Regarding the health issue (of animals, of soils, of farms/ecosystems):
see above. Good management has far more to do with health than any
product, be it a drug or BST. I would venture to say that most of the top
dairy managers, including the many using BST, have healthier herds than
dairy producers who cannot use BST because they cannot manage their cows
well enough. An example: I recently visited a top dairy farm in my area.
The milk production was very high, 3x milking, BST. All the cows had
excellent access to superior feed, well-ventilated and comfortable bedding,
etc. These cows were clearly very healthy.
Also, this farmer definitely "liked" his cows - he would have spent all
day talking about them. Was BST an additional stress on them? No doubt.
But in my view, these cows were so "intensively managed" that they were
far better off than in a poorly ventilated barn, with poor feed that
undercut their genetic ability, and contributed to financial losses (Not
that small farmers farm this way -
the good ones don't). This farmer told us about one cow who had aborted
just before she was due to go dry. Most farmers would cull this cow. But
this guy shot her up with BST, and she produced economical amounts of
milk until he bred her again. Did BST "save"this cow? Maybe, but it's a
good example of BST extending lactation at very profitable levels (the cow
was producing 90+ lbs. milk). This farmer (and others like him) are
clearly making money with BST.
If Monsanto is making money, I don't know.
I heard they turned a profit on it this past quarter. If they are making a
profit on a product that intelligent farmers want to buy, I don't have a
problem with it.
Finally, I would like to dispel the notion that dairy products are in
continual oversupply. They aren't: milk prices have shot up in past
months due to an undersupply of milk. Government purchases (the measure
of oversupply) have been low to nil the past five years or so, and in
fact dairy stocks have been called dangerously low. It is certainly
possible to overproduce milk - we did it a lot in the 80's. It just
hasn't happened recently, so I don't see how BST is a big issue yet with
oversupply. I'm not sure limiting supply is a good idea in the world of
agriculture, although it sounds great. However, what may happen is that
prices rise for your product, and people buy something else (another
food, another brand, another country's product). This happened with U.S.
lamb, and now nobody eats lamb (except in New Zealand, where they
produced lots of it). I find it increasingly difficult to justify
production limits (except for specific environmental reasons) where there
are so many countries that very much want to buy food from us to meet
I do think that food should be labelled, and it's everyone's right to
make a choice of what they buy. I did observe that when we labelled milk
here in Vermont, consumers didn't much care what milk they bought
although they were dead against BST in every poll.
(Bob, I hope you don't take this as a "flame" since I don't mean it as
such, and enjoy reading what you have to say. Just my 2 cents worth.)
360 South Winooski Ave
Burlington, VT 05401
On Wed, 13 Nov 1996, Bob MacGregor wrote:
> I think that the big danger from rBST is not to human health, but to the
> small, less intensively managed dairy farms. Initially, it looked like rBST
> was going to be another case of the technological treadmill (or, the
> Prisoner's Dilemma, perhaps). That is, everyone would have to use it to
> keep from being left behind.
> However, my perspective now is that, for the most part, rBST is only
> cost-effective for very large, intensively-managed operations (IF AT
> ALL). Thus, any scale advantages that these operations already have
> might be magnified by using rBST. The herd health problems associated
> with use of rBST can only be mitigated with very intensive (and
> expensive) herd health management (often involving more intensive drug
> therapy for mastitis control!).
> Also, the majority of dairy farmers that I know of (farmers with 30 to 60
> cows), like their animals too much to consider inflicting additional
> stresses on them -- they cull when they have to, but don't want to see
> the turnover rate go up a lot, as it is likely to do if they used rBST.
> Finally, in North America at least, dairy farmers suffer from an
> oversupply of milk. Producing yet more milk, at lower prices, won't make
> dairy farmers better off, but it may well reduce the total number of them.