3 September 1999

EU moratorium on BST milk booster to stay?

US global trade policies have been dealt a powerful blow, following a decision by the United Nations food safety forum, Codex, to postpone setting international standards for the milk boosting hormone BST.

According to US academic and long-time BST opponent Samuel Epstein, the move has forced Washington to abandon its challenge to the EUs six year moratorium on the product, due for review later this year.

"It is now 15 years since Monsanto embarked on a series of large scale veterinary trials on BST (in the US and Europe), and sold milk from these trials to an unsuspecting public," says Prof Epstein, of the University of Illinois school of public health.

"Since then, Monsanto and the US Food and Drug Administration, supported by the National Dairy Council and an overwhelmingly uncritical media, have ignored or trivialised substantial scientific evidence on the hazards of BST milk."

Prof Epstein maintains that Codex has now ruled in favour of the EU moratorium, while the US has "bowed to the inevitable and failed to challenge this ruling".

That is dismissed by the animal health companies, which point out that the Codex Commission merely postponed standards – in particular on maximum residue levels – when it met in July.

"But this will delay any decision for at least another two years, a surprising development considering these standards have already been held up for the past four years," says manufacturers body COMISA.

In the absence of any clear guidance from Codex, an extension to the EUs moratorium at the end of the year seems inevitable.

Two EU Commission reports released in the spring revealed considerable animal welfare problems with BST. There were also human health concerns relating to the increase in insulin-like growth factor 1, which posed a cancer risk.

Earlier this year, Canada broke ranks with the US and decided, for animal health and welfare reasons, not to license BST.