Monsanto: Full of Hot Air on rBGH
Cows produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are bad. Therefore, anything that might reduce the number of cows is good, right? This is the line of argument that proponents of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH, also referred to as rBST) have taken in an effort to garner support for the artificial hormone. The claim that rBGH will benefit the environment is based on a new study that allegedly shows that the use of the artificial hormone will allow fewer dairy cows to produce the same quantity of milk. However, a little digging will reveal a number of problems with this study, and hence, with this claim.
But first I’d like to remind you about Monsanto, the enormous agricultural corporation that developed rBGH and markets it as the drug Prosilac. The company clearly has a large stake in any publicity regarding the artificial hormone, so the fact that two of the researchers who conducted the study have significant ties to Monsanto is suspicious, to say the least. One of the researchers, Roger Cady, is the company‚ technical project manager for rBGH, and the main researcher, Dale Bauman, has served the company as a paid consultant since the 1980s.
Additionally, the trustworthiness of the results is questionable given that previous investigations into the environmental impact of rBGH have not reached the same conclusion. The Food and Drug Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that any change in greenhouse gas emissions is negligible and the use of the artificial hormone might even result in more emissions. Dale Bauman argues that his study is more accurate, but given his and Roger Cady‚ ties to Monsanto, I find myself siding with the government organizations on this one.
Yes, it is important to lower emissions, but we do not need rBGH in order to do this, as there are that the industry should focus on. Already, changes in nutrition and breeding have resulted in a substantial decrease, and scientists from the University of Melbourne claim that altering the composition of the feed could further reduce emissions by half. The diary farms that use rBGH most are large and industrial, the same farms that produce most of the pollution in the first place. If these farms truly want to reduce their environmental impact, they need to focus first on changing their basic practices to be more sustainable. So the question is this: Do we ignore the bias in this new study and use rBGH to lower emissions, or do we put our energy into the alternative, less controversial approaches? Considering the health risks associated with rBGH, I think the answer is pretty clear; we should be opposing rBGH, not celebrating it.