> What are the specific, demonstrable facts which warrant objection to BST?
Those of us here in the Biotechnology Information Center/USDA Natl. Ag.
Library are very familiar with the great BST debate. I will attempt to
summarize it for you, as objectively as possible.
Unfortunately, most of the "facts" surrounding the BST controversy are
unavoidably contained in a very subjective context. This is because:
1.much of the controversy over the use of BST stems from a consideration of
ethics. (Not everyone holds the same idea of what constitutes ethical
action For an example of Monsanto's sense of ethics, see Safe Food News, Oct
2. The various testing that has been done by scientists in
several different realms (academia, industry, government) is itself a
point of dispute. Depends on who you talk to and what their vested
interests are (mainly either personal profit, consumer safety, or animal
welfare). It is a FACT that the FDA has approved the use of BST despite
evidence from some researches that there could be health risks to
consumers. The General Accounting Office (the government "Watch-dog"
office that puts out objective reports which are often ignored) issued a
report last August that said approval should be withheld until "the mastitis
issue is resolved". (See below for details).
In addition, I would say that it is not entirely appropriate to look at
this from a perspective which only considers "facts", since the
most hotly debated issue, namely economic impact, has only been speculated
upon: noone can be absolutely certain what the results will be unless and
until BST actually goes on the market and is used over a long enough period
of time to observe the impacts.
In general, those who care about the interests of non agribusiness-scale
farmers acknowledge the prediction made by a number of agricultural
economists that small farmers will be hurt (for example, Loren Tauer, Prof.
of Ag. Econ. at Cornell - cited in the Cornell Chronicle 7/8/93 on this
list), while those who are interested in seeing large-scale farmers and the
makers of BST succeed insist this won't be the case, or that, even if it
happens, it is not a bad thing - a clash of ethics at work here.
However, for your information, here are a few of the "demonstrable facts" to
which you refer:
* A number of researchers have observed that cows treated with BST have
more udder infections (mastitis), which makes it necessary for them to be
treated with more antibiotics than usual. This, in turn, results in higher levels of
antiobiotic residues in milk. There is concern that intake of such
residues in milk (and meat) is behind the current problem of
antibiotic-resistance in some people for whom antibiotics are prescribed to
treat infection. Use of BST has the potential to exacerbate this problem.
* An article in Biotechnology Newswatch, Mon. Aug. 2, 1993, titled
"Sustainable agriculture scientists say biotech milk booster is bound to
flop", some scientists also believe that increased BST in milk may
stimulate allergic reactions.
* According to William Liebhart, director of the UC-Davis Sustainble Ag.
Research and Ed. Program, BST-treated cows eat more grain and less grass
(feed energy requirements increase), leading to increased erosion and more
fertilizer and pesticide use.
The MAIN IDEA (aside from obviously increasing the profits of the
drug/chemical companies that manufacture it) behind the use of BST is to
produce the same amount of milk from fewer cows, which would supposedly
make production more efficient and less costly overall. Indeed, some
people regard BST as a product looking for a market - it wasn't the farmers
who came up with the idea.
One other consideration is concern for the well-being of the cows
themselves. Annual milk production per cow has increased by several
thousand gallons over the last four decades without supplemental
BST, just as result of changes in feed and selective breeding. Many of
those concerned with animal welfare say that causing udders to swell even
further will put the cows in extreme discomfort.
So - there you have it. I hope this helps you in deciding one way or the
other, whatever your interest is. If you would like more detailed
information, let me know.
Lara Wiggert email@example.com
Technical Information Assistant voice: 301-504-5947
Biotechnology Information Center FAX: 301-504-7098
USDA National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Blvd.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351