Saturday, 24 July 2010

Let’s Get Our Beef and Milk Drugs Straight Now

“In August of 2008, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced that it would be acquiring Monsanto’s rBGH division for $300 million. Recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, is an artificial growth hormone that is injected into dairy cows in order to increase their milk production.” [1] This will be added to their already impressive repertoire including Prozac and other psychiatric drugs, the Viagra competitor Cialis and cancer treatments.

But Kroger and Starbucks refuse to use milk that was produced with rBGH.  And Dean Foods, the largest milk distributor in the United States, states that virtually all of its milk is sourced from cows not treated with the hormone.[2] Even Wal-Mart now uses rBGH-free sources for its private-label milk [3] as does Safeway. [4]

Meanwhile, in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, rBST is not approved for use. [5] The European Union placed a moratorium on its sale by all member nations but allowed limited practical tests on its use. But in 1999, with no information on such tests, a permanent ban was put in place that started on January 1, 2000. [6] In addition, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the main United Nations body that sets international food standards failed to agree to what is known as a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for rBST. “The adoption of a standard would have asserted that the hormone was safe to use and countries refusing to import dairy products from countries where BST is used could be brought before the World Trade Organization on the grounds they are creating a barrier to trade.” [7]

With $3 billion in profits in 2007, a billion more than claimed by Monsanto in the same year, Lilly must have plans for rBGH; but based on the above, I can’t imagine what.

Meanwhile, the EU ban on the import of meat from cattle covers those treated with testosterone, progesterone, trenbolone acetate, zeranol, and MGA for growth-promotion purposes and the continued suspension in 2008 of "Obligations in the EC - Hormones Dispute" stems from a 1996 complaint! [8] The EU is paying the equivalent of $150 million dollars annually for lost US profits, and it must have significant legal bills in continuing the appeals and defending counter-appeals as well.

But, we’re not out of the woods yet. “It is estimated that 85% of the EU’s compound feed production now contains GM or GM-derived material.” [9] Perhaps this is not viewed by many as a drug. But since genetically modified (GM) feed is from crops that mainly have been designed to be pesticide resistant and sprayed with pesticides, the difference seems to pale into non-existence. We have protection against the administration of drugs containing hormones that are designed to make cows grow faster. However, cheap GM feed is used for the same purpose of speedy growth and arguably as controversial; but there are few protections at the moment, including no requirement to have food derived from GM fed animals labelled.

This is not a conclusive list by any means as there are many other approved drugs that are administered as medicine to treat illness in cows (for both dairy and beef) such as Abamectin, Albendazole, Benzylpenicillin, Clenbuterol, Closantel, Cyfluthrin, α-Cypermethrin, Danofloxacin, Deltamethrin, Dihydrostreptomycin, streptomycin, Diminazene, and Doramectin, just to name a few from a long list. [10]  With so many drugs (and chemicals generally) involved in the production of milk and beef, I think it is an impossible task to get them straight.


1. Eli Lilly and rBGH,

2. Dean Foods 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report.

3. Wal-Mart Offers Private Label Milk Produced without Artificial Growth Hormone.” Wal-Mart Press Release. March 21, 2008,

4. Safeway in Northwest Goes rBGH-Free! Chipotle Mexican Grill Starts Goes rBGH-free for Sour Cream, By Rick North, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Jan 10, 2007,

5. Companies cut synthetic hormone from dairy products by Bruce Harovitz, USA Today,

6. European Council Decision of December 17, 1999, .

7. World Trade Organization website,

8. International Health Group Shuns Bgh,

9. ANH Feature: Europeans consuming GM animal feed unknowingly,

10. Codex Veterinary Drug Residues in Food Online Database