Does Anybody Remember Posilac?

     A recent article in a major dairy publication bemoaned the fact that very few dairymen still used rBST.  To refresh your memory, rBST  was a controversial hormonal product sold by Monsanto in the 1990s.  Marketed under the brand name Posilac, the product was alleged to increase milk production in dairy cattle' 

     The author stated  the product was driven from the commercial market by consumer … “ignorance, misinformation and fear.”.

     Let’s examine the facts!

     It was known as early as 1937 that a pituitary hormone known as bovine somatotropin (BST) or bovine  growth hormone (BGH) increased milk production of lactating dairy cows.

     In the late 1970s the biotech company, Genentech was able to clone the gene for BST, now known as recombinant BST or rBST.  This opened the door for the production of marketable amounts of the hormone —


     Monsanto teamed with Genentech for commercial development of the product. Their first trial results were published in in 1981. The FDA reviewed the product in 1986 and deemed it safe for human consumption.  In 1994 Monsanto received approval and  began marketing rBST under the brand name Posilac.

     Despite industry hype that Posilac would mean cheaper milk, there were many concerns.  The dairy industry was thought the expected flood of milk might depress milk prices. Consumers worried about the effects on human health. Dairymen worried about health side-effects in their cattle. Critics called for more investigations.  Some Milk companies forbade the use of the product.  In the US, public opinion led some manufacturers and retailers to market only milk that is rBST-free.  Court battle were fought over such labelling. It was a mess. 

     The FDA, WHO, and NIH all claimed diary products and meat from [BST-treated cows are safe for human consumption.  However,  a European Union report on the animal welfare effects of rBST states that its use often results in "severe and unnecessary pain, suffering and distress" for cows, "associated with serious mastitis, foot disorders and some reproductive problems”  

     I believe these effects on animal health were  the actual reason producers began to shun the product — the negative effects on animal health wiped out any elusive profit from increased production.   It was not a great loss to the industry.  It is estimated only about one fourth of US dairies ever used Posilac.  Former Posilac using dairymen soon made up the slight decrease in production by paying more attention to basic good management. Within a year or two, they were producing just as much milk per cow as before — without the side effects.

      This whole episode is a good example of  companies trying to foist off technology on us that we do not need, that does not work, and may be deleterious to human and animals health and to the environment in the long run.  Think glyphosate here.  When these products are rejected by the consumers, they blame consumer ignornce. 

I think it’s time for some technocrats to come down from their industry sponsored ivory tower  and realize that not all technological advances result in something we need — most have no benefits, only risks.  They accuse us natural minded folks of rejecting science while they, in turn, reject the possibility they could be wrong and their science may be fraught with unintended consequences.

Oops, wait a minute, I guess I was wrong — Monsanto shareholders do benefit from their toxic technology.