Controversy over rBGH study
2.Why It's a Load of Bull
NOTE: Interesting to contrast the coverage of this research in Scientific American with that of the (UK) Indpendent which entirely failed to mention the conflict-of-interest concerns, let alone that the study's conclusions were at odds with those of the FDA.
For the truth about Monsanto's GM hormone:
EXTRACTS: "It all hinges on one notion: that there is an increase in feed efficiency," says biologist Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union... In other words, the study assumes that POSILAC increases the ability of individual cows to produce more milk from the same amount of feed, despite an FDA ruling to the contrary. "If the basic assumption is wrong," Hansen says, "then everything that flows from it is of questionable status."
He notes that the FDA analyzed the environmental impact of POSILAC some 15 years ago (as it assessed its safety) and at that time concluded that it might actually increase greenhouse emissions slightly...
1.Can Bovine Growth Hormone Help Slow Global Warming?
By David Biello
Scientific American, July 2 2008
Industry scientists say bovine growth hormone can by reducing the number of greenhouse-gas-emitting cows as it increases the remaining ruminants' output
Talk about milking an issue. Adding a new twist to the debate over the safety of hormones in milk, a new industry study concludes that injecting cows with a growth hormone known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) designed to increase their milk production is environmentally friendly. Why? Because it has the potential of reducing the number of greenhouse gas emitting dairy cows on the planet without decreasing milk production.
"By using rbST, we could produce more or the same amount of milk with fewer cows," says animal nutritionist Judith Capper of Cornell University, co-author of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. "That means less land use, feedstock, nutrients, greenhouse gases, excretion””all positive effects on the environment."
The National Research Council in Washington, D.C., estimates that dairy cows account for as much as 20 percent of human-induced emissions of methane, a potent climate change causing greenhouse gas.
According to the new study, if U.S. farmers injected their dairy cows with bovine growth hormone, it would take just 843,000 cows to produce the same amount of milk as one million untreated animals, potentially saving 2.3 million metric tons of feed””and therefore 540,000 acres (219,000 hectares) of cropland””as well as reducing the global warming impact by the equivalent of 400,000 cars. Researchers say the treatment would up the milk output of cows by nearly 7 percent, potentially decreasing emissions by about the same amount annually.
Some scientists and consumer advocates, however, are skeptical. The study was conducted with a scientist, Roger Cady, who is also the rbST technical project manager for Monsanto, the Saint Louis based agricultural giant that manufactures and markets it under the brand name POSILAC. In addition, the lead scientist, nutritional biochemist Dale Bauman of Cornell University, has been a paid consultant for Monsanto since the 1980s, though he declined to disclose how much the company has paid him over the years. He insists that Monsanto did not influence his decision to spend as much as $10,000 in university funds for this study.
There is currently a debate raging over the safety of bovine growth hormone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 ruled that it was not harmful and could be injected into cows to improve their milk production. But some studies have linked it with a risk of mastitis (udder infection) in cows, requiring the use of antibiotics that may in turn be contributing to the evolving resistance of bacteria to the drugs.
Bovine growth hormone is also known to stimulate the production of insulinlike growth factor 1 (IGF1) by the liver; some studies have shown that high levels of IGF1 in the bloodstream may heighten the risk of prostate and breast cancers as well as a woman's chance of conceiving twins. As a result of consumer concerns, farmers in Australia, Canada, the European Union and New Zealand do not inject their cows with bovine growth hormone.
Monsanto is currently in the midst of a fight in the U.S. to prevent dairy farmers from labeling their milk as rbST-free or as produced by cows not treated with bovine growth hormone. The company charges that such claims cannot be verified, because there is no inexpensive test to prove that cow milk is free of artificial hormones. At Monsanto's request, several states are weighing new regulations barring such labeling, even though the FDA last year ruled that such labels are neither false or misleading.
Many U.S. dairy farmers have pledged not to use the growth hormone in their products, and corporate milk consumers such as Kraft Foods and retailers such as Wal-Mart have announced plans to shift to dairy products that do not contain artificial hormones.
In addition to conflict-of-interest concerns, critics of the study charge that it was based on a faulty premise. "It all hinges on one notion: that there is an increase in feed efficiency," says biologist Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, an advocacy group that is leading the fight for labeling and against use of bovine growth hormone. In other words, the study assumes that POSILAC increases the ability of individual cows to produce more milk from the same amount of feed, despite an FDA ruling to the contrary. "If the basic assumption is wrong," Hansen says, "then everything that flows from it is of questionable status."
He notes that the FDA analyzed the environmental impact of POSILAC some 15 years ago (as it assessed its safety) and at that time concluded that it might actually increase greenhouse emissions slightly because of, among other factors, the diesel expended to transport it to farms. But any increase or reduction, the agency said, would be "extremely small and insignificant compared to total worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide and methane."
The National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached similar conclusions about the potential environmental benefits of bovine growth hormone use, but Bauman””who dismisses charges that his relationship with Monsanto taints the study's findings””says his research was more "rigorous" and detailed.
Dairy farmers, however, have already done a pretty good job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions without resorting to bovine growth hormone: Such emissions from the U.S.'s roughly nine million cows are 70 percent lower than those from a dairy herd of 25 million in the 1940s, thanks to improvements in breeding and nutrition, according to U.S. government statistics. And researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia say they can be cut by another 50 percent simply by changing cow feed to include more digestible grasses, thereby reducing the methane output.
2.Why It's a Load of Bull
Did I Mention I'm a Republican?
Orange Clouds, Juuly 2 2008
I'm against the illegal occupation of Iraq, I gave money to Kucinich, and I voted for Edwards in the primaries. Did I mention that I'm a Republican? I said so, so it must be true. Want more proof? I can put a McCain 2008 bumper sticker on my car if that will convince you.
Why don't you believe me? Shouldn't saying something make it true?
OK, well how about this.
Cornell University researchers (oh, and a helper from Monsanto) said that injecting cows with Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is good for the environment. They are lowering cows' carbon "hoofprint." Come on! That's true too! They said so. It must be.
Their argument: If you give cows rBGH (also known as rBST), each cow gives more milk. If each cow gives more milk, then you need less cows. Therefore, you need less food, less land... overall, less energy.
"This research found that, compared to a non-supplemented population, giving rbST to one million cows would enable the same amount of milk to be produced using 157,000 fewer cows. The nutrient savings would be 491,000 metric tons of corn, 158,000 metric tons of soybeans, and total feedstuffs would be reduced by 2,300,000 metric tons. Producers could reduce cropland use by 219,000 hectares and reduce 2.3 million tons of soil erosion annually..."
Why It's a Load of Bull: Their entire argument assumes that you need to feed cows corn. You don't. You actually shouldn't. Cows evolved to eat GRASS. They evolved to graze. Grazing requires very little resources and energy. Here's why:
First, grass is a perennial. You don't need to plant it every year like you do with corn and soy. You plant it once, it grows, the cow eats it, it grows back. Planting stuff takes energy. Less planting = less energy.
Second of all, when cows graze, they harvest their own food. Harvesting food requires energy. You must harvest corn. You also have to process it and transport it before the cows can eat it. That takes energy too.
From what I've read, feeding cows grass or grain isn't entirely an either/or. You can feed them a mix of both. What is important is not whether they eat any grain, but how much grain they eat. With a diet of mostly grass, the cows can tolerate some grain and stay healthy.
But in an industrial environment, a cow doesn't get to eat grass - not even enough to keep it healthy. There are antibiotics for that. Eating a diet of grain makes the cow sick and it also makes the cow a more likely candidate for producing the problematic E. Coli that can survive human stomach acid and make us sick.
What does this have to do with growth hormones? Let me explain.
When a cow gets injected with rBGH, it needs to eat more in order to produce more milk. It physically cannot walk around and graze on enough grass to get all of those calories. The cow on rBGH needs the higher calorie diet provided by grain. Lots of grain.
Saying that rBGH makes the cow sick would be like saying pot makes you fat. Pot doesn't make you fat. It just gives you the munchies and makes you lazy. And eating junk and being lazy makes you fat. It's the same deal.
A cow that eats exclusively corn gets sick. A cow that eats more corn gets sicker. Also, a cow that gets milked by a machine gets irritated udders. A cow that produces more milk and spends more time getting milked by a machine gets more irritated udders.
The cow with more irritated udders is more likely to get mastitis, a painful infection of the udder. This is unrelated to the cow's carbon "hoofprint" but still related to the debate over whether or not to use rBGH. More mastitis means more antibiotics. Yum.
Going back to the original point, rBGH is only "greener" (even if it's still worse for other reasons, including a suspected link to some cancers in humans) if all cows eat corn.
But what is really, truly greener than giving cows rBGH? Feeding them grass. Letting them graze on pasture. It's not only greener, it's also more humane. And if that wasn't enough, the milk is healthier too because it has a beneficial fatty acid called CLA in it. Now THAT is a reason to sport a milk mustache!