Americans are becoming more concerned with their health than ever before. This included regular exercise and as well as the quality of their diet. This has become a current phenomenon in the last few decades which the American public has yet to see before. Another recent development in the ways in which Americans regard the quality of their diet, is in the quality of the foods that they eat.
The push now is for organic foods from livestock which were treated humanely. The injection of hormones into our nation’s cattle, many can say is an example of abuse towards the animals.
This may or may not be true. However, hormone injection does offer a myriad of health problems which has caused the European Union as well as the nation of Japan, to be very reluctant in accepting beef imports from the United States in recent years. This has resulted in trade disputes and a sizable trade deficit between America and these two governing bodies. However, it is in the opinion of the EU, Japan and a sizable percentage of the American people, who are weary of scientifically altering one’s cattle in the face of higher profits.
What makes hormone injections even more dangerous is the long lasting half life of the hormone injections which the cattle are forced to inject into their body. The hormones do not leave the cattle when it is slaughtered. This alone brings enough danger to the safety of the meat but the hormones continue to exist in the waste of the cow as well as in the sweat secretions of the cattle as well. This allows a further spread of the hormone and thus multiplies and creates environmental as well as health concerns which have only recently been addressed through the demands of a concerned public.
However, in the face of such concerns, the beef industry will not be compelled to make the necessary changes unless forced to do so by Congress as there is simply too much money to be made in the eyes of the owners. Since the 1970’s, our nation’s cattle have been injected with growth hormones for the simple reason that such practices yield more profit for the owner. The cow grows larger than the cattle ever would have on his own and does so at a faster pace.
This allows the cattle rancher to slaughter the cattle which will yield a larger supply of beef and at a faster pace; thus decreasing the time, cost and effort that the cattle owner would otherwise have to spend on the feeding and housing of the cattle. It is a win/win situation for the cattle owner and as a result, a high majority of the more than 33 million cattle which are slaughtered each year for the human consumption of their meat have within their systems, beef growth hormones. It seems surprising that such a wide spread practice would not have received more attention that it has in the recent past.
Except for the high profile libel suit by the cattle owners of America against Oprah Winfrey who raised suspicion about the safety of the beef industry in America back in 2002; a libel suit which was eventually thrown out, there has been little concern by the American public as a whole, concerning the assumed damage which beef hormones cause in our nation’s cattle. This high level of apathy seems to now be a thing of the past as the number of concerned Americans grows exponentially. On January 1, 1989, the European community, now called the European Union, placed a ban on American beef imports where growth hormones were used.
By the late 1980’s, this would constitute a very large percentage of America’s beef supply and a blow was sent to America’s beef industry. However much this decision riled the beef industry in America, such decisions were not without reason. Europe had become fearful of the growth hormone, diethylstilbestrol, the hormone used in making cattle grow past their normal size, since the 1980’s. This hormone was also seen in baby foods and there were more than a number of tragic cases in which small children were subject to brain defects from the injection of their baby food.
It was because of growing fears against the hormone, as well as actual cases of Europeans that had gotten sick, that the ban was put in place. The ban was not geared only towards American but all countries in the world where Europe got their meat from. The ban was widespread and universal. Europe then, as well as now, has expressed their overwhelming preference for hormone free meat. Other countries have complied with the wish but America still continues to treat a large majority of its cattle with growth hormone in the desire to increase profits.
These decisions are contrary to what the Federal Food and Drug Administration, in alliance with the US Department of Agriculture, have decided that beef that are treated with this hormone create no danger in those that eat it. This may be from the motivation of profits more than the safety of the cattle as well as the people who eat it. Cattle which are treated with this growth hormone, can expect to reach its targeted weight of 1,000 lbs 21 days sooner than cattle which are not treated with the hormone. Also, the relatively low cost of the hormone treatment; $1 per implant, yields a cost of more than $100 a head.
This is sought in what is often times, a relatively unstable industry. There is a great deal of money to be made or lost with this decision and the United States has continued to fight the decisions by the EU and Japan over what they see to be blatant examples of unfair trade practices. The United States points to a 1988 report by the World Health Organization which states that human consumption of the growth hormone when it stays below 1. 4 and 2. 1 micro kilograms provides no safety scare for the people who consume the meat.
What was not shown by the United States was the fact that in the nearly twenty years since this report was published, the among of growth hormones which are injected into the cattle now exceed these paltry amounts as in America, the belief seems to be: more is better. Cattle are getting larger and larger every few years. The reason for this is overwhelm from growth hormones as the improved quality of the foods which the cattle now feed on, would never be able to yield such dramatic results as what is currently being seen in America’s cattle.
Specifically, growth hormones have been thought to create the most damage in women and in small girls. Cancer can develop in the breasts as well as colon and pancreas. Also, “the growth hormone can cause girls to reach puberty at a faster clip than what is natural. ” This is a key theme to the growth hormone as it speeds up the natural processes of the body and wreaks havoc on the internal organs of those who are treated with the hormone. It is believed that the levels of growth hormone which the cattle injects, does not completely pass from the meet to the individual and that the hormone is not meant for direct human consumption.
What serves as the most dangerous aspect of this, are the occurrences when the hormone is not kept in the strict environment in which it was designed. When the growth hormone passes at a higher concentrated level than what is advised, either through human error, the beef industry being ignorant as to the modes of transportation that the hormone can take, or in the differences in the rate at which the cattle injects the hormone, adverse reactions will and have occurred.
There are more than just the immediate health concerns which need to be examined. The strong half life of these hormones add to the environmental concerns which now need to be addressed, A large portion of the hormone passes through the feces of the cow and ends up in the environment and through the normal ecological system, can easily end up in other foods as well as the drinking water of the public. This could create a very large problem, not only for the cattle but also those who have the misfortune of consuming the water.
It has been reported that cattle that have drunk downstream from cattle that have been treated with growth hormone have been underweight and have been subjective to a high level of health concerns and problems. In Central Illinois, this occurred but was not caught in time by the cattle rancher at the time. The cow was slaughtered with a high level of growth hormone within his body and the meat, officials now believe, was highly tainted and not only posed a serious threat to those who ate the meat, but in reality, caused a number of very sick individuals who took weeks to recover from their ailments.
As it is very hard to pinpoint where the beef went, the FDA was able to nearly pinpoint where the beef was consumed and can only point out that such a high level of coincidence is not plausible. It is the mismanagement of this hormone which is creating concern in many of the country’s scientists and environmentalists. “We said that we would not be surprised if large levels of these hormones showed up in the nation’s drinking supply. ” This, according to John McClain, director for the Centers of Biological Research states recently.
Dr. McClain also states that he estimates that more than thirteen tons of the hormone DES is released into the nation’s drinking water every year. Not only does he state that such amounts will create an adverse living environment among the wildlife in the area, but for the people as well who have the misfortune of consuming the water as well. The concerns continue to mount as the United States and Canada stubbornly insist that there is no reason for alarm and that their cattle will continue to be fed this growth hormone.
Scientists for the beef industry continue to claim that either the evidence is inconclusive or that no danger is presented to the general population as the levels of hormone which s used to treat the cattle is so minute as never to be able to cause harm of any kind. “The growth hormone which is used to treat our nation’s cattle, poses no threat to the environment or the people whom it comes in contact with. Our nation’s beef supply is safe to eat. ” Although not to the same degree, such statements are reminiscent to the tobacco’s responses in the 1970’s and 1980’s concerning the growing concern over the safety of smoking cigarettes.
Such statements were accepted by the general public when there did not exist, enough evidence to refute such statements but when it became clear that smoking caused cancer and other such diseases, such statements were no longer accepted. Many in the scientific community believe that the beef industry is going to suffer a similar fate if they continue to refute the concerns of the scientific community over the human consumption and environmental reactions when coming in contact with these growth hormones.
Another concern is the safety of the milk which comes directly from cattle; many of whom are being treated with the growth hormone. A larger cow will create a higher yield of milk for its owner; thus increasing profits. The growth hormone BHG is often used to increase milk production in cows. However, the FDA’s decision in 1993 to allow for the treatment of cows with this hormone is outdated. This is a common theme which can be seen in much of the American research concerning the safety of growth hormones.
The scientific research, or simply an expression of concern within the European Union, is relatively recent whereas the American research community is not being allowed to conduct the proper number of tests on the effects of the growth hormone. Either that or their findings are being refuted. There have been a number of concerns by large bodies of farmers and cattle growers in such situations. In 1994, the Wisconsin Farmers Union started a national hotline for concerned dairy farmers who were concerned over the quality of their milk from cows who had been subjected to the growth hormone.
One New York dairy farmer was forced to replace 135 out of his entire herd of 200 cows because the growth hormone that he fed his cows, produced milk that was tainted. The growth hormone also led to hoof disease as well as open sores and eternal bleeding on more than a few of his cows. This should lead to a third tier of concern over the treatment of cattle with the growth hormone. Not only does the hormone present dangers to the population which consumes the meat and the environment which absorbs the waste products of the cattle, but the cattle itself.
In the same way that steroids and other human growth hormones present stronger and faster athletes, only to yield a number of health concerns in the future, so too is the reaction of cattle who are subjective to the hormone. Usually, this is not a problem for cattle which is to be slaughtered by the end of the month as the hormone usually is not given enough time to cause damage in the cattle. However, cows which are used primarily for the milk that they give and thus are allowed to live, this increases the chances that adverse reactions within the cow will show itself within the cow.
This is to be expected as “the growth hormones which are given to cows, creates an unnatural environment for the cow and as a result, the animal will often times react adversely and diseases will spread. ” Also, cows who are forced to yield an unnatural amount of milk; a level which their bodies were not meant to provide, often times leaves the cow malnourished and sickly from an over stimulation of the cow’s body. This will lead to a shorter life p for these cows which are used to yield milk to its owner.
A burn out effect for the cow will follow and whether the meat is fit for human consumption or not, the cow will simply be destroyed as his useful life on earth has been prematurely cut short through science and in the face of higher profits. Despite the evidence that the treatment of growth hormones creates in cows and in the people who eat and drink the milk and meat which these cattle provide, the FDA and other government sponsored scientific communities have stubbornly insisted that there is no adverse reactions on any level, to the consuming of the byproducts of cattle that have been previously treated with this growth hormone.
Not only would the FDA be reluctant to place any restrictions or at least warning labels on such beef, they prohibited dairies from making such claims on their own products or in the press. There seemed to be a moratorium on the issue. However, the dates which these FDA rulings are more than ten years in the past as there has been a severe shortage of current government supported evidence from the United States to show to findings to the claims that growth hormones in our nation’s beef supply, results in the negative health effects which the rest of the developed world believes to be the case.
The common use of growth hormones has resulted in a number of differences. According to Science News, more than 80% of US feedlots inject cattle with growth hormones and that traces of the growth hormone were still seen in the typical cow, more than 195 days after the initial treatment. This is important especially with cows which are used primarily for milk as the cow’s milk supply can be tainted for more than six months from a single treatment. Also, in what seems to be the reason behind the treatment of cows with growth hormones; in 1950, the typical cow produced more than 5300 pounds of milk a year.
Today, a cow which has been treated with growth hormones, can expect to yield an amazing 18,000 pounds of milk a year. However, what advantages are given when many believe that this milk is tainted? This only increased the chances that the American consumer will be adversely affected by drinking what the FDS tells him to be safe and good for the body. There is a major difference in the FDA and USDA’s take on the apparent health concerns over the treatment of the nation’s cattle being subjected to growth hormones in order to increase production of their meat and milk, as opposed to what the rest of the world is stating.
This is a problem which must be addressed. There is a great deal of money to be made or lost as well as the entire way of life for thousands of the nation’s cattle ranchers and others who are involved in getting the meat to our tables. This comes from the sheer number of tons of beef which Americans consume on a yearly basis as well as the fact that the alternative which is offered in our nation’s supermarkets, often times costs more than twice the price of beef which has been subjected with growth hormones.
Coupled with this fact, the claims made by the Food and Drug Administration which states that the consumption of growth hormones is safe; many people will believe this to be the case and will blindly continue their previous eating habits with no concern for what the rest of the world claims to be the dangers of eating such meats. The evidence which the FDA and other government sponsored organizations are more than ten years old and in some cases, are reaching twenty years old whereas the scientific research which has compelled the European Union as well as Japan to implement bans on the trade of US beef, is much more recent.
This fact alone should at least compel Americans to ask the question: “How safe is the meat and milk which comes from cows who are treated with growth hormones. ” There is a push for more organic foods as well since many believe that the injection of hormones in not only beef but also our nation’s fruits and vegetables in order to grow gigantic and unnatural tomatoes and potatoes, can only create further health concerns as it is believed that the consumer is consuming a higher percentage of chemicals and hormones than the natural elements of these fruits and vegetables which people seek to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Growth hormones affect our nation’s beef supply in a number of different ways. First, it affects the life and health of the cow, affects the environment and the wildlife and fish through the fact that the hormone can be introduced to the environment though the feces of the animal as well as the resilient characteristics of the hormone itself, as well as affect the milk which the cow yields to the American public. As a result, major governing bodies in the world have placed a ban on beef, not only from America but in numerous parts of the world, where the cattle have been subject to growth hormones.
It would behoove the entire American public to stress the importance of up to date scientific research in order to conclude that measures need to be put in place which will forever ensure that the food which we eat, is safe; safe not only for us but for the environment. WORKS CITED Carlson, Laurie An Informal Social History. New York: Ivan Dee Publisher 2001 Meinkle, James Beef Hormones Contributes to Mad Cow Disease London: The Guardian July 5, 1998
Narlikar, Armita The World Trade Organization London: Oxford 2005 Nelson, Gerald Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture New York: Academic Press. 2004 Naloff, Janet. Hormones: Here’s the Beef www. sciencenews. org Downloaded July 28, 2007 Penske, James. Beef Hormones Believed to Contribute to Health Concerns Charleston Times Courier June 8, 2005 www. FDA. gov United States Food and Drug Administration Downloaded July 27, 2007 www. USDA. gov United States Department of Agriculture
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