Bovine growth hormone (rBGH)

Years ago, agrochemical giant Monsanto developed a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to artificially increase milk production in cows.

If you think that sounds unsafe for cows, you’re right. Cows injected with rBGH, pushed to yield unnaturally large quantities of milk, suffer greater stress and higher incidences of painful udder infections, reproductive disorders, swollen legs and premature death.

Health Canada scientists have also raised concerns over rBGH passing on to humans through consumption, and that “such long-term health risks as sterility, infertility, birth defects, cancer and immunological consequences ha[ve] not been investigated.”

In response, the Council of Canadians and our supporters from across the country came together to help lead a massive grassroots campaign that succeeded in pressuring the Canadian government to keep this harmful substance out of our cows and dairy supply.

To this day, rBGH is illegal for use in Canada. However, new developments could now see it flood into grocery stores across the country.

In the U.S., dairy farmers are permitted to inject rBGH into their cows. And now, under NAFTA 2.1 – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – if ratified by Canada, would give unprecedented access for U.S. milk laced with this genetically engineered hormone to be sold in our grocery stores alongside rBGH-free milk from Canadian dairy farms that generations have come to know and trust – without any labelling requirements to allow Canadian consumers to make informed choices.

At the same time, Canada has ratified the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The sweeping 11-nation trade agreement would force us to further open the door to milk imported from Pacific Rim countries that, like the U.S., permit the use of rBGH.

Canada's decision to keep rBGH out of our dairy supply is just one of many of our higher safety standards that are threatened by these new trade agreements – and the Government of Canada must now stand firm in upholding it.

The fact that we’re back fighting to stop rBGH again so many years later illustrates why we must remain vigilant in challenging trade deals that undermine the public interest. We’ve won the rBGH fight before, and with your help we can win it again.

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Look for these symbols to be sure you're buying 100% Canadian milk from cows that have not been injected with rBGH:


From our archives...

In the early-mid 90's, the Council of Canadians led a successful multi-year campaign against BGH in Canada.

Safe Milk Sign