Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Term of the Week: Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST)

Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST) is the synthetic growth hormone that is given to cows to make them grow bigger so that they can produce  more milk. It is completely unnecessary for the health of the cow, and many studies show it is actually harmful to the cow.  In fact, in 1999, Canada banned its use because of its effects on cows and it is also banned in New Zealand, Australia and parts of Europe.

In the U.S., the  FDA (who I am growing increasingly unhappy with) not only allows the use of rbST in cows, but it does not require the products made from those cows to be labeled with its use. In fact, the company that makes the hormone, Monsanto, is currently trying to get legislation passed to make it illegal for milk cartons in the state of Pennsylvania to indicate that the milk does not contain rbST. 

The FDA says that rbST is safe for humans, that it cannot produce effects in humans because the hormone cannot survive digestion and even if it did our bodies don't have the right growth hormone receptors to recognize it. 

But I'm not buying it. I'm not buying their research and I'm not buying the milk. There are many independent studies that have been done that show theirs a possibility that those who drink milk with rbSt have increased chances for allergies and antibiotic resistance. There are others who believe that the hormones in the milk are causing early physical development in children.

I can't say for certain that rbSt has any negative effects on humans. But I'm not taking the chance. I don't buy everything organic, but with as much milk as my kids drink, I do buy organic milk. Milk that is labeled "hormone free" isn't necessarily organic, but it's a step in a healthier direction.

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