. dairies label their milk as “rBGH-free” or “No artificial growth hormones.”
Monsanto asked the state of Maine to stop issuing an official Quality Seal, which the state only granted to dairies that do not use rBGH. Maine refused.
Monsanto sued Oakhurst Dairy, Maine’s largest dairy operation, over its rBGH-free labels. Ultimately, Oakhurst changed its labels, adding the statement, “FDA States: No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.” F
The Fight becomes one of labelling, and across the U.S.
2004 – :
The Tillamook County Creamery Association in Oregon, the nation’s second largest producer of chunk cheese, told their members not to give recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) to their cows to boost milk production. Soon after, Monsanto, which markets rbGH under the name Posilac, applied pressure on Tillamook’s 147 farmers, trying to reverse the decision. The Association described Monsanto’s actions as “an aggressive intrusion.” For those familiar with the history of this controversial drug, this is no surprise. Efforts to promote the genetically engineered growth hormone have been aggressive — or worse — starting with its evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1980’s.
(full text at bottom)
2007 – August:
“The big food chain in the U.S., Kroger, will end its sales of milk from cows injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone….”.
2007: Safeway followed Kroger’s lead.
2007 – October:
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture outlawed hormone-free labeling, claiming the labels are “false” and “misleading” to consumers. (not for long!)
2008 – January:
Pennsylvania: In reaction to public outcry, hormone-free labeling is reinstated.F
2008 – February:
Ohio Agriculture Director, Robert Boggs, approved the use of rBGH-free labeling only if the FDA’s disclaimer, “no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows” was also included, in a way that made labeling impossible.
(See 2010 October, court ruled “companies are free to label . . .”
The Indiana legislature considered a bill to make artificial hormone-free labeling illegal, claiming milk would be “misbranded” if “compositional claims cannot be confirmed through laboratory analysis.” F
The bill did not pass the legislature.
2008 – February:
a pseudo “grassroots” nonprofit called American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT) was formed. FCreated by a public relations firm founded by two ex-Monsanto employees, AFACT received funding from Monsanto before it was dissolved in 2011. F F
2008 – March: Walmart prohibited the use of rBGH in its store-brand milk products.
2008 – August: Monsanto sold Posilac to Eli Lilly.
2009 – :
The Kansas legislature passed a bill that deemed any milk, milk product or dairy product label with a statement related to milk composition including “No Hormones,” “Hormone Free,” “rBST Free,” “rBGH Free,” and “BST Free” as false and misleading.
Similar labeling controversies took place in Missouri, New Jersey, Utah and Vermont, but ultimately, no state made it illegal to label milk or dairy products as rBGH-free.
2010 – October (related to 2008 – February, Ohio)
a federal court overturned the rBGH labeling rule: the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stated that there is a “compositional difference” between milk from cows receiving growth hormone and those that don’t, and ruled that companies are free to label their products as “rBGH free” and “rBST free.” F
2013 – May:
The March Against Monsanto (MAM), the initiative of a young mother in Utah, was launched. Appeal – international, young. Five years later, the Monsanto name . . .
2018 – June:
The Monsanto name is no more. (The company and its products purchased by Bayer for $66 billion; the Monsanto name immediately eradicated. But its products continue under their Monsanto brand names.)
2018 – August 6:
Elanco Sells Posilac Business to Brazilian Firm, Agener.
Sales of Posilac in the U.S. have plummeted in recent years as more and more fluid handlers refused to accept milk from BST-treated cows, citing consumer concerns. But it was also a convenient way for handlers and cooperatives to reduce milk production as plants in the Northeast and Midwest over flowed with milk. Today, just pockets of BST-use remain in the U.S.
= = = = = = = = =
More on the Canadian story:
In June of 1998, when neither the department or the Prime Minister had responded to their concerns, Chopra and Hayden were invited to speak on Canada AM about rBST which was by then the center of a public controversy. . . .
Meanwhile, the Standing Senate Committee . . .
Shortly after, Chopra was suspended for 5 days. His supervisor claimed it was for criticizing Health Canada for racism in a public forum. A Senate investigation heard evidence from seven scientists in the department that this action appeared to be in retaliation for his testimony. . . .
The two scientists appealed both the gag order and the suspension. They won both cases. Along the way, the process has revealed a pattern of ongoing problems in the department.
The National Farmers’s Union was one of the organizations which intervened in the Federal Court case which appealed the gag order and reprimand. The NFU’s regional coordinator for Ontario, Peter Dowling stated “Through our years of involvement in the milk hormone issue, the NFU has seen the seamy side of the whole regulatory process…If this situation continues, the whole food system will suffer.” The NFU believes “farmers have a direct interest in ensuring the integrity, transparency, and accountability of Health Canada’s food regulatory processes. The market for the food we produce is heavily dependent on consumer trust in its purity and safety. The precautionary principle, embodied in the Food and Drug Act, is intended to protect that trust and Health Canada must implement that principle.”
The Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Health Coalition, all of which are non-profit public interest groups, also intervened in the case. They pointed out that freedom of expression must also protect the right of the public to receive information and ideas which make it possible to form opinions, make decisions and participate in public dialogue on an informed basis. They argued that disciplining public servants in situations like this also limits the ability of non-profit organizations to protect public health and the environment, and safeguard the integrity of government processes.
The Federal Court decision is a clear victory for public servants and public safety. Justice Tremblay-Lamer wrote, “The scientists were justified in going to the media…They should not have been reprimanded/restricted for disclosing information relating to the troubled drug approval process within the BVD…” She also ruled “Where a matter is of legitimate public concern requiring a public debate, the duty of loyalty cannot be absolute to the extent of preventing public disclosure by a government official. The common law duty of loyalty does not impose unquestioning silence.”
Behind these disciplinary actions is a major shift in the Health Protection Branch’s role and the standards it applies to determine food safety. Client satisfaction is the new guideline. But departmental memos instruct scientists that their clients are not the public, but food and drug manufacturers looking for product approval. There is also a switch from a precautionary approach to one of “risk management” where food-safety regulators are supposed to “manage the damage” (to human health and the environment) instead of preventing harm from happening.
Health Canada is having trouble keeping these issues behind closed doors. In April 1999 the European Union audited Canada’s meat supply and revealed “serious deficiencies”. It documented widespread use of cancer causing hormones, antibiotics, endocrine disrupters and other hormonally active substances, all of which are banned in Europe. Canada promised that it could provide the European market (but not Canadians) with chemical free beef. Health Canada officials tried to write the audit off as a “trade dispute” but these were the same substances that department scientists had recommended against approving.
= = = = = = = = = =
WHISTLEBLOWERS, THREATS, AND BRIBES
A Short History of Genetically Engineered Bovine Growth Hormone
by Jeffrey Smith
In 2004, the Tillamook County Creamery Association in Oregon, the nation’s second largest producer of chunk cheese, told their members not to give recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) to their cows to boost milk production. Soon after, Monsanto, which markets rbGH under the name Posilac, applied pressure on Tillamook’s 147 farmers, trying to reverse the decision. The Association described Monsanto’s actions as “an aggressive intrusion.” For those familiar with the history of this controversial drug, this is no surprise. Efforts to promote the genetically engineered growth hormone have been aggressive — or worse — starting with its evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the late 1980’s.
Veterinarian Richard Burroughs, who had a lead role in the review process, was shocked at how few tests the agency was requiring. Burroughs ordered more tests, but was soon fired. He said, “I was told that I was slowing down the approval process.” Burroughs says that the science in the studies was well outside the expertise of FDA employees, but officials “suppressed and manipulated data to cover up their own ignorance and incompetence.” Alexander Apostolou, director of the FDA’s Division of Toxicology, says, “Sound scientific procedures for evaluating human food safety of veterinary drugs have been disregarded.” When he expressed his concerns at the agency, he was pressured to leave.” Chemist Joseph Settepani testified at a public hearing about “a systematic human food-safety breakdown at the Center for Veterinary Medicine.” Prior to his testimony, he was in charge of quality control for veterinary drug approvals. Soon after, he was stripped of his duties as a supervisor and sent to work in a trailer at an experimental farm. 
Retaliations against whistle-blowers did not go unnoticed. On March 16, 1994, others at the FDA resorted to writing an anonymous letter to members of Congress, saying they were “afraid to speak openly about the situation because of retribution from our director, Dr. Robert Livingston.” They wrote, “The basis of our concern is that Dr. Margaret Miller, Dr. Livingston’s assistant and, from all indications, extremely ‘close friend,’ wrote the FDA’s opinion on why milk from [rbGH]-treated cows should not be labeled. However, before coming to the FDA, Dr. Margaret Miller was working for the Monsanto company as a researcher on [rbGH].”
The hormone of greatest concern to critics and whistleblowers is not bovine growth hormone, however, but insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which occurs naturally in both cows and humans. IGF-1 causes cells to divide and is one of the most powerful growth hormones in the body. Cows injected with rbGH have higher levels of IGF-1, and elevated levels of the hormone have been linked to cancer.
A Harvard study of 15,000 white males revealed that those with elevated IGF-1 levels in their blood were four times more likely to get prostate cancer than the average man. The report says, “administration of GH [natural human growth hormone] or IGF-1 over long periods…may increase risk of prostate cancer.” Similarly, premenopausal women younger than 50 who had high levels of IGF-1 were seven times as likely to develop breast cancer, according to a study in the Lancet. The authors wrote, “with the exception of a strong family history of breast cancer… the relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast cancer may be greater than that of other established breast-cancer risk factors.” The International Journal of Cancer also described a “significant association between circulating IGF-1 concentrations and an increased risk of lung, colon, prostate and pre-menopausal breast cancer,” and concluded, “Lowering plasma IGF-1 may thus represent an attractive strategy to be pursued.”
Monsanto researchers, however, have long assured the public that increased levels of IGF-1 isn’t an issue with rbGH. In a letter published in the Lancetin 1994, they wrote, “IGF-1 concentration in milk…is unchanged,” and “there is no evidence that hormonal content of milk…is in any way different.” A month later, a letter in the same publication from a British researcher “reminded Monsanto that in its 1993 application to the British government for permission to sell rbGH in England, Monsanto itself reported that “the IGF-1 level went up substantially.” 
Even the FDA admits, “rbGH treatment produces an increase in the concentration of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in cow’s milk.” While some supporters of rbGH acknowledge that “it at least doubles the amount of IGF-1 hormone in the milk,” the first study on the subject reported an increase of 360 percent. [12,13] Whatever the amount, IGF-1 in milk is not destroyed by pasteurization, nor is it destroyed in the stomach. Rather, it is absorbed intact, and could have a significant impact. A study that looked at data from more than a thousand nurses who carefully recorded their diet found that the food most associated with high IGF-1 levels was milk. The study’s author said, “This association raises the possibility that diet could increase cancer risk by increasing levels of IGF-1 in the blood stream.” The milk used in the latter study was from cows not treated with rbGH. Milk from treated cows has higher levels of IGF-1 and might raise human IGF-1 levels even more.
Media Blacked Out
This potential link between rbGH and cancer was one of the many controversial topics to be covered in a four-part investigative news series on WTVT-TV, a Tampa-based Fox affiliate. Four days before it was to air, Fox received a threatening letter from Monsanto’s attorney, causing the station to postpone the show. After a review from Fox’s station manager the program was rescheduled for the following week. Monsanto’s attorney then sent a second letter, this time threatening “dire consequences for Fox News.” The show was postponed indefinitely. Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, the award winning investigative reporters who had created the report for WTVT-TV, say that they were offered hush money to leave the station and never speak about the story again, which they declined. So Fox’s corporate attorney led them in a series of rewrites, attempting to soften the language and apparently appease Monsanto.
The reporters were ultimately fired for refusing to report that the milk from treated cows was the same as normal milk. The reporters argued that Monsanto’s own research showed a difference, such as the increased IGF-1 levels, and FDA scientists had acknowledged this. The reporters sued. Akre was awarded $425,000 by a jury that agreed that Fox “acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs’ news reporting on BGH,” and that Akre’s threat to blow the whistle was the reason she was fired.
This was not the first time pressure was applied to control media reports critical of rbGH. An earlier target was Dr. Samuel Epstein, Professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who had cited numerous potential health dangers from rbGH, including risk of cancer. Monsanto’s public relations firm created a group called the Dairy Coalition, which included university researchers whose work was funded by Monsanto and who selected “third party” experts and organizations. Representatives of the Dairy Coalition pressured news editors to limit coverage of Epstein. According to a February 1996 internal Dairy Coalition document, major news sources such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press didn’t run stories on Epstein because the Coalition had successfully “educated” the reporters.
While Monsanto’s tactics have been fairly effective in the United States, they have tried equally hard north of the border. In 1998, six Canadian government scientists testified that they were being pressured by superiors to approve rbGH. The six were employed by Health Canada — the Canadian equivalent of the US FDA. Their job was to determine if the milk from treated cows was safe to drink. They didn’t think so. In fact, they had compiled a detailed critique of the FDA’s evaluation of rbGH, showing that the US approval process was flawed and superficial. However, senior Canadian officials and Monsanto tried to force the Canadians to approve it anyway.
According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, “The scientists’ testimony before a Senate committee was like a scene from the conspiratorial television show ‘The X-Files.’” They told the senators that government scientists “often feel that their careers are threatened if they stand in the way of a drug they don’t believe is safe,” and “managers without scientific experience regularly overrule their decisions.”
Dr. Margaret Haydon said that when she refused to approve rbGH due to her concerns for human health, she was taken off the study. The Ottawa Citizen reported that Haydon “recounted how notes and files critical of scientific data provided by Monsanto were stolen from a locked filing cabinet in her office,” and that she “told of being in a meeting when officials from Monsanto…made an offer of between $1 million and $2 million to the scientists from Health Canada — an offer that she told the senators could only have been interpreted as a bribe.”
In response, a Monsanto official went on Canadian national television saying that the scientists had misunderstood an offer for research money. This was not the first time Monsanto had been accused of offering bribes, however. In January 2005, Monsanto was fined $1.5 million by the US Department of Justice for offering bribes and questionable payments to more than 140 Indonesian officials between 1997 and 2002 in an attempt to gain approval for genetically modified cotton. According to the BBC, “A former senior manager at Monsanto directed an Indonesian consulting firm to give a $50,000 bribe to a high-level official in Indonesia’s environment ministry in 2002. The manager told the company to disguise an invoice for the bribe as ‘consulting fees.’”20
The Canadian scientists said that, after they testified, their superiors retaliated against them. They were passed over for promotions, given impossible tasks or no assignments at all, and one was suspended without pay. Three of the whistleblowers, who also spoke out on such controversial topics as mad cow disease, were ultimately fired on July 14, 2004.
Their efforts, however, did inspire Canada to join most industrialized nations in their ban of rbGH. Within the US, many school systems ban milk from treated cows and several dairies refuse to use it. Oakhurst Dairy of Portland, Maine, for example, requires its suppliers to sign a notarized affidavit every six months, stating their cows are rbGH-free. The Oakhurst label stated, “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones.” But on July 3, 2003, Monsanto sued the dairy over their labels. Oakhurst eventually settled with Monsanto, agreeing to include a sentence on their cartons saying that, according to the FDA, no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbGH-treated and non-rbGH-treated cows. This contradicts more recent statements by FDA scientists, but the sentence had been written years earlier by an FDA political appointee, Michael Taylor —Monsanto’s former attorney.
Back to Tillamook
In February 2005, another attorney from Taylor’s former firm arrived at the Tillamook County Creamery Association’s offices with two Monsanto representatives. According to farmers, he drafted an amendment to the Association’s bylaws that would reverse the ban on Posilac. During the ten days leading up to the vote on the amendment, Tillamook received letters, calls and e-mails from 8,500 consumers, urging them to stick with their ban. On Monday, February 28, by an 83-43 vote, Tillamook sided with these consumers.
That, of course, didn’t stop the pressuring. One week later, Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute — a think tank which receives funds from Monsanto — wrote an entry on his Web page, “Milk is Milk,” that claimed, “Tillamook knows that there is a liability from both the economic harm this could cause their member dairies as well as a consumer liability if people buy their product because they’ve been misled to believe their product is somehow different based on their non-use of supplemental [rbGH].”
On March 25, the Oregonian published an op-ed piece by Alex Avery and Terry Witt. Witt’s organization, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, has also been funded by Monsanto and has a Monsanto representative on its board. The op-ed is packed with false claims. For example, the authors say that rbGH is a “carbon copy of a cow’s natural milk-production hormone.” In reality, the amino acid sequence of rbGH, created by genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, is not an exact replica of the cow’s version.
Avery and Witt said that the drug “cuts costs,” but according to a study by USDA agricultural economists, using rbGH increases costs to the point where the extra milk production is not profitable for the average dairy.  Another study similarly found “there was no statistical difference in net income per cow . . . even if Monsanto provided [rbGH] free to the using farmers.”
Avery and Witt’s op-ed insists that milk from treated cows is “indistinguishable” and according to FDA scientists, rbGH “doesn’t change the milk one bit.” Not only are there hormonal differences already mentioned, milk from treated cows contains about 20 percent more pus due to the higher infection rates and increased amounts of antibiotics used to fight the infections.
Avery and Witt also make the remarkable statement, “Another baseless scare is that [rbGH] harms cows,” when even Posilac’s label warns of “increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus…decreases in gestation length and birthweight of calves…increased twinning rates,” higher “incidence of retained placenta…an increased risk of clinical mastitis…periods of increased body temperature…an increase in digestive disorders such as indigestion and diarrhea” and “increased numbers of enlarged hocks and lesions (i.e. lacerations).”
Posilac’s label also says that calves have “more disorders of the foot region,” but “studies did not indicate that use of [rbGH] increased lameness.” However, according to a Canadian panel of veterinarians who reviewed and then rejected the drug, rbGH does increase the risk of lameness. The panel further stated that problems from rbGH could be serious enough that farmers might have to destroy up to one fourth of their herd.
Charles Knight, whom Jane Akre and Steve Wilson interviewed for their report, was “one of many farmers who say they’ve watched [rbGH] burn their cows out sooner, shortening their lives by maybe two years.” Knight said “he had to replace 75 percent of his herd due to hoof problems and serious udder infections.” When he contacted Monsanto, Knight said that their representative told him “You’re the only person having this problem so it must be what you’re doing here, you must be having management problems.” Knight was not told that Monsanto had already found in its own research that “hundreds of other cows on other farms were also suffering hoof problems and mastitis.” Furthermore, the law required Monsanto to notify the FDA about any adverse reactions. But after four months of repeated phone calls by Knight and even a visit by Monsanto to his farm, the FDA had not been informed. Monsanto officials claim that “it took them four months to figure out that Knight was complaining about rbGH.”
Finally, Avery and Witt denigrated the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and their “activist” campaign against rbGH in Oregon. In a rebuttal printed in The Oregonian, two PSR representatives, Dr. Martin Donohoe and Rick North, said, “Our dictionary defines an activist as someone who takes ‘positive, direct action to achieve an end’…Activists are more than just watchdogs. They have produced some of this nation’s greatest accomplishments. Without them, 10-year-old children would still be working 12 hours a day in coal mines and sweatshops. Blacks would still be barred from schools, hotels and swimming pools. Women would still be denied the right to vote…When activism is attacked or neglected, democracy itself is in peril. Avery and Witt got one thing right — we are activists. And we’re proud of it.”
Thanks to years of activists, whistleblowers, and investigators, more people are questioning the empty assurances by corporations and government the rbGH is safe. Alex Avery claims that “consumers rarely — if ever — mention production issues like [rbGH]-use as a factor influencing their purchasing decisions,” but actions speak louder than words. Organic farming, which doesn’t allow genetically engineered inputs including rbGH, is the fastest growing agricultural sector, bounding ahead at more than 21 percent growth per year. This year, supermarkets like H-E-B and Whole Foods announced that they will label their own product lines as made without genetically modified ingredients. Tillamook cheese has joined the growing list of more than 160 rbGH-free national and regional brands that are responding to demands from informed consumers. As long as the media still provides venues for unsupported claims by rbGH proponents, there is work to be done. We must take a lesson from the activists in Oregon and share what we have learned.
Jeffrey M. Smith invites fellow activists to join the GM-Free School Campaign, which aims to remove genetically modified foods, including rbGH-milk, from kids’ meals. Smith is the producer of the new video, Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals: Genetically Engineered Food, author of the monthly syndicated column, “Spilling the Beans,” and director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. His best-selling book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, is a critique GM foods. See www.seedsofdeception.com.
- Kamen, Jeff, “Formula for Disaster,” Penthouse, March 1999
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14. “Milk, Pregnancy, Cancer May Be Tied,” Reuters, September 10, 2002
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18. McIlroy, Anne, “Pierre Blais thought it was his duty,” Toronto Globe and Mail , November 18, 1998
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20. Monsanto fined $1.5m for bribery, BBC News, 7 January, 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4153635.stm
21. Avery, Alex, “Oregon Cheese Monger Folds to Anti-Productivity Activist Campaign,” March 7, 2005, http://www.milkismilk.com/2005/03/oregon-cheese-monger-folds-to-anti.html
22. Alex Avery and Terry Witt, “Contriving a controversy concerning Tillamook’s milk,” The Oregonian, March 25, 2005
23. McBride, William D., et. al., “The Adoption and Impact of Bovine Somatotropin on U.S. Dairy Farms,” Review of Agricultural Economics, Vol 26, Number 4, pgs 472-488
24. Tauer, Loren, “The Impact of recombinant bovine Somatotropin on Dairy Farm Profits: A Switching Regression Analysis.” Working Paper, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, September 2003
25.Alex Avery and Terry Witt, “Contriving a controversy concerning Tillamook’s milk,” The Oregonian, March 25, 2005
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30. North, Rick and Martin Donohoe, MD, “Falsities, half-truths and smears marred essay on Tillamook milk,” The Oregonian, March 31, 2005
GeneWatch: Current Issue
Lobbying and propaganda around gene drive technologies threaten to erode public trust in science. By Christophe Boëte
Review of the film A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream. By Jaydee Hanson
Book review: Making Sense of Genes by Kostas Kampourakis. By Stuart A. Newman
Issue 1: Jan-Mar 2017 : CRISPR & Gene Drives
Issue 1: Jan-May 2016 : GMO Labeling