Bovine somatotropin (bST)- Bovine somatotropin or bovine somatotrophin (abbreviated bST and BST), or BGH, is a peptide hormone produced by cows’ pituitary gland. -Wikipedia
Who discovered it?
A biotech company known as Genentech discovered & patented the gene for BST in the 70’s. Four large companies decided they wanted to apply for the patent for their synthetic version also known as rBST, rBGH or artificial growth hormone. These companies were Monsanto, American Cyanamid, Eli Lilly & The Upjohn Company. Monsanto received the first approval thus “Posilac” was created. Posilac is the synthetic version of bST known as rBST which is an injection approved for the use in dairy cattle. In 1993, the United States followed Mexico, Russia & others in approving this as safe & effective. Source: Wikipedia
Now why exactly would a farmer want to use rBST?
I have talked with other dairy farmers & as well as former dairy farmers. What I am told is that when this was first approved to be safe & effective it was promised to increase milk production & increase the profitability of dairy cattle. When used it increases the appetite for the cow, when the cow eats more, the cow produces more. This is a tool to increase milk production in a cow that is having issues coming into her milk (so basically she is hardly producing). Why would anyone want to do this? Well if a dairy cow doesn’t produce milk or enough milk to pay for her feed, she goes on the next truck to the sale barn to become the next best thing to milk, beef! Read this post from a fellow dairy farmer that does use this product. Each dairy processor, farm, farmer has different reasons as to why they do or do not use artificial growth hormones. Our cooperative does not allow our farms to use rBST. This was a decision made based on consumer preference not that they feel that it is unsafe. When talking to farmers you will find that many (
I might be as bold to say most) do not use this as a management tool on their farm.
Why are people so scared of this?
This is something I struggle with understanding. There is NO significant different between the natural occurring hormone & the synthetic version. In other words if you were to test the two hormones side by side, they would show no significant difference. In addition, why would someone be concerned about this specific animal hormone affecting humans when in fact this growth hormones is species specific? What does that mean? The growth hormone doesn’t have any effect on other species. What does that mean? It wont hurt us.
In addition to the false claims of cows being pumped full of artificial growth hormones is the claim that cows are milked their entire nine month pregnancy. This creates quite the concern as animals that are near the end of their pregnancy have increased amounts of hormones, what species doesn’t? Although the hormones are species specific, consumers are still concerned about the risk of increased hormones at the end of a cows pregnancy. It is an industry standard to not milk the cows 45-90 days at the end of their nine month pregnancy. Our farm gives the cows 60 days off from milking for several reasons: the cows need to prepare for the delivery of the calf, the last couple months are critical for the animals health (both cow & calf), the end of the pregnancy they tend to drop in milk anyhow and a cow will have a more productive lactation if they had a proper “dry period” before they calved.
So back to the artificial growth hormones. Many will claim that Monsanto is selling the drug Posilac to dairy farmers when in fact Monsanto sold this product to Eli Lilly in 2008. Let it be noted that Eli Lily is the very company known for introducing synthetic insulin. Eli Lilly has been known to be one of the top selling companies for all things diabetes. Why does this matter? It matters because a company cannot be defined by one single product.
In closing, according to the Washington Dairy Products Commission, every dairy product processor in our state has banned the use of rBST by dairy farmers who ship them milk. Although years of extensive testing of rbST has proven that it is harmless to humans, animals and the environment, the ban by Washington processors reflects consumer preference on the use of rbST. As a dairy producer of Washington state, I can assure you the promised benefits of artificial growth hormones do not outweigh the risk of losing our contract with our cooperative. Losing our contract would mean losing our farm.
If you have questions or concerns it is always very important to ask the farmers. This is our life, we live this every day… we know the facts & if we can’t answer a question we know someone who can.
Also check out this great source to find out where your milk comes from!