Thesis: Biotech in the Food Chain

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rBST in the Milk Supply

Position Statement: Is rBST Safe?

Dr. John Doe, American Medical Association

Biotechnology has gained momentum in the human food chain since the late 1990s. The use of Biotechnology allows producers to increase their production and their profitability. We can be certain that these new food products have gone through rigorous testing according to FDA protocol before entering into the market, but one must ask if this is enough. This research will support the position that the decision to allow GMOs, and other biotechnologically altered foods into the marketplace is premature, as not enough studies have been conducted as to the long-term effects of them in the human food supply. It will particularly focus on the use of rBST in the milk supply.

What's the Big Deal?

The question of whether biotechnology has long-term harmful effects surfaces every time a new technology is introduced that involves human enhancement or manipulation of the food supply. Of those that have surfaced in the past, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) has been a topic of fervent controversy since its discovery.

Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that is produced naturally by the pituitary gland of cattle. Through the use of recombinant gene technologies, researchers have learned to make an exact copy of the hormone known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) ( Somatrophins are growth hormones and are found in every living creature. The use of growth hormones in cattle and its potential to harm humans through the introduction of these hormones into the human endocrine system are of key concerns for opponents of the use of rBST.

Monsanto, Inc. is currently the only company producing rBST, marketing it under the trade name, Posilac (Monsanto, 2007). According to the Monsanto company, approximately one-third (nearly 9 million) dairy cows in the United States are now supplemented with Posilac. The Monsanto corporation claims that over 99% of producers currently using Posilac report increases in mild production (Monsanto. 2007). However, the methods used for arriving at these numbers is not known. One must also consider that the source may be biased, as they are the only producer of the pharmaceutical product.

The controversy picked up speed when a group of milk advertisers began advertising their milk as free from rBST. Although there was no evidence that rBST was harmful to humans, this labeling tactic placed the ideas in the consumer's mind that milk without rBST was better for them. This inadvertently led to the assumption that milk containing rBST may be harmful. This erupted into a battle in the dairy industry between those who wished to reap the production benefits of rBST against those who were wary of its effects on humans.

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association has the most comprehensive collection of clinical studies on rBST and many factors associated with it. However, much of the research centers on production and cattle issues, rather than human consumption issues.The original study, conducted by Monsanto and used as evidence for the licensing of rBST is unpublished and is unavailable to the public for perusal (FDA, n.d.). The public has no way to examine the original study that was used to determine that rBST was safe in the human food chain. It cannot be determined if bias, confounding variables, sampling issues, or other problems in research technique were present that would have led to a different conclusion.

The most widely cited study by proponents of rBST use was conducted by Vicini, Etherton, & Etherton et al. (2008). They examined label claims, as compared to farm management practices. This study found that no differences were found regarding milk labeled as rBST-free or any other type of milk. The sampling method tested milk off the store shelves from several different locations. It many be noted that this study was conducted and funded by the Monsanto corporation. It also may be noted that some larger commercial operations sell their milk to aggregators who pasteurize and process it. Milk in retail cartons may contain milk from as many as five or… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Biotech in the Food Chain.  (2008, December 22).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Biotech in the Food Chain."  22 December 2008.  Web.  19 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Biotech in the Food Chain."  December 22, 2008.  Accessed July 19, 2019.