Monsanto’s Desperate Plea

It’s just not a level playing field anymore says St. Louis based biotech conglomerate Monsanto.

Through deceptive practices and misleading advertising dairies and milk processors are convincing the American public that there’s something wrong with rBST produced milk and they shouldn’t be drinking it.

Dairy after dairy is slapping “rBST-free” and “no artificial growth hormones” on their milk–and it’s working!

The public is asking for rBST-free milk–an “artificial demand” says Monsanto, no pun intended–and milk processors are starting to penalize dairies still using rBST.

Even Starbucks has seen the sales figures on the wall and renounced the controversial supplement; Chipotle vows to be next.

But it’s no fair, says Monsanto in letters to the FDA and FTC asking the agencies to regulate their competitors.

Not only is there no difference between the two kinds of milk–if you disregard articles like the one linking rBST to ovarian hyperstimulation in the May 2006 Journal of Reproductive Medicine–consumers “pay higher prices for milk and get nothing in return” when they buy rBST-free milk says Monsanto.

Farmers will have a hard time trying to “operate profitably” without the drug and
supplies themselves may start dwindling as milk processors and co-ops favor rBST-free producers.

Just look at some of the things Monsanto competitors are saying.

“By not using rBST, we protect the health of our cows, their milk and our customers,” proclaims Dean Foods owned Alta Dena Dairy on its web site.

“Since 1857, Borden has taken a lot of pride in providing customers with premium, great tasting dairy products. That’s why we work exclusively with farmers that supply 100% of our milk from cows that haven’t been treated with artificial hormones.”

“We treat our cows with love not rBGH [rBST],” says Kleinpeter Dairy in Louisiana on its milk cartons. “Many people believe that rBGH causes premature puberty in children. We want you to know that Kleinpeter Dairy is concerned about your children’s healthy growth and wellbeing. Let our family comfort yours in this regard because our kids drink Kleinpeter milk, too!”

One dairy even has a web site where milk drinkers are “congratulated” for making “the decision to go rBGH free.”

Is that fair?

Created by combining cow DNA with E coli, (yes, that E coli) Monsanto’s genetically modified recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST, was fast tracked–two FDA staffers were formerly with Monsanto–into the US food supply, unlabeled, in 1994.

It was never approved in the EU, Canada, Japan and most of the industrialized world.

But some never drank the milk shake.

Canadian scientists say Monsanto buried incriminating rat toxicity studies which demonstrated thyroid cysts and prostate concentrations.

Veterinarians report mastitis and lameness in treated cows–whose trip to the slaughterhouse comes quicker, often as downers, thanks to rBST–leading to pus and antibiotics in the milk.

Others contend the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) found in rBST has fueled the breast, colon and prostate epidemics witnessed in the US in the last decade.

Now Monsanto wants to kill the messenger.

In February, its Chief Counsel, Brian Robert Lowry, asked Sheldon Bradshaw, the Food and Drug administration’s Chief Counsel, to issue warning letters to marketers bashing rBST.

Their “deceptive milk labeling practices have misled consumers about the quality, safety or value of milk and milk products supplemented with recombinant bovine somatropin,” he wrote.

Of course a biotech multinational seeking more government intervention seems unusual.

Especially with Monsanto’s reputation for trying to corner world food markets and flooding the food supply with unlabeled genetically modified products with undisclosed risks.

But at least Monsanto is playing fair.

It didn’t, after all, create a doomsday mechanism for cows not treated with rBST to make them die so they can’t reproduce.

At least not yet.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is a Staff Cartoonist at the Evanston Roundtable. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal. Arizona Republic, New Orleans Times-Picayune and other newspapers.  She can be reached at:


Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).