Follow The Money
Posted by Jill Chapin on Oct 9, 2005 - 7:14:00 PM
The following is a letter Canyon News received in response to Jill Chapin's article "The Myth That is Breast Cancer Awareness Month." Please see Ms. Chapin's response below this letter.
Dear Ms. Chapin:
I am writing about the comment made in your recent op-ed in Canyon News
("The Myth That is Breast Cancer Awareness Month") that the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer "have so far balked at
recommending that women protect themselves by avoiding dairy products with
hormones added". I was very disappointed that you dismissed the fact that
there is no link between hormones used in dairy production with the risk of
developing cancer in humans.
The only hormone that is added to dairy products is Vitamin D. Vitamin D, a
steroidal hormone that is routinely added to milk, increases calcium
absorption by as much as 30 to 80 percent. By promoting calcium absorption,
vitamin D helps to form and maintain strong bones.
When the dairy cow's body produces milk, like a mother's body that is
nursing her infant, a number of hormonal interactions occur that allows the
body to manufacture milk. All milk, whether organic or not, or whether from
cows or humans, contains over seventy different hormones, including several
growth hormones. The level of these hormones in cows are no different,
whether or not from cows that have been treated with bovine somatotropin, or
from cows raised on a certified organic farm. Like breast-milk, cow's milk
naturally contains high levels of calcium and eight other essential
nutrients that are more highly available to the body through digestion than
found in any other common foodstuff.
One hormone that is necessary for the cow's body to produce milk is bovine
somatotropin. In women, it is called human somatotropin. This protein
hormone (it is NOT a steroid) is also know as bovine growth hormone (BGH) or human growth hormone (HGH) and is digested, like any protein, when consumed.
Many dairy producers around the world supplement the level of somatotropin
in their cows to allow for a slight increase in production per day. This
supplementation does not change the level of hormones in milk. This product
is manufactured using recombinant technology, thus is commonly referred to
as rBST or rBGH.
Extensive studies of the safety of rBST have been conducted world-wide and
reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA concluded that both milk and meat are safe. A separate review of the data has been
conducted by the National Institute of Health, the World Health
Organization, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of
Health and Human Services, and reviews by the Journal of the American
Medical Association, Pediatrics, and the Journal of the American Dietetic
Association all independently have arrived at the same conclusion, milk and
meat from rBST supplemented cows are safe. In addition, regulatory agencies
from fifty countries around the world have reached the same conclusion, that
milk and meat from rBST supplemented cows are safe.
As both a woman and a scientist, I share your sentiment about the need for
an increased urgency on making progress in preventing cancer. However, I'm
concerned that after reading your comments, readers will be seriously
mislead about the truth about milk. The fact is that the dairy products in
the US are the safest in the world. Extensive research has shown that the
consumption of dairy foods is essential towards maintaining good health. To
promote misinformation that may lead to a reduction in this essential food
group will not improve our overall health and well-being.
Frances C. Buonomo, Ph.D.
I feel compelled to respond to Dr. Frances Buonomo's comments about my recent article on the danger of hormones added to our dairy products. In doing so, I find that it is often prudent, when searching for the truth, to simply follow the money.
Dr. Buonomo is employed at Monsanto, a company that spent a billion dollars developing rBGH for the sole purpose of increasing milk production. I imagine Monsanto would not be pleased financially with anyone offering a safer alternative to their genetically altered products. If the purchase of organic foods would interfere with their sales, then I can appreciate her concern for her company's bottom line.
According to Peter Montague of the National Writers Union, some of the FDA officials who approved rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), and who also established regulations disallowing milk to be labeled rBGH-produced or rBGH-free, had previously worked for Monsanto.
But let's take a look at what this altered hormone is all about.
IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factor, is a normal growth factor, a stimulator and regulator of cell growth and division in both humans and cows. Excess levels of IGF-1, however, have been increasingly linked to human cancer development. And rBGH increases levels of IGF-1.
When Dr. Buonomo refers to worldwide studies of the safety of rBGH that find no link between added hormones used in dairy production with cancer risk for humans, she includes studies conducted by the FDA and the NIH. Yet how many FDA approved drugs are in the newspapers lately due to their toxic and lethal reputation? And the NIH lost much of their credibility when it was revealed that their own scientists were paid consultants for the very drug companies whose drugs they were supposed to be independently verifying as safe and effective.
There are many who dispute her rosy depiction of rBGH as safe and harmless. Consider the following:
*According to www.vpirg.org, Vermont's leading watchdog and advocacy organization since 1972, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and fifteen European countries have banned rBGH because there is no consensus on its safety in the international scientific community.
* The International Journal of Health Services found that increased IGF-1 levels are risk factors for both breast and colon cancers.
* The Council of Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association is concerned that increased IGF-1 levels in rBGH milk exert their cancer promoting effects directly on colon and breast cells.
*Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, wrote, "With the active complicity of the FDA, the entire nation is currently being subjected to an experiment involving large-scale adulteration of an age-old dietary staple by a poorly characterized and unlabeled biotechnology product (rBGH.). Disturbingly, this experiment benefits only a very small segment of the agrichemical industry while providing no matching benefits to consumers."
*The United Nation's main food safety body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, would not endorse the safety of rBGH.
The purpose of this genetically engineered hormone is to increase milk production. This is mighty odd, because U.S. dairy cows already produce such an excess amount of milk that our government spends millions of dollars each year purchasing surplus milk, a subsidy to the milk industry. If you're scratching your head, wondering why we need our cows to be given added hormones to produce more milk, reread the title of this article.
And if you currently have breasts or a colon, why wouldn't you choose to consume only organic dairy products without rBGH? Of course, if you own stock in Monsanto . . . well, again, refer to this article's title.
Dr. Buonomo undoubtedly misread my intent regarding the purchase of dairy products. Far from leading people away from this essential food group, I was simply steering them to those very foods not contaminated by rBGH.
This discussion reminds me of that old Calvin Klein ad, "Nothing gets between me and my Calvins."
So why should anything get between you and your milk?