info4action archive


GE - Greens Press Release: Ban on Cow Milk Hormone Now!

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
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
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
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
whilst they continue to use rBST and we should stop exporting it around the

Pointing to the international controversy on the safety question, Paul
Belgian Green MEP, said "This is a product nobody wants and should be taken
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

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
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
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,
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