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TITLE:  E Cape farmers play it safe with hormone
SOURCE: The Herald, South Africa, by Nicky Blatch
        http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/2005/09/26/news/n07_26092005.htm
DATE:   26 Sep 2005

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E Cape farmers play it safe with hormone

WHILE the debate continues about whether or not the hormone rBST injected
into cattle to increase milk production leads to cancer in humans,
Eastern Cape farmers prefer to keep their cows rBST-free.

A Johannesburg newspaper reported last week that although the hormone -
which boosts milk production by about 10 to 15 per cent - had been banned
in Canada and the European Union, South African dairy farmers still used it.

The bovine growth hormone BST (Bovine Somatotropin) occurs naturally in
cows, but the higher level of the hormone (from laboratory-produced
recombinant-BST or rBST injections) causes an increase of the protein
hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) in milk.

"Extensive published scientific reviews show that even slightly increased
levels of IGF-1 (which normally occurs in trace levels in milk and in
human saliva) have a high link with cancer, especially lung, colon,
prostate, breast and soft tissue cancer," said environmental researcher
Glenn Ashton.

"It's completely unnecessary to have the hormone in the milk production
system, especially as the big producers say they don't want it."

Despite this, Ashton has found that "two million doses a year" are still
being used. However, Professor Lourens Erasmus, chairman of the South
African Association of Professional Animal Scientists, maintains that the
hormone is safe.

He said the level of IGF-1 in milk fluctuated depending on the cow's
stage of lactation, and it was easily digested by humans. "Many people
are misinformed. It is important to realise that rBST is just another
dairy management tool."

This may be the case, but Eastern Cape farmers are playing it safe.

Bushy Park Farm managing trustee Puffer Hartzenberg said: "We don't agree
with rBST and we don't use rBST whatsoever."

Since Friday, all their products have carried stickers saying they are
rBST-free.

Hartzenberg said the dairy did not believe in tampering with nature or
further stressing the cows by injecting them with hormones.

Neil Dawson, from family-owned Dawson Dairy, where rBST is also not used,
said although the hormones increased the output of milk, they shortened
the lives of cows.

"The cows' bodies are working overtime to generate the extra milk," he said.

Bigger milk companies Clover, Woodlands Dairy and Parmalat have policies
stating they will not buy milk from supplier farms using rBST.

Clover's legal and tax senior manager Deepa Vallabh said Clover's
products did not carry certification that they are rBST-free as
"scientifically, there are no proven tests available to confirm that a
cow may have been treated with rBST".

However, she said research conducted by both the United States Food and
Drug Administration and the World Trade Organisation concluded that
"there was no basis to substantiate that milk from cows treated with the
hormone was unsafe for human consumption".

"But if consumers think it might be harmful, we won't purchase it."

Woodlands Dairy managing director Hennie Kleynhans said: "We embarked on
a study with the farmers on rBST four years ago, and could not find any
proof that they were using it."

He said Woodlands was also the only dairy in South Africa with ISO-
approved farmers.

External auditors from the Brussels-based International Organization for
Standardisation (ISO) visit Woodlands Dairy suppliers every six months on
a random date to ensure the farms comply with international standards.

Parmalat's dairy advisor, David van der Rijst, said most Eastern Cape
dairy farms used grazing cows, and rBST was usually used on feeding cows.
But Parmalat farmers still had to sign an agreement that they would not
use the hormone.




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