Monsanto's Genetically Modified Milk Ruled Unsafe by The United Nations
The following was released by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago:
The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the U.N. Food Safety Agency representing 101 nations worldwide, has ruled unanimously in favor of the 1993 European moratorium on Monsanto's genetically engineered hormonal milk (rBGH). This unexpected ruling, revealingly greeted by the U.S. press with deafeningsilence, is a powerful blow against U.S. global trade policies which are strongly influenced by powerful multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto.The Codex Commission ruling has also forced the U.S. to abandon its threats to challenge the European moratorium before the World Trade Organization later this year. As importantly, the ruling represents the first large scale defeat of genetically modified foods on unarguable scientific grounds, apart from ethical and ideological concerns.
Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of unlabeled rBGH milk in February 1994, the U.S. has exerted considerable pressure on Mexico and other trading partners to approve rBGH in efforts to increase pressure on Europe through the World Trade Organization. In this, they have been strongly supported by reports from the Food and Agriculture/World Health Organization's (FAO/WHO) Joint Expert Committees on Food Additives (JECFA), including its latest September 1998 report, which unequivocally absolved rBGH from any adverse veterinary and public health effects. However, these JECFA committees, besides others such as those claiming the safety of meat from cattle treated with sex hormones, operate under conditions of non-transparency and conflicts of interest, and are predominantly staffed by unelected and unaccountable U.S. and Canadian regulatory officials and industry consultants with no expertise in public health, preventive medicine and carcinogenesis. The 1998 JECFA report on rBGH was then submitted to the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods, chaired by FDA's Director for Veterinary Medicine Dr. Stephen Sundloff who also played a prominent role in the 1998 JECFA Committee. The Codex Committee promptly rubber stamped JECFA's seal of approval for rBGH with the confident expectation that this would be subsequently endorsed by the parent Codex Commission. However, the best laid plans of Monsanto and the FDA were aborted by an unexpected turn of events.
Bowing to growing pressure in 1998 by Canadian advocacy groups, "dissident" government scientists and the Senate Agriculture Committee. Health Canada convened expert committees on veterinary and human safety under the auspices of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, respectively. Based on conclusions on the adverse veterinary effects of rBGH, particularly an increased incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive problems, Health Canada reluctantly broke ranks with the U.S. in January 1999, and issued a formal "notice of non- compliance", disapproving future sales of rBGH.
Meanwhile, the European Commission had commissioned two independent committees of internationally recognized experts to undertake a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on both the veterinary and public health effects of rBGH. The veterinary committee fully confirmed and extended the Canadian warnings and conclusions. The public health committee confirmed earlier reports of excess levels of the naturally occurring Insulin-like-Growth Factor One (IGF-1), including its highly potent variants, in rBGH milk and concluded that these posed major risks of cancer, particularly of the breast and prostate, besides promoting the growth and invasiveness of cancer cells by inhibiting their programmed self-destruction (apoptosis). Faced with this latest well documented scientific evidence from both Canada and Europe, the U.S. bowed to the inevitable and failed to challenge the Codex ruling in support of the European moratorium.
It is now 15 years since Monsanto embarked on a series of large scale veterinary trials on rBGH all over the U.S., and sold milk from these trials to an uninformed and unsuspecting public with the full approval of the FDA. Since then, Monsanto and the FDA, strongly supported by a network of indentured university academics, aggressive lobbying by the National Dairy Council and its well organized "hit squads" targeting rBGH opponents, and an overwhelmingly uncritical media, have ignored or trivialized substantial scientific evidence on the hazards of rBGH milk, including a series of publications over the last decade in the International Journal of Health Services, the most prestigious international public health publication. Also ignored by the media have been charges in 1981 by Congressman John Conyers (then Chairman of the House Committee on Government Operations), on the basis of a leaked confidential Monsanto study revealing serious pathology in cows injected with rBGH, that "Monsanto and the FDA have chosen to suppress and manipulate animal health test data in efforts to approve commercial use of rBGH".
These considerations reinforce growing concerns on the extreme unreliability of Monsanto and other biotech industry claims of the safety of genetically modified soy and other foods, especially in the absence of comprehensive testing by independent scientific experts, who should be funded by industry and not consumers.
Press Release on "Monsanto's Genetically Modified Milk".
In response to the strong interest and supportive calls, apart from some narrow legalistic questions, on this press release, I would like to further clarify the Codex ruling.
Since 1995, the U.S. has pressured the Codex Commission to adopt a standard, based on tolerances or Maximum Residue Limits, for residues of rBGH in milk in attempts to prove its safety and promote its international export. At its June 30 meeting, the Commission unanimously rejected further consideration of this U.S. proposal, particularly in light of the recent Canadian ban or "notice of non-compliance", and of recent reports to the European Commission by two committees of independent international experts on the cancer and other risks of Monsanto's milk. By such action, the Commission explicitly ruled that national governments have absolute rights to decide whether or not to permit imports of rBGH milk in view of well based public health concerns. My August 18 press release is clearly consistent with these events, notwithstanding the self -interested protestations by spokesmen for the FDA, the highly flawed and unaccountable Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives and Monsanto.
It may be further noted that the premier health and science U.K. journalist George Monbiot in his July 22 article in The Guardian, reported that "three weeks ago the European Union routed an American attempt to force - - (Europe) to accept (rBGH milk) since safety concerns about rBGH milk could not be ignored". Monbiot also commented on the "deluge of absolutely no coverage at all" with which this unprecedented and momentous ruling against genetically modified food has been greeted.
Dr. Samuel Epstein M.D.
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