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Dr. Shiv Chopra speaks against the TPP & BGH milk

ChopraThe Council of Canadians is helping to organize a speaking tour for Dr. Shiv Chopra to Vancouver, Chilliwack, Comox Valley, Nanaimo and Victoria/Cowichan Valley this spring. He will be speaking on the relationship between the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH, also referred to as BGH and rBST), an artificial growth hormone developed by Monsanto to increase milk output from dairy cows.

CBC reports, “There are worries that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal means milk from hormone-treated U.S. cows could end up in Canadian supermarkets. Dr. Shiv Chopra is a former Health Canada scientist who lost his job after raising the alarm about dangers posed by bovine growth hormone (BGH). Partially because of his work, it is currently illegal to use the drug to boost milk production in Canada. Chopra tells As It Happens host Carol Off, ‘We worked upon it so much and got [bovine growth hormone] rejected in Canada… Now, under the trade agreement, it’s going to let the floodgates open.'”

That article adds, “In the agreement in principle reached in early October, Canada conceded an additional 3.25 per cent of its dairy market to imports from countries like the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. TPP negotiators have told CBC that Canadian health and safety regulations will apply to all imported products. But that does not mean dairy producers in the U.S. have to follow the same rules Canadian farms do. There are fewer restrictions on hormone use on U.S. cows. According to Chopra, ‘The damage that occurs to the milk, to the cows, ultimately it translates into human health hazards.'”

And it notes, “Chopra is also worried about what the trade agreement could mean for Canadian dairy products that are sold abroad. ‘The European Union actually banned BGH. That means our dairy products, if now mixed up with TPP, they cannot go to the European Union. That’s going to harm our trade, our jobs, our agriculture.'” The EU banned the use of rBST because it substantially increases health problems in cows and often results in “severe and unnecessary pain, suffering and distress” for them, including “serious mastitis, foot disorders and some reproductive problems”.

While the US Federal Drug Administration says milk from cows injected with BGH is safe, the American Cancer Society highlights, “The evidence for potential harm to humans is inconclusive. It is not clear that drinking milk produced using rBGH significantly increases IGF-1 levels in humans or adds to the risk of developing cancer. More research is needed to help better address these concerns. The increased use of antibiotics to treat rBGH-induced mastitis does promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the extent to which these are transmitted to humans is unclear. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has no formal position regarding rBGH.”

Our ally Food and Water Watch says, “The possible health implications of rBGH for humans and cows are significant. The milk from cows injected with rBGH has higher levels of another hormone called insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Elevated levels of IGF-1 in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Some researchers believe there may be an association between the increase in twin births over the past 30 years and elevated levels of IGF-1 in humans. And rBGH use has increased bacterial udder infections in cows by 25 percent, adding to the need for antibiotics to treat the infections, a worrisome trend in light of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.”

The Canadian government has provided an e-mail address (TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca) as part of their ‘public consultation’ on the TPP. When people have written to express concerns about BGH-tainted milk entering this country, Global Affairs Canada has responded, “With regards to bovine growth hormone (rBST), Health Canada has determined, in 1999, that rBST does not pose a health risk to humans. There is no scientific basis for restricting trade in milk or dairy products from trading partners that have approved rBST. …All food products, both domestic and imported, must meet Canada’s robust health and safety regulation.”

On February 16, 2001, the Council of Canadians presented Dr. Chopra and Dr. Margaret Haydon a ‘Whistleblower Award’. Both told the audience of more than a thousand people at our ‘Science and the Public Good’ conference in Ottawa that they intended “to remain a royal pain in the side of the Canadian government” for years to come. As noted in the Spring 2001 issue of Canadian Perspectives, “A special award ceremony recognized Canadian whistleblowers Dr. Haydon and Dr. Chopra for their courage and determination to preserve the public good in spite of reprisals from their employer, Health Canada, during the successful fight to ban Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone (BGH).”

To sign our petition to keep BGH milk out of Canada, please click here.

To listen to the 6-minute CBC Radio As It Happens interview with Dr. Chopra, please click here.

Photo: Dr. Shiv Chopra.