In May 2011, I wrote an article entitled, rBGH Milk Production: Animal Cruelty, Genetically Modified Hormones and E. Coli. In this article I detailed the process of manufacturing the genetically modified growth hormone used in dairy cows under the guise of increased milk production. I also discussed the horrid conditions the animals are forced to live under as a result of this money making scheme.
But there is yet one more concern regarding the addition of rBGH to dairy cows that harkens back to the issue of mastitis. Besides the immense discomfort caused to the animals, mastitis requires treatment with antibiotics which has been linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting humans.
Because the types of antibiotics used in the animals are often the same kind used in humans (such as penicillin, ampicillin, and doxycycline), bacteria that become resistant to these medicines in cows are also resistant to them in humans if they are transmitted. Indeed, such transmission is quite possible. In fact, not only is transmission possible, but it is likely, as these bacteria can be transmitted through the water and air, through the meat we consume, and by flies. This should be especially alarming considering the recent concern over antibiotic resistance voiced even by organizations such as the CDC.
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Another concern is that residues of these antibiotics remain in the milk of dairy cows and meat of beef herds. The introduction of antibiotics into a food animal’s system for the treatment of a disease such as mastitis is bad enough. However, that is not the only application they are used for. It is estimated that close to 70% of all antimicrobial use, for any purpose, is given to animals that are not even sick.
In these instances, the antibiotics are used as a growth stimulant, or as a preventative measure to keep them from becoming ill. This figure does not include antibiotics used to treat mastitis or some other sickness. When one factors in the amount of antibiotics used to treat an actual illness, the percentage comes closer to 80%. This is one of the main reasons the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that the FDA withhold approval of rBGH.
Yet, although growth issues as well as antibiotic resistance are major issues, the possibility of the resulting under-nutrition is rarely talked about. The fact is that even the medical applications of antibiotics have a detrimental effect on the digestive system. These medications do not discriminate against which bacteria they attack and destroy. Therefore, good, helpful bacteria needed for the process of digestion is killed alongside that which is causing the sickness. The digestive system is then not able to break down and absorb the food as well as it once could, thus resulting in under-nutrition and a host of subsequent health problems.
It stands to reason, then, that the addition of antibiotics to our food and milk would increase the amount of health-promoting bacteria that is destroyed. The unbelievable amount of antibiotics used in food animals can quite possibly be linked to many apparently “unrelated” health problems that are themselves a result of lack of adequate nutrition.
The FDA’s position regarding rBGH is one of open denial. In their response to a citizen petition against rBGH, they state, “FDA has previously maintained and continues to maintain that levels of IGF-1 in milk, whether or not from rBGH supplemented cows, are not significant when evaluated against levels of IGF-1 endogenously produced and present in humans.” As I discussed in an earlier article, this statement alone flies in the face of sound science proving otherwise. But that has never stopped the FDA before, and it is not likely to stop it now.
For instance, when the question of increased cases of mastitis first arose, the FDA refused to acknowledge that rBGH caused an increase in the infection. However, even the GAO couldn’t ignore that it was a major contributing factor, and suggested that the FDA withhold its approval of rBGH until the question was resolved.
Yet, even as late as 1993, the FDA maintained that there was no increase in mastitis due to rBGH. However, as a result of the GAO recommendation, the FDA was forced to revise its stance. After further review by the FDA Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee, the FDA had to admit that the rate of mastitis was significantly higher with the treatment of rBGH.
Still, the FDA, in the face of all the evidence available to themselves and the public, refused to admit that there were any health risks to humans from the use of the hormone, IGF-1, or the use of antibiotics stemming from the higher levels of infection and preventive measures. Interestingly enough, while the agency claims that there is no evidence that these issues are cause for concern, it is also busy harassing and arresting raw milk producers, while former Monsanto lawyer and current Obama food safety chief, Michael Taylor, defends the raids.
With such Orwellian logic being utilized by the FDA, and with the obvious benefits that corporations would reap from these policies, some of us might even go so far as to suggest there might be a conspiracy.
Additional resources and notes:
 Smith, David L., Harris, Anthony D., Johnson, Judith A., Silbergeld, Ellen K., Morris, Glen Jr., “Animal antibiotic use has an early but important impact on the emergence of antibiotic resistance in human commensal bacteria.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 99. No. 9, April 30, 2002.
 Mellon, Margaret, Benbrook, Charles and Benbrook, Karen. “Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock.” Union of Concerned Scientists. January 2001.
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University where he earned the Pee Dee Electric Scholar’s Award as an undergraduate. He has had numerous articles published dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, and civil liberties. He also the author of Codex Alimentarius – The End of Health Freedom and 7 Real Conspiracies.