Suppliers turn sour on milk-booster drug
Processors find public don't like idea
By Penny Sukhraj
The Star, (Gauteng South Africa), November 10, 2005
A leading milk forum has opposed the use of the [genetically engineered] growth hormone rBST, also known as "crack for cows".
The hormone, which has been banned in Canada and the European Union, is injected into dairy herds to boost their milk production.
The decision by the SA Processors Organisation (Sampro) comes after The Star published an article in August which exposed the link between the use of rBST and cancer.
Sampro will apply to the Department of Agriculture for the deregistration of rBST.
The chairperson of the organisation, Alwyn Kraamwinkel, said: "The use of rBST in certain dairy herds is undermining the important role that milk and other dairy products should play in the wellbeing of society.
"From a nutritional and health point of view, milk and other dairy products have to play an important role in the diet of all South Africans."
Sampro believes that the majority of dairy cows in the country are not treated with rBST, although about 2-million doses are sold annually.
"The fact that it is legally allowed is not in harmony with consumers' preferences. As a result, it will be to the detriment of the consumer, the dairy industry and economic development if the existing situation, in terms of which it is legally allowed to use rBST, is allowed to continue," said Kraamwinkel.
Pick 'n Pay has followed suit. This week the company released a statement saying it would support any government initiative to outlaw the use of rBST in dairy herds.
Pick 'n Pay spokesperson Phillippa Duncan said the retailer had received a number of customer queries regarding the presence of the hormone in its no-name dairy products after The Star's expose.
"At no stage has Pick 'n Pay used milk that has come from dairy herds that have been given this hormone," said marketing director Jonathan Ackerman.
"We use only suppliers who guarantee they do not buy from farms that use the hormone.
"Given concerns expressed by consumers, we felt we should offer our customers greater peace of mind by stating this explicitly on our no-name dairy products," said Ackerman.
He said they had listened to customer concerns that rBST caused cancer in humans.
"While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, Pick 'n Pay insists this hormone not be used, as there is evidence that cows can experience stress when fed it," Ackerman added.