Antibiotics in Milk – A Killer


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Got Hormones -
The Controversial Milk Drug
that Refuses to Die
Article by Jeffrey M. Smith,
Author of - Seeds of Deception

Institute for Responsible Technology    Spilling the Beans, Dec. 1, 2004

(Note: The following information is carried in this website as a public 

"Effective December 1, 2004, as a current customer, you will have access to an 
increased supply of POSILAC."1 This news from Monsanto to its customers was 
disappointing for those around the world who understood its consequences. Back 
in January, the company announced that they would reduce their supply of the 
drug by 50%, after FDA inspectors discovered unacceptable levels of 
contamination. Many people hoped that Posilac would quietly disappear 
altogether. "If Monsanto gives this stuff up, it would be a godsend to both cows
and people,"2 said Rick North who heads up the campaign by Oregon Physicians for
Social Responsibility to fight the drug. But on October 8, 2004, Monsanto 
announced it would be increasing its supply back up to "at least 70%."

Posilac is a genetically engineered drug that increases milk production in cows 
by 10-15%. It is also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, rbGH, Bovine 
Somatotropin, BST, and "Crack for Cows." Its controversial history has left 
fifteen years of frustrated whistleblowers strewn in its wake.

Early casualties were scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
during the drug's evaluation. Chemist Joseph Settepani, in charge of quality 
control for the approval process of veterinary drugs at the Center for 
Veterinary Medicine (CVM), testified at a public hearing about threats to human 
safety. Soon after, he was reprimanded, threatened, stripped of 
responsibilities, and relocated a trailer at an experimental farm. In later 
testimony before a congressional subcommittee, Settepani said, "Dissent [atCVM] 
is not tolerated if it could seriously threaten industry profits."3

Division director Alexander Apostolou wrote in an affidavit, "Sound scientific 
procedures for evaluating human food safety of veterinary drugs have been 
disregarded. I have faced continuous pressure from my CVM superiors to reach 
scientific conclusions favorable to the drug industry. . . . In my time at CVM I
have witnessed drug manufacturer sponsors improperly influence the agency's 
scientific analysis, decision-making, and fundamental mission."4 Apostolou was 
forced out after he began to express his concerns.

FDA Veterinarian Richard Burroughs said that agency officials "suppressed and 
manipulated data to cover up their own ignorance and incompetence."5 He also 
described how industry researchers would often drop sick cows from studies, to 
make the drug appear safer. Burroughs had ordered more tests than the industry 
wanted and was told by superiors he was slowing down the approval. He was fired 
and his tests cancelled.

The remaining whistle-blowers in the FDA had to write an anonymous letter to 
Congress, complaining of fraud and conflict of interest in the agency. They 
described one FDA scientist who arbitrarily increased the allowable levels of 
antibiotics in milk 100-fold. This was necessary before approving rbGH. Since 
the drug increases the chance of udder infections, farmers inject cows with more
antibiotics. This leads to a higher risk of antibiotic resistant diseases in 
cows and humans. According to the letter, Margaret Miller authorized the 
increased levels. She had formerly conducted research on rbGH while with 
Monsanto and then moved into the FDA department that evaluated her own research.

Dr. Samuel Epstein, Professor at the University Of Illinois School Of Public 
Health, cited numerous potential or theoretical health dangers from rbGH, 
including "hormonal and allergic effects . . . premature growth and breast 
stimulation in infants," and possibly cancer in adults.6 Epstein also received 
an anonymous box of stolen files from the FDA. Documents revealed that in order 
to show that rbGH injections did not interfere with fertility, industry 
researchers allegedly added cows to the study that were pregnant prior to 
injection. Also, blood hormone levels skyrocketed by as much as a thousand-fold 
after injections.7

Monsanto tried to silence Epstein. Their public relations firm created a group 
called the Dairy Coalition, which included university researchers whose work was
funded by Monsanto, and selected "third party" experts and organizations. 
Representatives of the Dairy Coalition pressured editors of the USA Today, 
Boston Globe, New York Times and others, to limit coverage of Epstein.

Hormones in Your Milk:

Several claims made by FDA scientists in defense of rbGH have not held up under 
scrutiny. For example, they said that bovine growth hormone does not increase 
substantially in milk from treated cows. The study they cited, however, shows a 
26% increase in the hormone. Furthermore, researchers injected cows with only a 
10.6 mg daily dose of rbGH compared to the normal 500 mg bi-weekly dose used by 
farmers. In fact, they didn't even use Monsanto's rbGH, but rather another 
version that was never approved. They then pasteurized the milk 120 times longer
than normal in an apparent attempt to show that the hormone was destroyed during
the process. They only destroyed 19% of the hormone.8 They then spiked the milk 
with powdered hormone-146 times the naturally occurring levels-heated that 120 
times longer than normal, and were then able to destroy 90% of the hormone. FDA 
scientists reported that 90% of the hormone was destroyed during 

The hormone most critics are concerned about, however, is insulin-like growth 
factor 1 (IGF-1). Natural milk contains IGF-1. Milk drinkers increase their 
levels of IGF-1.10 Studies suggest that pre-menopausal women below 50 year old 
with high levels of IGF-1 are seven times more likely to develop breast 
cancer.11 Men are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer.12 IGF-1 is 
also implicated in lung and colon cancer. Milk from cows treated with rbGH has 
significantly higher levels of IGF-1.13 (No comprehensive study has evaluated a 
direct link between rbGH and human cancer.)

This potential link between rbGH and cancer was one of the many controversial 
topics to be covered in a four-part investigative news series at a Tampa-based 
Fox TV station. But four days before the series was to air, Fox received a 
threatening letter from Monsanto's attorney. They pulled the show. The station 
manager reviewed it, approved the content, and scheduled it for the following 
week. A second letter arrived from Monsanto's attorney, this time threatening 
"dire consequences for Fox News."14 The show was postponed indefinitely. Jane 
Akre and Steve Wilson, the award winning investigative reporters who had created
the report for Fox, say that they were offered hush money to leave the station 
and never speak about the story again. They declined. So Fox's corporate 
attorney led them in a series of rewrites, attempting to soften the language and
apparently appease Monsanto. Six months and 83 rewrites later, the reporters 
were ultimately fired for refusing to write in the script that the milk from 
treated cows was the same as normal milk. The reporters argued that that 
Monsanto's own research showed a difference, such as the increased IGF-1 levels,
and even the FDA scientists had acknowledged this.

The reporters sued. Akre was awarded $425,000 by a jury that agreed that Fox 
"acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs' news
reporting on BGH,"15 and that Akre's threat to blow the whistle was the reason 
she was fired. But an appeals court overturned the verdict on the grounds that 
the whistle-blower's statute only protects people who threaten to report a 
violation of a law, rule, or regulation. Distorting TV news, evidently, is not 
technically illegal. Akre and Wilson now have to pay a combined $196,500 to 
cover some of Fox's legal costs. This is on top of the $200,000 - $300,000 they 
already spent on their case.

Attacks on rbGH whistleblowers are not limited to the US. In 1998, six Canadian 
government scientists testified before the Senate that they were being pressured
by superiors to approve rbGH, even though they believed it was unsafe for the 
public. Their detailed critique of the FDA's evaluation of the drug showed how 
the US approval process was flawed and superficial. They also testified that 
documents were stolen from a locked file cabinet in a government office, and 
that Monsanto offered them a bribe of $1-2 million to approve the drug without 
further tests. (A Monsanto representative went on national Canadian television 
claiming that the scientists had obviously misunderstood an offer for research 
money.) The Canadian scientists later described how their superiors retaliated 
against them for testifying. They were passed over for promotions, given 
impossible tasks or no assignments at all, one was suspended without pay. Three 
of the whistleblowers, who also spoke out on such controversial topics as mad 
cow disease, were ultimately fired on July 14, 2004.

Most industrialized nations have banned rbGH. Within the US, many school systems
have also banned it and several dairies refuse to use it. Oakhurst Dairy of 
Portland, Maine, for example, requires its suppliers to sign a notarized 
affidavit every six months. The Oakhurst label stated, "Our Farmers' Pledge: No 
Artificial Growth Hormones." But on July 3, 2003, Monsanto sued the dairy over 
their labels. Oakhurst eventually settled with Monsanto, agreeing to include a 
sentence on their cartons saying that according to the FDA no significant 
difference has been shown between milk derived from rbGH-treated and 
non-rbGH-treated cows. The statement is not true. FDA scientists had 
acknowledged the increase of IGF-1 in milk from treated cows. Nonetheless, the 
misleading sentence had been written years earlier by the FDA's deputy 
commissioner of policy, Michael Taylor. Prior to becoming an FDA official, 
Taylor was Monsanto's outside attorney. He later worked at the USDA on biotech 
issues, and later became vice president of Monsanto.

Visit for a list of non-rbGH dairies, article 
references, and a free newsletter.

Publishers and webmasters may offer this article or monthly series to your 
readers at no charge by e-mailing a request to us. Individuals may read the 
column each month, by subscribing to a free newsletter at Also on the site, you will find these newsletters 
formatted as a two page handout.

© Copyright 2004 by Jeffrey M. Smith. Permission is granted to reproduce this in
whole or in part.

Note to subscribers: As of August, 2004, this publication no longer summarizes 
the news on genetically engineered foods and crops. This is because there are 
already other free electronic newsletters that do an excellent job of this. We 
recommend GM Watch, and The Campaign,

Emailed correspondence:

Craig Canine, "Hear No Evil: In its determination to become a model corporate 
citizen, is the FDA ignoring potential dangers in the nation's food supply?" 
Eating Well, July/August 1991

Samuel Epstein, "Growth Hormones Would Endanger Milk., "op-ed piece, Los Angeles
Times, July 27, 1989

Samuel Epstein and Pete Hardin, "Confidential Monsanto Research Files Dispute 
Many bGH Safety Claims," The Milkweed, January 1990

Robert Cohen, Milk, the Deadly Poison, Argus Publishing, Englewood Cliffs, New 
Jersey, 1998

Judith C. Juskevich and C. Greg Guyer, "Bovine Growth Hormone: Human Food Safety
Evaluation," Science, 1990, vol. 249, pp. 875-884

Robert P. Heaney and others, "Dietary changes favorably affect bone remodeling 
in older adults." Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 99, no. 10,
October 1999, pp. 1228-1233 and "Milk, Pregnancy, Cancer May Be Tied," Reuters, 
September 10, 2002

S. E. Hankinson, and others, "Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth 
factor 1 and risk of breast cancer," Lancet, vol. 351, no. 9113, 1998, pp. 

June M. Chan and others, "Plasma Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 [IGF-1] and 
Prostate Cancer Risk: A Prospective Study," Science, vol. 279, January 23, 1998,
pp. 563-566

C. G. Prosser and others, "Increased secretion of insulin-like growth factor-1 
into milk of cows treated with recombinantly derived bovine growth hormone," 
Journal of Dairy Science, vol. 56, 1989, pp. 17-26; and Peter Montague "Milk, 
rbGH, and Cancer," Rachel's Environment and Health News, no. 593, April 9, 1998

BGH Bulletin, Target Television Enterprises Inc.
© 2004 by Jeffrey M. Smith.
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