does not have a strong general public advertising campaign because it
does not market products for the general public. Its main clients are
farmers, both small and large. As such, their ad campaign mainly
focuses on selling their product to their farmers. For instance, on the
internet, farmers can calculate the amount of profit they could
generate if they started injecting their cows with POSILAC
(http://www.make10.net/tools.aspx). However, the little amount of
information they do advertise for the general public is mainly a rebuke
to charges that POSILAC is anyway dangerous to human or animal health.
Their answers to questions are short and poignant and provide links to
selective government and scholarly studies that support their claims.
The choice of language Monsanto uses when describing their
product appears very deliberate. When discussing bovine somatotropine,
Monsanto states on their website, “bST is a naturally occurring protein
hormone produced in the pituitary gland of cattle and is a major
regulator of milk production and growth in lactating dairy cows”
(Monsanto, 2008). Historically it has been difficult to increase the
levels of bST because the technology has not been sophisticated enough.
However, now that we have reached that point in scientific knowledge,
the use of rBST to increase bST levels is really just an adjustment in
an already present hormone level in the cow, so goes the argument.
Monsanto argues that there is nothing artificial about this process and
commonly uses the word ‘natural’ in their explanations. This is counter
to the use of the word ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’ by those against
The main scientific argument of
Monsanto in terms of human health is that POSILAC does not alter the
chemical composition of milk. They claim that numerous studies have
shown that POSILAC does not lead to a difference in the micronutrients
of milk including vitamins, enzyme activities and minerals (Barbano et
al.,1992; Lynch et al., 1992; Van den Berg, 1989).
Therefore, Monsanto draws the conclusion that it is safe for human consumption, as the FDA has recognized.
However, upon closer examination of their cited academic
resources, one notices a couple of peculiarities. While the studies do
come from reputable scholarly journals—namely Science and the Journal
of Dairy Science—only six studies are cited to support their claims and
the most recent of these studies was conducted in 1992, before the FDA
even approved POSILAC for use in dairy cows. In addition, a few of the
scholars that authored one of the articles cited also authored another
one of the articles cited, bringing into question the objectivity and
breadth of the research cited. In addition, of the government reports
they reference, the most recent was written in 1998, while most are
from the early 1990s. Most research that has found a troubling link
between rBGH and human health was completed following the FDA’s
decision to approve POSILAC’s use (Chan, J. M. et al., 1998; Hankinson,
S.E., et al., 1998; Yu, H. et al., 1999; Epstein, 1996). Monsanto makes
no mention of any of these studies, but rather chooses to omit them in
addition to any study completed in the past ten years.
an example of how the science of POSILAC pertaining to human health is
portrayed by supporters watch the first two videos on the right side
involvement in this debate has been extensive and has manifested itself
in the form of non-profit organizations, advocacy networks and
wide-reaching coalitions. Two of the main groups it has attracted are
consumer advocacy organizations and health organizations. Upon closer
examination of these groups and their claims, they also use selective
scientific research while ignoring others and, like Monsanto, much of
their research is older than ten years old as well.
The Cancer Prevention Coalition and the Center for Food Safety
have been two of the main advocates for the reversal of the FDA’s
decision on human health grounds. They have two main health concerns
with POSILAC. First, they are concerned about the increased use of
antibiotics associated with rBGH injections. As cows are more likely to
contract mastitis, they are also more likely to take antibiotics to
heal this condition. As a result, more antibiotic residues end up in
the milk supply that we drink. These organizations claim that the FDA
has an inadequate program for tracking antibiotics. Only four of the
eighty-two commercialized antibiotics are regularly monitored, and a
Wall Street Journal investigation found that twenty percent of milk
contained illegal antibiotics (Bedford, 2000). Citizen organizations
often cite scholarly articles that have linked antibiotic resistant
strains of diseases contracted by humans to cattle. Such is the case of
a twelve-year old boy who contracted a Ceftriaxone-Resistant strand of
Salmonella from cattle (Fey et al). Articles such as these are
widely published and discussed among the citizen science community.
Robert Cohen, author of Milk, the Deadly Poison, argues in a post to a
cyber community of biotech activists that the article linking milk
antibiotics to a salmonella strand was only further proof of the
negligence of the FDA and Monsanto’s ignorance of scientific evidence
The second human health
concern surrounds the increase in IGF-1 (an insulin like substance) in
milk products from rBGH-injected cows. While Monsanto has claimed that
the increase in IGF-1 levels has been shown to be minimal, citing their
own study, Citizen science organizations claim that rBGH milk products
increase IGF-1 levels and even a slight increase in IGF-1 levels has
the potential to increase the occurrences of breast, prostate, lung and
colon cancer in humans. To support these scientific claims, these
organizations cite mainly a few scholarly articles, including one
released by the Cancer Prevention Coalition and Food and Water by David
Epstein in 1996. The research (Chan, J. M. et al., 1998; Hankinson,
S.E., et al., 1998; Yu, H. et al., 1999) postulates that increased
presence of IGF-1 in human plasma has been associated with tumor
appearances. Citizen science organizations like the Cancer Prevention
Coalition have interpreted this to mean that rBGH milk can lead to
cancer; whereas the FDA, in response to a citizen petition by Mr.
Cohen, maintains that there is no biologically significant difference
in IGF-1 levels in milk from rBGH-injected cows, according to
government research (Eaton, 2004). In addition, the FDA argues that
even the research cited by Mr. Cohen does not claim there is a direct
cause and effect relationship between IGF-1 levels and malignant tumors
(FDA, 2000). In this way, we can see the citizen science organization
interpreting research in a different way than the FDA that supports
their own interests.
As with Monsanto,
the research used by these organizations is selective and ignores
widespread research done by the FDA and Monsanto that does not support
their own conclusions. Instead of attempting to address this other body
of research in their advocacy, these organizations often claim that
corruption, ignorance and greed played a role in the FDA’s decision to
approve rBGH and thus all of their findings are flawed and influenced
by Monsanto. They often refer to some FDA scientists and administrators
as Monsanto plants, although they may have good reason to believe so.
Multiple FDA scientists who worked during the rBGH process were
previously employed by Monsanto and the top decision maker at the FDA
in terms of approval and labeling, Michael Taylor, previously worked as
a lawyer with Monsanto as one of his top clients (Cummins, 2000).
For an example of how Citizen Organizations portray Human Health Concerns, watch the Video 3 to the right.