Panel finds no evidence of links between drinking milk from cows supplemented with rbST and human health risks 

Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Co.,  announced an independent panel of physicians, nutritionists and animal scientists has completed a thorough review of the research and published a summary paper addressing scientific issues relevant to recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), the supplement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for increasing milk production in lactating dairy cows. Led by Richard Raymond, M.D., former undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and former chief medical officer of Nebraska, the panel addressed questions and concerns on rbST pertaining to general biology, human health and animal health, nutritional content, environmental impact and milk quality.

The paper is the first comprehensive review and compilation of scientific data since the initial documentation was provided to the FDA in support of the approval of rbST. The paper was presented at the 2009 Joint Meeting of American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA), Canadian Society of Animal Science (CSAS) and American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) in Montreal, Canada.

“Upon extensive review of the scientific data, particularly the data on human health, the panel concludes with confidence that milk from rbST-supplemented cows, like all milk – organic, conventional or rbST-free – is a good and wholesome source of vital nutrients,” said Dr. Raymond. “In addition, contrary to some claims, there is no scientific link between drinking milk from cows supplemented with rbST and any human health issues, including the decline in age of puberty and the risk of breast cancer.”

The safety of milk and meat from cows supplemented with rbST has been comprehensively and consistently documented. Specific to human safety, regulatory authorities, together with their scientific assessment bodies, in 56 countries, including Australia, Canada, European Union member states, South Korea and the United States, have determined that milk and meat products from cows supplemented with rbST are safe for consumption by people of all ages.1,2,3,4 In addition, scientific bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have reached the same conclusions. Furthermore, all major global dairy markets have no restrictions on the import of dairy products from rbST-supplemented cows.

“One of the myths about rbST percolating in the public is that drinking milk from rbST-supplemented cows causes breast cancer. This is false as the evidence does not support any cause and effect, and the actual rate of breast cancer in women in the United States has been declining in recent years,” said David Clemmons, M.D., Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “In fact, in 75 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, there are no known risk factors other than age and living in Western society.”

Ronald Kleinman, M.D., Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School, added: “The public should know that bST, by nature, is a major regulator of milk production in lactating dairy cows. Also, hormones are naturally present in foods consumed by humans, regardless of whether they are sourced from animals or plants. Dairy products are natural, nutritious foods and science has shown that milk from rbST-supplemented cows is indistinguishable from organic or rbST-free milk. In fact, conventional milk has the same levels of hormones and nutrient composition as milk labeled as rbST-free or organic.”

The FAO has stated that within 50 years, as the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, global food needs will have increased by 100 percent, of which 70 percent of that increase will have to come from improved agricultural efficiencies and advances since there is not enough water, land and natural resources to meet these food needs. 5,6,7 rbST is one example of the kinds of efficient food production practices that will help feed the world.

Members of the rbST expert paper panel include:
• Richard Raymond, M.D., former undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
• Connie W. Bales, Ph.D., R.D., associate research professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center
• Dale Bauman, Ph.D., Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Animal Science and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University
• David Clemmons, M.D., professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina
• Ronald Kleinman, M.D., Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School
• Dante Lanna, Ph.D., professor of Biotechnology and Animal Metabolism at University of São Paulo
• Stephen Nickerson, Ph.D., professor of Lactation Physiology at the University of Georgia
• Kristen Sejrsen, Ph.D., associate professor at Aarhus University, College of Agricultural Sciences

In March and April 2009, the expert panel assembled for two meetings, chaired by Dr. Raymond and sponsored by Elanco, during which the expert paper was independently developed by these experts.

Additional information about Elanco is available at www.elanco.com.

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Click here to view the expert paper.


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