Washington, D.C.—While the debate on rBGH in the U.S. remains mired in whether milk produced with the hormone should be labeled or not, Kenyan groups have effectively lobbied the government to ban the potentially harmful substance, announced national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch.
A coalition of animal welfare, farmer, community, faith and consumer groups in Kenya achieved a major victory in February when the national government banned the drug. rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, is a controversial synthetic hormone that induces a cow to produce more milk. In addition to negatively impacting animal welfare and health, studies have raised concerns that it may be linked to cancer in humans.
Josphat Ngonyo, Director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), was in the United States last month discussing the action with U.S. environmentalists and food justice groups. “We’re very pleased to be able to celebrate this victory for the Kenyan food system,” said Ngonyo. “It is laudable that our Government acted on the citizens’ concerns and effectively banned the condemned drug.”
The change came through an outreach campaign organized by Kenya Biodiversity Coalition that included ANAW and the Consumer Information Network targeting consumers at the grassroots level, as well as researchers and veterinary doctors. Finally, ANAW had a face-to-face meeting with Kenya’s Director of Veterinary Services, where they discussed the human and animal health implications of rBGH—including its potentially carcinogenic effects and its contribution to antibiotic resistance. Consumer Information Network on their part wrote letters to all the relevant ministries including the Ministry of Livestock Development and copied to the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of Kenya. Subsequently, the Director issued a gazette notice prohibiting the use of rBGH in food producing animals, making it a law (Legal Notice Number 25, The Animal Diseases Act, Chapter 364.)
While it has been in use in the U.S. since 1994, rBGH, also known as rBST (recombinant bovine somatotrophin), was never approved for use in Canada, the EU, or Japan. Last year, the American Public Health Association called for a ban on the use of the hormone in milk and beef production.
Yet the product has its proponents in the U.S. For years, the producers of rBGH, originally Monsanto, and now Eli Lilly, have fought any attempt to require labeling of dairy products produced with the hormone. And the companies have gone so far as to lobby individual states to prohibit dairies from labeling their products that were produced without rBGH, with the goal of making it impossible for consumers to make an informed choice about this controversial drug.
“This is a victory for Kenyans who are concerned about the use of potentially unsafe substances in their food supply,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Hopefully, U.S. consumers will have the same opportunity to enjoy drug-free milk that Kenyans will now enjoy.”
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, drakestraw(at)fwwatch.org, 202 683-2467