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Council of Canadians opposes the entry of BGH milk into Canada through the Trans-Pacific Partnership


Dairy farmers protest in Ottawa, September 29, 2015. Photo by Brent Patterson.

In 1998 the Council of Canadians won a moratorium against the use of Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) in Canada.

This morning, the CBC reports, “As dairy imports from the United States appear set to increase under the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Canadian consumers concerned about drinking milk from cows receiving hormones will need to read their labels more carefully. …At the initial briefing offered to journalists, TPP negotiators said Canadian health and safety regulations would apply. …But further clarification recently revealed that doesn’t mean dairy producers outside Canada have to follow the same rules Canadian farms do. Most notably, it’s illegal in Canada to administer bovine growth hormone (rBST) to boost milk production in dairy cattle. But there’s no such restriction in the U.S.”

That article adds, “No new certification or inspection regime appears set to screen milk destined for import into Canada. It’s also unclear whether U.S. milk would be segregated at Canadian processing facilities, or simply mixed with Canadian product. …In an email to CBC News, a Canadian trade department spokesman cited a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2007 that found rBST used on approximately 17 per cent of cows in the U.S. The hormone is not used in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, which share Canada’s view of the animal health concerns.”

1994 rally In 1994, at the start of our campaign against BGH in Canada, then Council of Canadians campaigner Alex Boston explained, “Synthetic bovine growth hormone is a performance-enhancing drug injected into dairy cattle to increase milk production by up to 25 percent. Bovine growth hormone occurs naturally in cows. Scientists identified the gene that creates the natural hormone, constructed a near replica and then grew large quantities of synthetic BGH in fermentation vats. But this hormone has proved to be harmful to animals. BGH-injected cows, pushed to yield unnaturally large quantities of milk, suffer from more stress and a higher incidence of udder infections, reproductive disorders, swollen legs and premature death. And the long-term side effects of BGH on humans have never been studied.”

And our campaigner highlighted, “Monsanto argues the product is safe. It said the same thing about Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam war, and PCBs—products manufactured by Monsanto which are now known to cause cancer. Monsanto’s small army of lobbyists and spin doctors has been pushing the product, but Canadian parliamentary opposition to BGH has grown under tremendous grassroots pressure and an effective educational campaign targeting key members of parliament.” He led a multi-year campaign that called on Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, agriculture minister Ralph Goodale and health minister Diane Marleau to reject BGH milk.

Goodale was re-elected on Monday night and Global News reports, “Leader Post political columnist, Murray Mandryk said the new Prime Minister is likely to rely on Goodale as an experienced resource, likely to make him deputy prime minister or give him a senior cabinet position, which could mean more Saskatchewan influence in Trudeau’s cabinet.”

In her 1998 autobiography titled ‘The Fight of My Life‘, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “One of our campaign officers, Alex Boston, put together such a strong national coalition that the government declared a moratorium on the decision and, to date, has not allowed the sale of BGH in the country.”

The Council of Canadians celebrated that win at its 13th annual conference. As we begin our 30th annual conference this morning, it would appear that we will have to renew our fight on this front.

For more on our campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please click here.

Further reading
Ottawa area farmers hold tractor protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (September 2015 blog)