A densely worded, 11-page assessment reaffirms the safety of rBST use in dairy cows. The report, funded and sponsored by Elanco, was released at the American Dairy Science Association annual meeting in Montreal in July.
The assessment, conducted by four medical doctors and five scientists, cites 66 research papers on rBST, including work that was done both before and after rBST was approved for use in U.S. lactating dairy cows in 1993. Dale Bauman, a Cornell University dairy scientist, and Steve Nickerson, a mastitis researcher at the University of Georgia, were part of the assessment team.
The team's conclusion: "Milk from rBST-supplemented cows has been a part of the U.S. food supply since receiving FDA approval over 15 years ago and its use has not been associated with any scientifically documented detrimental effects on human health.”
The assessment delves into common questions about rBST, including accusations that it is responsible for early onset of puberty in girls, breast cancer in women and higher levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in milk that lead to increased rates of cancer. In each case, the team found no correlation with rBST.
The authors also cite environmental benefits of using rBST. They note that six cows supplemented with rBST can produce as much milk as seven unsupplemented cows, which means one less cow is consuming feed and water and producing manure.
"If just 15% of the U.S. dairy herd was supplemented with rBST, the environmental gains of this reduction in the environmental impact would be equal to that produced on 540,000 acres of farmland, a reduction in enough fossil fuel to heat 15,000 homes and a reduction in water sufficient to supply 10,000 homes.”
The authors argue that rBST offers economic benefits as well. Withdrawal of the product would increase milk prices 6¢/gal. to 12¢/gal. and cheese prices 7½¢/lb. to 15¢/lb. If only 20% of the nation's cows were supplemented with rBST, the annual savings to U.S. consumers would be approximately $400 million.