The Debate over rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone)
Generally speaking, cow’s milk provides a decent source of protein filled with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be a healthy addition to an average diet when consumed in moderation. Cow’s milk is safe to drink. The concern over cow’s milk is not necessarily about the cow’s milk its self, though some prefer not to drink it preferring alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk to name a few. However the greatest concern about cow’s milk has to do with a particular additive that is commonly fed to cows in commercial, non-organic cattle companies that are highly concerning. Particularly, the use of recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH) are a great concern, and having this additive included in dairy milk is suspicious at best since many other country’s have banned the use of the additive.
Possible links have been found with rBGH to cancer-causing properties, including the increased growth of existing tumors in cancer patients. As a result of multiple studies conducted in various countries, rBGH is banned in the European Union, Canada and some other countries. However in the United States, the FDA has not banned this additive. Another effect of rBGH is a marked increase in cow udder infections, which results in high levels of antibiotics being injected into the cattle. This raises a secondary concern about the consumption of milk that is heavily laced with antibiotics potentially leading to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Although the FDA still approves the use of rBGH in the United States, most studies have demonstrated inconclusive evidence that there is a direct causal link between rBGH and cancer. Also, while increased usage of antibiotics in cattle does lead to increased antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whether this has a direct effect on humans also seems to have inconclusive evidence. This does not mean that the concerns aren’t real and potentially very harmful, however-it just begs for further research to determine if this chemical is actually safe to be used in cattle that produce dairy milk. The European Union, Canada and other countries agree that risking the health of their citizens based on evidence that has not been deemed conclusively safe is not a responsible risk to take, and so the chemical is not permitted in cattle in their respective countries.
The good news for Americans is that the demand for rBGH has decreased, resulting in many large grocery chains no longer carrying milk from cows treated with rBGH. In fact, as early as 2007, A United States Department of Agriculture survey found that less than 17% of all cows in commercial dairy farms were being injected with rBGH. Many consumers have decided to either switch to organic dairy milk, use alternatives such as almond, coconut, rice or soy milks or have begun informing themselves and closely reading labels to ensure that they are not providing their families with milk from rBGH treated cows.