I came across a fellow blogger sharing a YouTube video making its way around the web today featuring a pair of “investigative reporters” who claim Monsanto got them fired for a piece they did criticizing rBST several years ago. I won’t share the video myself because I don’t tend to spread anti-biotech propaganda, but if you choose to visit the blog where I found it, you’re welcome to do so. I did, however, want to share my response to the video because I think it bears repeating given the growing power the “anti’s” have in the marketplace and especially in government. From my comments at the Aude Sapere blog:
The problem with this piece is the reliance on Canadian “research” and governmental concerns while dismissing out of hand the research of Land Grant Universities in the United States and the oversight of the FDA. For over 10 years, Monsanto sold rBST under the trade name Posilac in the United States with no evidence of any human health issues, and certainly with no connection to increased incidences of cancer.
The basic flaw in the “investigators” method here was the basic difference in paradigm between the United States and Canada/Europe. The Canadian/European mindset is one that assumes that all biotechnological advancement of agriculture is wrong and should be dismissed and discredited. The Europeans are subject to numerous international trade disputes where sound science has proven that biotechnology is perfectly safe relative to human and animal health, and yet the European community has banned the use of these products and practices. An almost identical frame of mind is often in force in Canada relative to these issues.
The United States’ paradigm, fortunately, has traditionally been of increased efficiency and productivity through a reliance on sound science. The hormone BST occurs naturally in dairy cattle. The Posilac product simply introduces a synthetic version of that naturally occurring into the equation, thereby stimulating additional milk production. To use the word “adulterated” in this piece betrays the reporter’s bias against biotechnology, as the term would typically mean the introduction of some foreign compound of danger or other contamination. In the case of rBST, the hormone occurs in the product regardless, so there is no “adulteration.”
Finally, as to this conspiracy theory that somehow Monsanto bribed or bullied every reputable scientist to study this product from academia and the federal government is farcical. Speaking as an agricultural journalist myself, we have reported on issues related to Monsanto in its various businesses, and not once been coerced, threatened, mistreated, or handled in any other way than as a professional reporter.
The issues addressed vis a vis Monsanto’s alleged letters to Fox were almost certainly generated under previous management of Monsanto, which has undergone significant corporate changes in the last 10-15 years; be that as it may, the premise of the story was flawed in the first place. Everything after that, i.e. Fox’s reaction to Monsanto’s concerns about a story founded on an erroneous set of assumptions, is a separate issue.
Monsanto, for what its worth, no longer owns the Posilac brand, and no longer produces rBST in the marketplace. Because of flawed reporting as the story produced by these “investigators” combined with fearmongering by environmentalists and anti-biotech activists, the technology rBST is slowly being pushed out of the marketplace by the organic and “all natural” food marketing trend.
To that end, I always encourage food marketers to be very careful. Generally, marketing a niche food product by disparaging the “commodity” product – i.e. “hormone-free” milk versus milk from cows treated with rBST – leads to an overall loss in demand for the product, which benefits no one. In other words, by convincing consumers that milk from cows treated with rBST will cause fits, warts, and freckles, these food marketers have likely driven a segment of the consuming public to alternative beverages like colas or the ever-growing bottled water segment.
Unfortunately, these niche marketers have found few successful advertising tactics for their products aside from demonizing the “commodity” product. After all, what is the benefit of “hormone free” milk if Posilac won’t actually kill you after all?