Even I am astonished by this one. Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council sends me all the studies that favor eating dairy products. This one is a classic (of sorts) from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association . The study compares the nutrient value of conventional milk, rbGH-free milk, and organic milk and finds–surprise!–no significant difference. In case you need a reminder, rbGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone, the genetically engineered hormone that increases milk production in cows. Monsanto makes it. OK, class: it’s quiz time. The study has ten authors. Guess who seven of them work for (or used to work for)? Guess who paid for the study? And what are the other three authors doing there?
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Monsanto, the maker of recombinant bovine growth hormone (scientific name, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST; trade name, Posilac), is embarked on a national state-by-state campaign to get legislatures to rule that food products cannot be labeled that they are rBGH-free or rBST-free. In his weekend column, The Feed, Andrew Martin details how Monsanto has organized its very own “grass-roots” group, Afact, to campaign on the company’s behalf. As Martin puts it, “consumer demand for more natural products…has certainly interfered with Monsanto’s business plan for Posilac.” As I discuss in my book, Safe Food, Monsanto’s aggressive stance (in this and so many other issues that concern its products) has elicited much suspicion of its motives and of genetically modified foods in general. In 1994, Monsanto worked hard to convince the FDA that GM foods did not have to be labeled as such. Now, this company has only itself to blame for consumer resistance to its products.
- Pennsylvania backs down from its decision to ban labels on milk cartons that say the cows were not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone.
- A European ethics panel says cloned animals should not be allowed on the market.
- McDonald’s backs down from its “food prize” program (Happy Meals for good grades) in Florida.
All that in just one day. Signs of a social movement anyone?
Amanda asks: “I also read that once you take the fat out of milk, it is difficult to absorb the calcium from it. Marion, can you state whether this is true?”
Oops. No. Where this idea came from, I can only guess. Fat is required for absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and E but minerals like calcium are water-soluble so would be expected to be absorbed better from watery solutions. As it turns out, calcium absorption has been measured under all kinds of fat conditions. The result: about the same proportion is absorbed from dairy products–about 30%–no matter how much fat they have. We tend to absorb smaller proportions of calcium from foods that contain a lot of oxalates (spinach and rhubarb for example). When dairy products are added to spinach, more of the spinach calcium is absorbed, so maybe that’s where the idea came from. Does this help?
And while we are on the subject, how’s this for a proposed solution to the non-problem of calcium absorption: genetically modified carrots! Bet you never thought of that one.