The Dangers of Genetically Engineered Milk

Genetically engineered milk is very different than natural milk, and clearly qualifies for FDA's explicit mandatory labeling.
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As reported in the June 25 New York Times article on "Genetically Altered Salmon," genetically altered foods "must be labeled--if they are different in their nutritional or natural properties or other characteristics." Genetically engineered milk is very different than natural milk, and clearly qualifies for FDA's explicit mandatory labeling.

This warning is also responsive to a June 21 announcement by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that "he would introduce three bills to comprehensively regulate all genetically engineered products and foods," and require that all such foods should be explicitly labeled.

Congressman Kucinich's concerns are well-based. These were detailed in a May 11, 2007 "Imminent Health Hazard" Citizens Petition submitted to Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs, by Samuel Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and four other leading scientific experts: Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director, Organic Consumers Association; John Kinsman, President, Family Farm Defenders; Arpad Pusztai, PhD, FRSE; and Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director, Institute for Responsible Technology.

This Petition detailed the abnormalities in milk from cows injected with the genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rBGH), commonly known as Posilac. However, the FDA failed to respond to, let alone even acknowledge this Petition.

On January 12, 2010, the "Imminent Health Hazard" Petition was again submitted to the FDA. However, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg dismissed this on alleged procedural grounds, which had not been raised in any prior Citizen Petitions. It should further be noted that her Deputy Commissioner is Michael Taylor, former counsel to Monsanto, and another biotech umbrella organization.

The 2007 and 2010 Petitions requested the FDA to suspend approval of Posilac on the grounds that it is different than natural milk, and also to require that milk produced with its use be labeled with warnings such as, "Produced with the use of Posilac (rBGH), and contains elevated levels of IGF-1, a major risk factor for breast, prostate and colon cancers."

There are a wide range of well-documented abnormalities in rBGH milk. These include: reduction in short-chain fatty acid and increase in long-chain fatty acid levels, posing cardiovascular risks; increase in levels of a thyroid hormone enzyme; frequency of pus cells in milk due to mastitis; and contamination of milk with unapproved drugs for treating mastitis.

More importantly, the abnormalities in rBGH milk also include excess levels of the natural insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in rBGH milk, with increases ranging up to 20-fold. Based on six unpublished industry studies, FDA admitted that IGF-1 levels in rBGH milk were consistently and statistically increased, and that they were further increased by pasteurization. These increases were also admitted by Eli Lilly Industries in their application for marketing authorization in the European Community. It should also be noted that pasteurization of milk increases its IGF-1 levels by a further 70 percent.

IGF-1 is a protein fraction known as a peptide. As such, it survives digestion and is readily absorbed into the blood. It has been shown to have marked growth promoting effects following short-term feeding tests in rats. Most importantly, increased IGF-1 levels have been reported to increase risks of breast cancer by seven times in 19 scientific publications, colon cancer by five times in 19 publications, and prostate cancer by up to 5 percent in six publications.

Of generally unrecognized and critical importance is the fact that increased IGF-1 levels also block a natural defense mechanisms, known as apoptosis or programmed self-destruction. This protects against the growth and development of early submicroscopic cancers.

rBGH also increases ovulation and embryo survival, and increases the incidence of fraternal twins, as admitted by Monsanto on its November 1993 Posilac label. Multiple gestations are more prone to complications such as premature delivery, congenital defects and pregnancy-induced hypertension, than are single pregnancies.

Based on these well-documented public health and veterinary concerns, the use and import of rBGH dairy products has been banned by Canada, 29 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. It should further be emphasized that, on June 30, 1999, the United Nations Food Safety Agency, representing 101 nations worldwide, ruled unanimously not to endorse or set a safety standard for rBGH milk.

Finally, the FDA continues to recklessly mislead dairy producers and consumers with its false claim that "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBGH-treated and non-rBGH treated cows."

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; Recipient of the 1998 Right Livelihood Award ("Alternative Nobel Prize") and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; Author of over 270 scientific articles and 20 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including Cancer-Gate: How To Win The Losing Cancer War (Baywood Publishing, 2005) and What's In Your Milk? (Trafford Publishing, 2006).

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Author of the 2006 "What's In Your Milk?" book
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: 312-996-2297
Please join the CPC on Facebook.

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