11 March 2014

#92 Use of hormones in food production

 Farmer sometimes use hormones to make their animals grow faster, or to produce more of a particular product. One hormone used in this way is called bovine somatotropin, or BST.

BST is a hormone which is naturally produced by cattle. However, if cows are given extra BS, they make more milk.  Some people think it would be a good idea to give cow BST, to get higher milk yields. You would need fewer cows to get the same amount of milk.

Here are arguments against it.
  • Some people are worried about drinking milk form cows treated with BST. They think BST might damage their health. This is very unlikely, because the hormone does not get into the milk in any significant quantity.
  • It is difficult to see why we need BST. For example, the European Union already produces more milk than it needs, so milk quotas have to be imposed, to stop farmer from producing too much milk.
  • There are concerns that the BST might harm the cows. Cows treated with BST make very large amounts of milk, far beyond the ‘natural’ levels which they produce. This make them more likely to get infections of their udders (breast), and may make them feel less comfortable. 

Mammary infections in BST treated cows 
require treatment with antibiotics.

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