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Fwd: Greens Press Release: Ban on Cow Milk Hormone Now!

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Steve Emmott
Policy Advisor-Genetic Engineering
Green Group in the European Parliament
1047 Brussels

Tel +32 2 284 2026
Fax +32 2 284 2026

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THE GREENS in the European Parliament

Press Release

Brussels, 16 April 1999

EU Scientific Experts Point to Human Health Risks from 
rBST Use

Ban Milk Products with Cow Growth Hormone

The Green Group is calling for all milk and dairy products produced from cows treated with the controversial genetically engineered growth hormone, bovine somatotropin (rBST, also called BGH), to be banned in the EU and for rBST to be taken off the market word-wide. The UN body Codex Alimentarius, which acts as food safety advisor to the WTO, is to discuss a report on rBST in Paris on 19-23 April. Greens are calling on the European Union delegates to demand a complete withdrawal of all product approvals.

The use and sale of the rBST drug, produced by Monsanto and Eli Lilly, was originally banned in Member States in 1990. This ban expires at the end of 1999 but is likely to be extended in the light of clear evidence of serious adverse impacts on the welfare of the cow, notably increased foot problems, mastitis and injection site swellings. Repeated injections of the genetically modified hormone are given to boost milk yield artificially by up to 15%.

Although the animal welfare problems have been apparent for some time, and have led the Canadian government to follow the EU ban, data on potential risks to human health from products made from rBST-treated milking herds has been disputed. However, the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVM) has now reported to the European Commission that there is a possible "association between circulating IGF-1 levels and an increased relative risk of breast and prostate cancer". Levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which also occurs naturally in milk, are substantially increased in milk from rBST-treated cows. The SCVM also calls for more studies on the lifetime impact of rBST-induced exposure to IGF-1, particularly in infants. In the light of this finding, the Greens call on the Commission and Member States to resist attempts at Codex to set a maximum residual level (MRL) for IGF-1 from rBST use unless a definitive safety clearance can be given.

Commenting on the findings, Hiltrud Breyer MEP (Germany) said "This confirms what we have said repeatedly over the last few years-this product of genetic engineering is potentially dangerous to humans as well as to animals. Not only should it not be used to inject dairy cows, but all milk and dairy products derived from rBST treatment must be taken off the market immediately. If ever there was a clear-cut case for applying the precautionary principle, this is it.  "rBST is licenced for use not only in the USA but also in several Eastern European countries and is actually produced in the EU for export. Mrs Breyer added "We have to tell our neighbours that we will not buy their dairy products whilst they continue to use rBST and we should stop exporting it around the world." 

Pointing to the international controversy on the safety question, Paul Lannoye, Belgian Green MEP, said "This is a product nobody wants and should be taken out of circulation immediately. Last year, the United Nations Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) recommended approval of this product but there is a strong suspicion of improper outside influence and selective use of scientific studies. The committee's report was apparently drafted by an ex-Monsanto employee and sensitive documents were leaked to the company before the final recommendation was made. It is time that this discredited decision-making process on food safety was brought under proper public scrutiny."

Gianni Tamino MEP (Italy) commented "It appears that Monsanto in Europe will have to accept the undeniable evidence of damage to animals but my prediction is that they will continue to fight against publication of data on human health dangers because they know that this spells the end for rBST". He added that "The Codex decision-making process requires complete overhaul - the last study of the make-up of the advisory committee structure showed that proceedings were dominated by industry representatives either as members of their national delegations or as observers. I understand that this practice has not changed much since the Report was written."

Notes for Editors:
1. The SCVM Report on Public Health Aspects of rBST is available on the European Commission website at
2. Monsanto's rBST/rBGH, brand name Posilac, is licenced for use in the USA, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Israel, Jamaica, South Africa, Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.  
3. FAO/Codex Committee on General Principles Fourteenth Session, Paris, France, 19-23 April 1999. Agenda on website at
4. The EU ban does not so far extend to production for export of rBST, and continues to be made in Kundl, Austria by Monsanto at a factory owned by Novartis. This is believed to be the main source of world-wide production 
5. A paper by John Verrall MRPS "The Manipulation of Codex Alimentarius" which catalogues the improper influence of the outcome of the JECFA Report and is endorsed by British and Canadian public interest groups, has been sent to the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament.
6. "Cracking the Codex", an analysis of participation in Codex committees published by National Food Alliance, 1993

Press Service
of the Green Group 
in the European Parliament
phone:+32-2-284 4683
fax: +32-2-284 4944

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