26 March 1999

EUs hormoneban backed up by two reports

By Jonathan Riley

TWO new reports have raised health fears about the milk boosting hormone bovine somatotrophin (BST), fuelling arguments over the continuation of an EU ban on the products use.

The drug, made by Monsanto, is a synthetic form of a bovine growth hormone and is banned in the EU under a nine-year moratorium.

But, with the ban due to end on Dec 31, 1999, the EU Commission has been told by the World Trade Organisation that it must have scientific evidence to justify any extension.

An EU spokesman said: "To comply with this ruling we commissioned the reports and will decide on our next step when their suggestions have been considered."

In the first of the reports, the EUs Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health suggested BST could cause a fivefold increase in the levels of a protein called Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) in cows milk.

High levels of IGF-1 in humans has been linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer in men, and breast cancer in women. The committee also referred to potential secondary risks, such as an increase in allergic reactions.

In a second report, the 18 members of the EUs Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare voted unanimously against the use of BST in dairy cows. The report said that BST caused injection site reactions and substantially increased foot problems and mastitis in dairy cows.

It added: "These conditions are painful and debilitating, leading to significantly poorer welfare of the animals. BST also causes reproductive disorders. Therefore, from the point of view of animal welfare and health, this substance should not be used."

Pressure on

But Roger Cook of the National Office of Animal Health hit back at the reports claiming that the EUs consumer affairs unit (DG 24) had put pressure on scientists in the two committees. He said the reports were a thinly-veiled attempt by DG 24 to justify extending the moratorium on BST.

"It seems even the scientists are being corrupted in the EU because a third group – the EU committee on veterinary and medicinal products – have found BST to be safe and there is little publicity for that report," said Mr Cook.

"If BST is, therefore, safe there is no reason for the moratorium to be extended and British dairy farmers should be free to use this product."