The Milk of Life

We use it on our cereal, in our tea and coffee, and it is used to make many other products such as cheese and yoghurt. It is therefore a huge business and a fundamental part of our agriculture.

As with many other business concerns, the balance between business interests and health concerns is of vital importance. The recent problems in England and the rest of Europe with BSE (Mad Cow Disease), due to feeding cows the ground up meal made from dead cows, and now with Foot and Mouth Disease are examples of the challenges facing dairy farming.

Another important issue we are facing is the introduction of a bovine growth hormone (rBGH) which increases the yield of milk in cows. However, the hormone is also past on into the milk and so the question is whether there is any harm to humans who consume this milk. The concern of many people is that we do not yet know what harm this hormone could do and therefore, before it is used, much more research needs to be done.

There has been considerable pressure to introduce the hormone into the milk supply. The Department of Agriculture, which is meant to oversee the health and safety issues of the hormone was found to be involved in much more collusive relationship with the manufacturers of rGBH. Two reporters who did an investigation into rGBH for Fox News were subsequently sacked and the program never shown. Monsanto, the biotechnology company which manufactures rGBH put huge legal pressure on Fox TV (owned by Rupert Murdoch), which then backed down and disowned the reporters. Monsanto have also threatened legal action on companies that have wanted to state on labels that their milk is rGBH free.

So, what are our options. If we want to be sure that our milk is free of rGBH, then we should only drink organic milk. Ideally, this milk should come from local sources, which fortunately we have in the Bay Area. This is the only way we can be sure that milk does not have the hormone in it. There have been attempts by the food industry to allow genetically modified foods to be included under the organic label, and in theory this could also apply to milk with rGBH. However, there has been enough concern in the use of rGBG for companies to want to say that their product is free of this hormone.

This issue is especially serious for children. Growing children are that much more sensitive to the ingredients in food and hormones in particular have been having a devastating impact on both human and animal development. So, even more than organic vegetables and fruit, drinking organic milk and eating organic meat will ensure that they are free both of hormones and also antibiotics which are used in cattle and other animal feed.