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Austria Urged to Take Initiatives to Protect the Public Against Cancer and
Other Risks of Monsanto's Genetically Modified rBST Dairy Products

The following was released today [12 January 2000] by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.,
Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of
Public Health, Chicago, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition




Austrian concerns on animal welfare, food safety, and genetically modified
(GM) foods are among the highest in the world. However, these concerns are
complicated by the fact that the GM milk hormone, rBST, is exclusively
manufactured in Austria by Biochemie Kundl, a Novartis plant under license
to Monsanto; in 1998, over 100 million doses of the GM hormone were
exported to the U.S. and also to 16 other Third World Countries. While the
administration of rBST to cows in Europe was banned this month on
unarguable animal health and welfare grounds, there are no restrictions yet on the
import of GM dairy products, nor any requirements for their GM labeling.

Austria could resolve this dilemma with two initiatives. First, a grass
roots campaign and/or government ruling requiring the labeling of imported
GM dairy products; the labeling of such GM foods is now under consideration
by the EC. Second, representation to the European Parliament and European
Council by the Austrian government to ban imports of GM dairy products from
the U.S. and other Third World Countries on human health grounds on the
basis of the well-recognized "Precautionary Principle."

GM milk, produced by injecting cows with the hormone rBST, is qualitatively
and quantitatively different from natural milk. These differences include:
contamination of milk by the GM hormone rBST; contamination by pus and
antibiotics resulting from the high incidence of mastitis in rBST injected
cows; contamination with illegal antibiotics and drugs used to treat
mastitis and other rBST induced disease; increased concentration of the
thyroid hormone enzyme thyroxin-5'-monodeiodinase; increased concentration
of long chain and decreased concentration of short chain fatty acids;
reduction in casein levels; and major excess levels of the
naturally-occurring Insulin-like Growth Factor, IGF-1, including its highly
potent variant.

There are very persuasive grounds for invoking the "Precautionary
Principle" with regard to the public health hazards of GM milk. Evidence for these
hazards, published in peer-reviewed scientific literature, is over a decade
old. This evidence has recently been fully endorsed in the March 15-16,
1999 EC risk assessment report, by a team of 16 internationally recognized
experts, on "Public Health Aspects of the Use of Bovine Somatotropin."

These hazards include: allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, and
cancer risks from residues in milk of antibiotics used to treat mastitis in
GM-hormone injected cows; unresolved concerns relating to elevated thyroid
hormones; cardiovascular disease from elevated levels of long chain fatty
acids; immunological effects of rBST absorbed from the gastrointestinal
tract; and growth promoting and cancer risks from elevated IGF-1 levels.

Multiple lines of converging evidence have strongly incriminated elevated
IGF-1 milk levels with major excess risks of breast, prostate, and colon,
besides possibly other cancers. Furthermore, IGF-1 is known to inhibit the
programmed self-destruction (apoptosis) of cancer cells, thus promoting
their growth and invasiveness, and also decreasing their responsiveness to
chemotherapy. In spite of such fully-documented evidence, in July 1999 the
London-based Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products of the European
Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products Veterinary Medicines
Evaluation Unit (EMEA), rejected the proposed ban on the GM hormone on
public health grounds. It should, however, be stressed that a minority
Committee report expressed strongly divergent views, stressing their
recognition of the cancer risks of GM milk. Furthermore, the EMEA agency
has no track record of competence and scientific authority in the relevant
area of cancer prevention.

Even accepting that there possibly may be scientific uncertainty with
regards to the public health hazards of GM milk, there is more than a
sufficient weight of preponderant evidence to unreservedly invoke the
"Precautionary Principle," whose validity has achieved substantial support
internationally and in the European Parliament. The "Precautionary
Principle" could also be used in support of labeling requirements for GM
dairy products and/or for a ban of all such imports. Finally, the
"Precautionary Principle" mandates the categorical responsibility of
industry to unequivocally establish the safety of new candidate products,
as opposed to imposing a heavy burden on regulatory agencies and citizens to
prove risks. Monsanto has completely failed to comply with this
requirement with regards to the cancer, and other, risks of its GM hormone and
GM milk.

CONTACTS:
Dr. Samuel S. Epstein.
The School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago
2121 W. Taylor, Chicago, 60612,
(312) 996-2297 (telephone),
epstein@uic.edu(email)