TPP: Cancer for Canadians and closed doors for Canadian dairy exports, whistleblower scientist warns

Allowing milk from hormone-treated cows in the United States into Canada under the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase the cancer risk for Canadians while making it more difficult for the nation’s dairy farmers to export Canadian milk overseas, according to a scientist who lost his job after blowing the whistle on Health Canada’s attempts to approve the use of bovine growth hormones in Canada despite concerns over human safety concern in the 1990s.

The TPP negotiated by the outgoing Conservative government will see dairy from the US to make its way to Canada without being subjected to the same standards that Canadian milk supply is subjected to.

Canadian farmers are banned from administering bovine growth hormone (rBST) to boost milk production in dairy cattle, but the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of rBST after heavy lobbying from the agri-giant Monsanto.

Monsanto lobbied Health Canada to make rBST legal in Canada, and the department in turn pressured federal scientists to approve drugs despite concerns over human safety in the 1990s.

Dr. Gérard Lambert, Dr. Shiv Chopra, and Dr. Margaret Haydon blew the whistle on what was happening in Health Canada and lost their jobs as a result in 2004, but their sacrifices have kept Canadian milk rBST-free.

“We worked upon it so much and got [bovine growth hormone] rejected in Canada,” Dr. Chopra told CBC’s As It Happens host Carol Off. “Now, under the trade agreement, it’s going to let the flood-gates open.”

“The damage that occurs to the milk, to the cows, ultimately it translates into human health hazards,” Dr. Chopra, the 2011 winner of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) Integrity Award, added. “As a result, you not only get the BGH but also an insulin growth-like hormone that causes cancer.”

Other scientists have also warned of the dire consequences of increase in insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I in the milk supply.

“Since 1984, most of the [US] milk supply has been contaminated with excess IGF levels resulting from the injection of cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk yields,” Samuel S. Epstein, medical doctor and currently professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“IGF resists pasteurization and digestion, is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and has growth-promoting effects. Furthermore, converging lines of experimental and epidemiologic evidence have incriminated excess IGF levels in rBGH milk as risk factors for breast and colon
cancers,” Dr. Epstein added. “Confirmation of these concerns by an international expert committee prompted the January 2000 European ban on the marketing and sale of rBGH milk”

Instead of boosting exports, TPP will close European Union’s doors for Canadian dairy farmers, Dr. Chopra warns.

“The European Union actually banned BGH,” Dr. Chopra said. “That means our dairy products, if now mixed up with TPP, they cannot go to the European Union. That’s going to harm our trade, our jobs, our agriculture.”

“We should be listening to our dairy farmers,” Dr. Chopra concluded. “They know better.”

[Photo Credit: Brent Patterson]