GENTECH archive


Ottawa Refuses to Approve Bovine Growth Hormone

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 13:55:24 +0000
From: "Janet M. Eaton" <>

"Although [Health Minister]..... Rock's office had said no decision 
on approving the drug would be made until June, tomorrow's 
announcement in effect will turn it down." 


Globe and Mail (Canada)
Thursday, January 14, 1999, Page A1

Ottawa Refuses to Approve Bovine Growth Hormone
Parliamentary Bureau

Ottawa -- Health Canada has decided not to approve the use of a
controversial hormone that boosts milk production in cows, because of a new
report that finds the drug may hurt the health of animals injected with it.

The announcement on bovine growth hormone to be made tomorrow is the latest
development in a controversy that dates back almost a decade.

The hormone, manufactured by Monsanto Corp., has been approved in the
United States since 1993 and has been under review in Canada for more than
eight years. It has been criticized by public-interest groups and some
scientists who warn it could result in more udder infections in cows and so
lead to the increased use of antibiotics, which could end up in milk.  The
report that has given Health Canada grounds not to approve the drug was
prepared by six animal-health experts appointed by the Canadian Veterinary
Medicine Association at the request of the government.

The panel concludes that there are legitimate animal-welfare concerns
associated with the use of the hormone.

"These included an increased risk of clinical mastitis [udder infection]
and lameness and a reduction in the life span of treated cows."

The panel found that the hormone increases the frequency of udder
infections by about 25 per cent in animals treated with it. It also
concluded that there was about a 50-per-cent increase in the risk of
lameness in cows given the drug.

"Many of the cases of lameness involved joints, and dairy producers and
vets currently have a limited ability to control this increased risk."

The report "will be enough for the government not to approve the drug under
the Food and Drug Act if that is what they want to do," said one source
familiar with the document.

Health Minister Allan Rock has appeared uncomfortable with the drug and has
repeatedly said that it would not be approved until the department is sure
it is safe for both animals and people.

The controversy over bovine growth hormone focused attention on problems at
the health protection branch, which is responsible for drug approvals.

The branch's scientists have pushed internally for more study on the growth
hormone, although documents show that several years ago their managers had
decided it was safe. Six scientists alleged they were pressed to approve
the drug despite their fears that it wasn't safe, although their complaint
was recently dismissed by a labour board. One of the scientists told a
Senate committee that Monsanto had offered government scientists a bribe of
research money if they approved the drug, an allegation the company has

Two expert panels were set up because of the controversy, one to look at
the drug's impact on animal health and another to look at human health.

The human-health panel was chosen by the Canadian Medical Association, also
at the request of the government. Its report will also be released tomorrow.

Although Mr. Rock's office had said no decision on approving the drug would
be made until June, tomorrow's announcement in effect will turn it down.