The artificial growth hormone rBST is sometimes referred to as “crack for cows” because it kicks the bovines into overdrive, making them produce 10-25% more milk than they would otherwise–leading to more profit per cow. Aside from any animal welfare implications (reportedly, cows injected with the hormone are more likely to get udder infections), there are differences between milk produced by cows injected with rBST and cows that are not injected, and some of those differences, like an increase in an insulin-like hormone in rBST-produced milk, might have an effect on our health.
But the Kansas State Legislature recently passed a bill that would place this label on milk that’s not produced by cows treated with rBST:
The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST-supplemented cows.
Obviously, the label is meant to discourage consumers from buying non-rBST-supplemented milk. After all, the milk produced with rBST is cheaper, so why not buy it if there’s no difference?
The idea that there is no difference between the two is based on an 18-year-old study by the FDA, but studies in the intervening years have shown that there are differences in the milk’s make-up, but it’s still unclear whether or not those differences are harmful to humans. Obviously, Eli Lilly, which owns rBST would prefer that we not look into it too closely.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius must veto the bill by end of the day today, or the bill will pass into law. Groups representing consumers, farmers and organic purveyors have petitioned the governor to act.