Agri-Mark acts in global growth hormone debate

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bovine somatotropin, Dairy farming

Opinion remains divided over the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in cows to boost milk yield, after US-based cooperative Agri-Mark said it will phase-out using the product in its herds later this year.

Doug DiMento, communications director for the group, told DairyReporter.com that the group’s dairy farmer board of directors had agreed upon a plan of no longer accepting milk from (rBGH) treated herds by August 2009.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed products like rBGH, which is also known as Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), as safe for use.

While the hormones, approved by the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been in use across the US for well over a decade, they are not permitted in the EU.

Some critics of synthetic hormone use claim the practice has been linked to detrimental health impacts in animals as an additional area of concern.

In light of such concerns, manufacturers and retailers have increasingly pledged in recent years to drop synthetic hormone milk from their operations in the US to meet some consumer concerns over the potential impact of consuming the milk.

Phase-out

It is in this market that DiMento said its 15-member board of directors responsible for milk supply issues, 14 of whom are dairy farmers, had opted to set a deadline of 1 August this year to phase out rBST milk from its supply chain.

He added that the decision had been taken in order to protect sales of its brand against consumer concerns, as well as to give its farmers time to make the transition before the deadline.

‘We do not feel that [the decision] will open up any export markets, but perhaps some additional domestic [areas],”​ stated DiMento.

Research calls

Last year, the​International Dairy Federation (IDF) said the industry should not automatically​rule out using rBGH to help boost milk supply, but must do more to prove any potential benefits to consumers.

The IDF accepted that although new research would be key in consumers accepting rBGH products, synthetic hormones were not the only means to boost milk supply in the industry.

“In countries like India, the dairy sector is responding to demand growth by improving cows’ diets and boosting milk output,”​ stated an IDF spokesperson back in August. “Globally, it is by focusing on the nutritional requirements of cattle that we will raise milk production.”

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