To the editor:
Jack Anderson's column published Oct. 1, 1990, on bovine somatotropin (BST) is not a balanced presentation of the facts and, therefore, is misleading. Anderson portrays himself as a consumer advocate, but the product he is criticizing is one that will benefit the consumer by assuring a continuous supply of wholesome, nutritious and affordable milk products.In reporting recent action by the United Kingdom's Veterinary Product Commission (VPC) with regard to BST, Anderson leaves the impression that the product was found unsafe for humans.
In fact, the VPC gave BST an endorsement on the question of human safety. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on Sept. 13, 1990, stated: "The committee is satisfied that Lilly's product is efficacious and if it were licensed it would not pose a risk either to human or environmental safety."
Also, Anderson failed to make any mention of two recently published scientific articles in this country. The articles, from the Journal of the American Medical Association and Science, addressed the human safety question in great detail and concluded that BST poses no danger to human health.
The facts are: BST is a naturally occurring protein that enhances a cow's milk production. All milk contains small amounts of BST. Biotechnological advances have now made it possible to produce BST. No significant difference has been found in milk from cows that do or do not receive supplemental BST. When cows receive supplemental BST, they produce more milk. BST is a product that could allow dairy farmers to better manage their herds.
In 1985, the FDA approved for human consumption the milk and meat from BST-supplemented cows. Studies continue and are under review to substantiate the safety of BST for cows.
It is hoped that the debate on BST will in the future be conducted with facts and reason. At stake is how scientific advances are to be reviewed and regulated. If half-truths and scare stories become the rule, then science is at risk and society will be poorer.
Bette J. Peterson
Eli Lilly and Co.