In Part One, we explored the dangers of genetically modified crops and how to avoid them. Here, we discuss the dangers of genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in dairy products, specific GMO-concerns for parents and children, and tips on dining out GMO-free.
The Dangerous Genetic Experiment In Dairy
America is not a good place to be a cow. About 17 percent of cows in the United States are currently injected with Posilac, a Monsanto-developed genetically modified bovine growth hormone also called recombinant bovine somatotropin and most commonly known as rBGH or rBST. This dubious chemical artificially increases milk production by 10 to 15 percent.
Posilac was approved in the United States in 1993, yet banned in most other industrialized countries due to health risks to humans and harm to animals. Studies have found a strong link between IGF-1 and breast and prostate cancer. In fact, studies show that pre-menopausal women under the age of 50 with high levels of IGF-1 are seven times more likely to develop breast cancer, while men under 50 with elevated IGF-7 are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer. Elevated levels of this hormone are also implicated in lung and colon cancer.
“Scientists have expressed concern over the possible relationship between elevated IGF-1 levels in rBGH-treated milk and elevated IGF-1 levels of cancer in humans,” says Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., and author of 30 books, including The Magnesium Miracle.
Other nefarious effects of rBGH-treated dairy in the United States may include our notoriously high rate of infertility. Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman, a medical doctor with expertise in environmental and preventive medicine, says that “animal studies suggest GMOs are causing reproductive system ailments and fertility problems.” Interestingly, she notes that when patients go on non-GMO diets, they “report their myriad symptoms diminish if not disappear altogether.”
Meanwhile, Monsanto continues to proclaim publicly that milk from their rBGH-treated cows is not different from milk from untreated cows.
One might wonder about the role of the FDA in all this. In fact, the FDA reached its favorable conclusion on Posilac based on a 90-day rat-feeding study submitted by Monsanto.
Meanwhile, a Health Canada (the Canadian counterpart to the FDA) review of the original Monsanto study found that the rats did absorb rBGH, and that 20 to 30 percent of the rats developed a primary antibody response, according to Michael Hanson of Consumers Union. Health Canada also criticized the FDA for failing to require either a three-month study in a non-rodent species, or a long-term toxicology, teratology, or reproductive/fertility study.
Antibiotic Contamination, Pus, And Adrenaline
Dr. Samuel Epstein, an expert in cancer prevention and toxicology and chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, says milk treated with rBGH has lowered nutritional value, increased antibiotics (which then gets into our system leading to increased antibiotic resistance to illness), and pus from infected udders of the cows who experience painfully high rates of mastitis. Hormonally treated cows also experience production of “steroids and adrenaline-type stressor chemicals likely to contaminate milk,” Epstein says. Poor little cows … and poor little us.
Condemning The Use Of rGBH
The American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that condemn the use of rBGH. Additionally, Lippman points out that “the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has advised all doctors to recommend non-GMO diets for their patients.” Eerily enough, however, a notable number of those who dare to speak out publicly against rBGH have been harassed, threatened, or fired — and this includes certain FDA scientists, as well as media professionals.
But hey, all you Debbie Downers, think about the good news: Yoplait, Dannon, and 40 of the top 100 dairies have reportedly ceased treating their cows with rBGH.
Got Genetically Modified Milk?
Avoid any and all dairy products not clearly labeled organic, non-GMO Project Verified, rbGH-free, rbST-free, or artificial hormone-free, including milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and butter. Also avoid the dairy derivative whey protein, used in many protein bars and powders. But don’t get all overwhelmed. Just visit the Center for Food Safety to find a super helpful rBGH-free dairy map to guide your way!
rBGH False Advertising
You may notice a label on dairy products that reads something along the lines of “according to the FDA, no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBGH-treated cows and non-treated cows.” Not true! Federal courts have recognized that milk from cows treated with genetically modified growth hormones is not in fact identical to milk from untreated cows.
The FDA’s rBGH labeling guidelines were written by Michael Taylor in 1994. At that time, Taylor was the FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy. Not coincidentally, Taylor has worked for Monsanto as well.
A Note Of Caution About GMOs For Pregnant Women And Parents
- Allergies: Children face the greatest risk from the potential dangers of GM foods because their bodies are still developing and they are naturally three to four times more prone to allergies than adults. Children under 2 are especially at risk — even the tiniest amount of allergens can cause reactions.
- Toxicity: Unfortunately, many baby formulas and baby foods are made with GM food products. Even breastfed infants can be exposed via their mothers’ diet. For instance, the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn (Bt-toxin) was found in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses.
- Training Bras At 7: Epstein writes that “rBGH and its digested products could be absorbed from milk into the blood, particularly in infants and produce hormonal and allergic effects … [and] could induce premature growth and breast stimulation in infants.” Furthermore, a 2002 report by the U.K.’s Royal Society on genetic modification states that the estrogen levels in GM soy found in infant formula “might affect sexual development in children … and could cause bowel obstruction.”
- Ear Infections: The British Medical Association, calling for a halt on all GM foods, cited that the many children prone to ear infections are at risk of facing antibiotic-resistant strains of the infection due to the use of antibiotic resistant genes in GM foods.
Unfortunately, milk or soy protein is the basis for most baby foods and formulas. Many brands also add GM-derived corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or soy lechitins. Parents should use only organic baby food and formulas, and scour dairy product labels for the phrase “made from animals not treated with hormones” or “rBGH-free.”
Basic Tips While Dining Out
Dining out without ingesting any GMOs is a tall order. It’s nearly impossible, unless you are always eating at an organic restaurant. But we’ve got to live our lives, and a lot of our lives include social interactions at restaurants. So when you’re at a (non-organic) restaurant, here’s what I suggest:
- Stay away from corn! If a meal comes with a side of corn, ask for a substitution instead. If there is corn in a meal or salad, tell them to “hold the corn” or swap it for something safer.
- Stay away from dairy products, including creamy soups or sauces, unless you’ve asked the restaurant and they told you it is organic. Instead order salads or dishes without the cheese or cream sauces.
- Don’t order tofu, fake meats, or edamame (soybeans) unless you have specifically asked and found out they are organic.
- Opt to use oil and balsamic as many salad dressings and sauces are made with corn syrup. As previously stated in Part One, do not order juices or soft drinks, which are made with high-fructose corn syrup or GM sugar.
- And don’t be fooled by diet drinks — they aren’t any better! Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) is derived from GM microorganisms, and the amino acid phenylalanine is manufactured with the aid of genetically modified E. coli bacteria.
For more guidance and information, check out the Institute for Responsible Technology’s website and its non-GMO shopping guide. There is also an excellent and extremely informative documentary called Genetic Roulette that’s well worth checking out.