Drink Your Milk — Maybe

June 10, 2007

Last week, I noticed that my local grocery store was now advertising its milk as RBGH-free. What, I wondered, is RBGH? I have since found out.

I won’t go on at length about it. I’ll just give you the bare bones and the sources.

RBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and it is administered to cows (through the kind offices of its manufacturer, Monsanto) to increase milk production, which it does. It also makes the cows far more likely to contract several illnesses, including mastitis.

I watched a little segment about this very issue in a documentary called “The Corporation” (which I highly recommend) yesterday, and one eyewitness said the pus generated by the cows in trying to fight off the mastitis ends up in the milk.

Well, that was enough for me, but it turns out it isn’t all the bad news.

Here’s the rest. Two things: First, cows that get mastitis are treated with more antibiotics, which also wind up in the milk supply and thence into humans, thus contributing to the problem of antibiotic-resistant illnesses. (In case this seems convoluted, here’s what happens — the bacteria encounter the antibiotics even if the antibiotics aren’t intended to kill that specific bacteria. If the bacteria survives, it can mutate in ways that make it resistant to that antibiotic — which means if the bacteria causes a problem, the list of medications that can potentially kill it becomes shorter. You may recall the med-resistant-TB-patient-slash-world- traveller issue from a week or so ago?)

The second thing is even worse –the RBGH doesn’t pasteurize out, so it rides along with the milk. So do increased levels of a hormone called IFG-1, which is linked to increased growth of tumors in breast, prostate and colon cancers.

Here are the links:

The Sustainable Table

Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship

Revolving Doors: Monsanto and the Regulators

Ethical Investing’s RBGH page (and be sure to check out the links at the bottom)

The Center for Food Safety’s RBGH page

We’ll be talking more about thoughtful consumerism and simple activism — obviously, what corporations and politicians do affects us personally!

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One Response to “Drink Your Milk — Maybe”

  1. Susie Says:

    My brother-in-law is the executive director of FOG, Florida Organic Growers, and he has championed organics for as long as I’ve known him. He has told me that he knows buying organic food is expensive, but if we buy nothing else organic, the milk we buy, must be! If you are interested, the website is http://www.foginfo.org.

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