Bovine Growth Hormone Withers Away | Seventh Generation
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Bovine Growth Hormone Withers Away

Author: the Inkslinger

Cows"This is the way the world ends," wrote T.S. Eliot in his poem, the Hollow Men. "Not with a bang but a whimper." So it is with our own unsustainable world as well. There's no magic switch to hit. No watershed event on the way. We're not going to wake up one morning to newspaper headlines trumpeting a future suddenly arrived. Instead, the change we seek will come through a series of small and often unnoticed steps. The latest of these was taken last week as genetic engineering giant Monsanto put its bovine growth hormone business up for sale.

rBGH, as its called, is a fairly famous (read: notorious) genetically engineered product that makes cows produce more milk. As bad as it for bovines, it’s considered worse for people. And so the battle over this technology has raged for years with Monsanto vociferously fighting rBGH labeling efforts and regulatory action with a take-no-prisoners zeal that tells us their investment here was huge. Now, however, as supermarket chains refuse to carry milk from rBGH cows, they’re waving the white flag of surrender.

Coming after all the money the company has spent to develop and defend rBGH, this is an extraordinary change of heart, and hiding inside it is a tremendous victory for public health, right-to-know labeling, and a sustainable world. Monsanto won’t say it, but clearly they’ve read the handwriting on the wall, and it says this game is over. Yes, the company is simply selling its rBGH business and whoever buys it will at least for a while continue to engage in this bit of mad science, but few companies have the clout of Monsanto or the budget to wage such massive legal and legislative war on consumer choice and food safety. So while rBGH may remain on the market, we’ll now always be able to avoid it and can watch as now largely uncontested consumer objections rule the day.

That Monsanto would give up after such a long and bitterly contested battle for public rBGH acceptance is yet another remarkable development in a series of subtle but telling shifts that are slowly but inexorably changing the way things are. It joins recent news about phthalate bans and phosphate phase-outs as yet another nail in the coffin of an unsustainable world. But the symbolism here may be our biggest yet. Because Monsanto’s defeat (and let’s be clear: PR bluster aside, the rBGH sale represents an unprecedented drubbing) tells us that we consumers can win the big battles and that companies aren’t automatically endowed with an inalienable right to make our decisions for us. Life doesn’t need to be the way corporate bullies tell us it’s going to be. When we push back, our families and our kids will get the world we want for them.

photo: Mats Lindh


CarolineCurtis picture
What good is it to use soymilk? First of all, humans cannot properly digest unfermented soy products, and too much soy adds too many additional hormones to our systems. Why do you think children are developing and entering puberty earlier than ever? This all started when the soy movement picked up speed in the 60's and 70's. Also, most soy is produced using GMOs. I do not see much difference between the added "non-human" hormones in milk/beef and the added "non-human" hormones in soy. They are both not bio-identical to that of humans and therefore are unnatural to the human system.
XNoelleX picture
What more can I say
Summer98 picture
This is a step in the right direction. However, if we want to really show them our thoughts, then please, avoid all dairy products and choose vegan (vegetarian) instead. Buy soymilk!
kathyw picture
Monsanto's rbGH unit may be sold but don't let down your guard. Keep pressure on your lawmakers to avoid what is happening in Ohio and Illinois (see: Monsanto got the ball rolling in those states to enact laws banning disclosure on dairy labels of rbGH content. It's doubtful the new owners will let up on efforts to block truthful labeling.
chefdebbie picture
I read the article about Cornell and in it it states "to produce the same amount of milk, you need fewer animal", but if we had more of the animals, we could,(actually very easily) appreciate those cows for the methane they put off and in-fact help the fuel problem at least a little. Im willing to go "shovel" ya know for fuel. We all need to sick together here. Lets go bio-fuel. Being a chef I really welcome biofuel. Yall should also check out info on switchgrass becoming fuel. What a great Idea. We all need to get off our butts....
chefdebbie picture
As a chef I have not bought or try not to buy milk with the stuff, and my husband is a milk baby!! Hooray for us!! I am so glad that they finally "Got IT" and read between the lines. Here we come E-Lilly! Love the "We will not wake up one morning to headlines....... I believe we can win, little by little.
catspal picture
Farm animals are fed huge amounts of antibiotics & hormones as well as kept in unnatural/unhealthy conditions. What they eat goes into our bodies. The solution - move towards a veggie based diet.
whiskerchild picture
It's about time we showed those arrogant jerks at Monsanto a thing or two. I haven't bought ANY dairy product with that stuff in it for years, and I DO buy dairy! Hurray!
jengre picture
Loved the article, and yes this is a sign of how we as consumers can make an impact on what is in our food. Lets keep our guard up though, Eli Lilly making the purchase worries me. A big pharmaceutical company with this is only going to try and figure out a way to disguise and remarket this toxin into a profit!
jessica_shore picture
loved your article..."We're not going to wake up one morning to newspaper headlines trumpeting a future suddenly arrived." :)
mlucas0545 picture
Monsanto sold their entire rBGH unit to Elanco, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly. Now we have to go after Elanco.
quite contrary gardens picture
quite contrary gardens
Please see the active debate in Ithaca, NY regarding the July 17, 2008 Ithaca Journal article, "Cornell Moves Towards Sustainability: Bovine Growth Hormone Touted as 'Green'". and the published 'green' growth hormone study.