Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), is a drug that is injected into cows to increase their milk production. Developed by the agricultural company Monsanto and approved for commercial use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993, by 2000 it had become the largest selling pharmaceutical product in the history of the dairy industry. rBGH has never been approved for commercial use in Canada or the European Union due to concerns about the drug‚ impact on animal health. The artificial hormone‚ known side effects include increased udder infections and reproductive problems in cows. Notably, a growing body of scientific research also suggests a link between drinking rBGH-treated milk and certain types of cancer in humans.
Consumer pressure on dairy companies to abandon the use of this controversial drug has resulted in an increasing number of companies moving to rBGH-free milk and making sure that consumers know they’ve made the change by labeling their products as such. But across the country, legislators and state regulators are responding to industry pressure by trying to ban rBGH-free labels on dairy products. After years of successful campaigns that educated dairy consumers about the risks of rBGH, banned rBGH milk in some school districts, and pressured major national companies to go rBGH-free, we are at risk of losing the right to know how our milk was produced.
This report will begin with a background on the science, regulation and politics of rBGH, new risks identified by scientific research, the influence of Monsanto, and information on drug giant Eli Lilly, the new owner of rBGH. We'll tell the stories of successful community, state, and national campaigns to kick the dairy industry off the rBGH wagon. And we'll finish up with suggestions for action that will help readers become advocates for improving the health and safety of the dairy supply.