March 10, 2008 —
For years, Monsanto has been fighting a losing battle convincing the public that genetically modified foods are safe for consumption. The European Union has attempted to enforce a mandatory labeling system that would inform consumers that the food they are buying is a GMO — genetically modified organism — while the United States has thus far resisted such a system. But that hasn't stopped producers of non-GMO food from letting consumers know the difference between their products and the "frankenfoods" sitting next to them on the shelves, and that has companies like Monsanto crying foul.
Monsanto is in the process of introducing legislation in states throughout the country that would bar dairies from advertising their products as "rBST-free" or "rBGH-free." The "r" stands for "recombined," meaning that levels BGH and BST — two naturally occurring bovine growth hormones — have been unnaturally elevated to increase the amount of milk that the cows produce.
Like many other genetically modified products, it's still unclear whether or not milk from these cows can actually be harmful to your health. But anti-GMO advocates say that that's entirely the point — there isn't a sufficient regulatory mechanism in place to ensure that new GM products don't harm consumers or the ecosystem. As for milk, Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union says that there's mounting evidence that increased levels of growth hormones might be dangerous:
Consumption of dairy products from cows treated with rbGH raise a number of health issues. That includes increased antibiotic resistance, due to use of antibiotics to treat mastitis and other health problems, as well as increased levels of IGF-1, which has been linked to a range of cancers.