05 July 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Don’t Cry Over rBST Milk,” by Henry I. Miller (Op-Ed, June 29):

Monsanto’s genetically engineered hormone has not held up to scrutiny. When recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH; also known as rBST) is used, it elevates levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 in milk, which has been linked to increased risk of breast, prostate and other cancers. No wonder rBGH has been banned in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Seventy-four percent of Americans are concerned about negative long-term health effects from rBGH, while Starbucks, Publix and Safeway supermarkets and others have refused to use rBGH in many locations.

I dispute Dr. Miller’s assertion that rBGH-injected cows can help reduce milk prices. The only national study on the subject contradicts his claims. Farms using rBGH are likely to use more grain, water, fuel, emit more greenhouse gases and spend more on feed and other inputs, offsetting any economic gains.

Dr. Miller’s argument distracts from the real concerns over rBGH. Consumers are right to be wary; rBGH threatens to undermine the safety of nature’s most perfect food.

Andrew Kimbrell
Executive Director
Center for Food Safety
Washington, June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Henry I. Miller argues that we should “embrace” the use of bovine growth hormone (rBST) in order to feed people more cheaply, save the environment and so on. He characterizes opponents of rBST as “cynical,” but I read Dr. Miller’s arguments as cynical.

I have no idea if rBST is safe. But I do know that the dairy industry and its lobbyists do not want to require labeling milk produced with rBST. In fact, they are so intent on reducing information available to consumers that they are lobbying to prevent dairies from labeling their milk as “rBST-free”!

There’s good reason for cynicism.

George Entenman
Chapel Hill, N.C., June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Henry I. Miller’s Op-Ed article provides a welcome breath of fresh air.

Anticorporate activists have campaigned against this and other ag biotech products for years in denial of the demonstrated environmental, economic and health benefits. It is most welcome to see the facts finally given some exposure.

The data speak to a clear reality: If we are to meet the challenges of feeding and clothing a growing population in the 21st century without totally despoiling the planet, we will need all the tools we can find.

Biotech is already making huge contributions toward meeting these challenges, and more to follow. There is in reality no greener approach than biotechnology.

L. Val Giddings
Silver Spring, Md., June 29, 2007
The writer, a consultant, was vice president for agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group, from 1997 to 2005.

To the Editor:

I read in horror Henry I. Miller’s latest recommendation for biotechnology in food. Is this really the conversation we want to be having about nutrition—how to pump cows full of even more chemicals to keep up with our ravenous, fat-laden diets?

Dairy is the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet. It is also full of cholesterol and hormones (natural and otherwise). Trying to make unhealthy foods cheaper by genetically modifying them is absolutely the wrong direction to be moving.

How about spending all that time, energy and money on something productive, like figuring out how to get fatty foods out of the American diet and replaced with whole real fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.

It would make my life as a dietitian a lot easier.

Susan Levin
Washington, June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Urging more hormone injection of cows to increase milk production is backward. It suggests there’s a milk shortage. The United States has long vastly overproduced milk. In recent years, the government accumulated a $1 billion stockpile of powdered milk from excess production.

Consumers want less use of drugs and chemicals in milk production, not more, as shown by skyrocketing organic milk purchases. Such hormones may increase the risk of breast, colon and gastrointestinal cancers, according to a University of Illinois study.

In cows, the hormones have been shown to increase lameness, udder infections and bone cancer. Europe and Canada outlawed using hormones on dairy cows because of such human and animal health concerns.

Increasing rBST milk would just move food production in the wrong direction.

Bill Niman
Nicolette Hahn Niman
Bolinas, Calif., June 29, 2007
The writers are cattle ranchers.

To the Editor:

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s article about the benefits of rBST is correct and thoughtful. Sustainable agricultural in the future, of necessity, will be largely sustainable intensive agriculture—an agriculture that produces more (and often better) food, fiber and fuel on a smaller environmental footprint.

Dr. Miller has clearly stated the evidence that shows rBST to be part of sustainable agriculture: more milk that is identical to all other milk, produced by fewer cows with reduced environmental impacts.

As a society, we can make sensible choices to promote sustainable agriculture. Choosing rBST is one such sensible choice.

Drew L. Kershen
Norman, Okla., June 29, 2007
The writer, a law professor, collaborated with Dr. Miller on a published article in Nature Biotechnology and on a book chapter several years before the published article in Nature Biotechnology.

To the Editor:

What parent or teacher has not noticed that girls are maturing far earlier than they used to? Years are being stolen from their childhoods. These added years will extend the time their bodies deal with adult hormones.

There is as yet no medical research showing the cost of several extra years of hormones flooding the system. Since this is a new phenomenon in our lives, we can’t know the ultimate costs to our children.

But for Henry I. Miller to write blithely of the benefits of rBST to farmers, and to Monsanto, without considering the effects on our children is shortsighted at best. If the Food and Drug Administration chooses to value benefits to business above the health of our children, we should at least be informed of its decision.

Label the milk that is rBST produced. Place obvious labels, and then let parents choose the milk they deem best for their children.

Sally E. Carp
Staten Island, June 29, 2007

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