Hormones Within the Cattle Industry Term Paper

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The implant is inserted into the ear and is discarded at slaughter, thus, it does not enter the human food chain (Primer pp). The hormone in the implant is released into the bloodstream very slowly ensuring the concentration of the hormone remains relatively constant and very low (Primer pp). Moreover, the prescribed dosage is the level "which produces the maximum economic response in the animal -- the law of diminishing returns -- so that there is no economic incentive for a farmer to use additional implants," and ensures that the animals taken to slaughter have normal hormone levels (Primer pp). According to the Primer, beef from a bull contains testosterone levels over ten times higher than the amount in beef from a steer that has received hormones for growth promotion (Primer pp). Therefore, since the European beef market is predominately bull-sourced, while the American meat is steer-sourced, American hormone treated beef generally contains lower levels of hormones than most European beef (Primer pp). Moreover, hormone levels in beef are far less than those found in eggs, and one pint glass of milk from an untreated cow contains about nine times as much estradiol as a 250 gram portion of meat from a steer raised using hormones (Primer pp). A 1996 article in "Contemporary Women's Issues Database" by Terren Ilana Wein suggests that cow's milk may not be good for human consumption (Wein pp). The majority of domestic dairy products contain steroids, antibiotics, and hormones, not to mention the pesticides used in the cow's food (Wein pp). Although BGH, bovine growth hormone, increases milk productivity, it also increases the incidence of mastitis, udder infections, which in turn increases the need for more antibiotics which end up in consumers' milk (Wein pp).

According to a recent audit of Canada's food-inspection system by the European Commission, there are "very serious deficiencies" in the regulatory framework and documents wide-spread use of cancer-causing hormones, antibiotics and other endocrine disrupting substances in Canada's meat supply (Real pp). Both Canadian and European scientists believe that hormone-laced Canadian meat poses a serious threat to the pubic, especially for vulnerable groups such pregnant women and prepubertal children (Real pp). This report come amid growing scientific evidence that highlights the danger of exposing human to hormones (Real pp).

Hormone residues in meat and meat products can disrupt the natural "endocrine equilibrium" which exists within a human body and any disruption of this equilibrium can result in multiple biological effects with potentially harmful consequences for human health (Real pp). The European Commission audit concluded that "in view of the intrinsic properties of hormones and recent scientific findings, Canadian meat consumers are exposed to unnecessary risk from the intake of hormone residues," including neurobiological effects, developmental effects, immunotoxicity, reproductive and immunological effects, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity (Real pp).

However, European fears of growth hormones are somewhat warranted because during the 1980's the dangerous synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol, or DES, was detected several times in baby food made with veal (Hormone pp). The baby food was manufactured from French cows treated with DES and this reportedly led to various deformities in infants, such as Italian babies growing breasts (Hormone pp). DES was banned in the United States in 1979 due to its link to cancer and birth defects, and the 1980's incidents led several European countries, including France and Belgium, to ban the use of all hormones in cattle (Hormone pp). Those who imposed the EC ban claim that hormones used in U.S. meat causes tumors and genital deformities in children (Hormone pp). Unfortunately, the ban in Europe has led to a black market of hormones available to European farmers, and although most have been proven safe, other contain the harmful, synthetically manufactured DES (Hormone pp). Tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found traces of DES from recent imports of beef from West Germany (Hormone pp). The United States sees the EU ban as a clear case of unfair trade because since the regulation does not set any specific quotas or tariffs, it can be seen as a non-tariff trade barrier, NTB, and universal tests on the hormones have proved them to be safe to consumers (Hormone pp).

Recent figures indicate an increase in U.S. beef exports into the European Union, however, the industry has already lost millions of dollars worth of potential trade, mainly because more than half of all cattle raised in the U.S. are treated with hormones (Hormone pp).

The reason why the controversy over beef hormones is so great is due to the protectionist nature of the ban (Hormone pp). Beef was specifically chosen because the European Union market has historically been very dependent on the import of beef from other regions, including the United States and Brazil, and this is because there is very little profitable grazing land in the EU, and other countries have filled the gap in the beef market by providing a high quality product at a reasonable price (Hormone pp). The BST regulations are not as heavily enforced for pork and poultry products because EU industries could not afford to abide by the regulations themselves and are not dependent on the imports of such products (Hormone pp). Thus, to protect the inefficient beef markets of the European Union, this regulation was crated and has received generous consumer support despite the lack of conclusive evidence (Hormone pp).

In October 2003, the European Commission demanded that the United States and Canada lift their longstanding sanctions against the European Union which were imposed because of a ban on hormone-reared beef deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization (EU pp). This came following the official publication of a new law establishing a permanent ban on one growth hormone, oestradiol 17-beta, and provisional bans on another five substances (EU pp). The ban on meat sold on the EU market lead the United States and Canada to successfully challenge the legality of the prohibition at the World Trade Organization in 1999 (EU pp). However, given the continued ban by the Europeans, the United States and Canada will be reluctant to lift sanctions that their beef industries claim have cost millions of dollars in lost sales each year (EU pp).

For years, scientists have argued that any increase in the level of hormones, above that which occurs naturally in humans, carries a potential risk of carcinogenic effects, therefore, it is the risks associated with "cocktails" of different hormones that are unclear (Battle pp). Although different scientists have differing views, the safety of hormones in beef and other meat products are in question, yet, the dispute cannot be resolved until the United States beef obtains access to the European market (Battle pp). Over four decades of scientific research has found no justification for continuing the European Union's ban, because study after study has confirmed that the proper use of these hormones poses no risk to human or animal health (Battle pp).

Even the European Union's own Scientific Conference on Growth Promotants held in 1995 reached the same conclusion, and in 1999, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, JECFA, of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization reconfirmed the safety of certain growth hormones when administered with good practices (Battle pp). Moreover, the JECFA found there was no need to establish maximum residue levels for the hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone because the presence of residues would not present a health concern (Battle pp). The EU's major concern is that the hormones might be abuse, however, in the United States, use of these compounds is carefully licenses and regulated (Battle pp). Scientific consensus has already answered the debate over public health and safety, thus, the issue is the European Union's refusal to comply with the World Trade Organization rulings and its unwillingness to honor its international obligations (Battle pp).

In January 2005, the European Commission was to ask the World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body to approve the establishment of a new dispute panel concerning the long-running beef hormone issue (EU1 pp). The United States and Canada have been applying World Trade Organization authorized sanctions for over ten years on certain EU imports due to the ongoing transatlantic squabble over the safety of hormone-treated beef (EU1 pp). However, the European Union will ask the DSB to rule that the continued application of these sanctions are now in violation of World Trade Organization rules (EU1 pp). These proceedings will likely continue until sometime in 2006, and once established, the panel will have six to nine months to issue a ruling (EU1 pp). The three countries will also have the right to appeal against the panel's findings, which is a process that will take an additional three months (EU1 pp). The EU claims that it has complied with a 1998 WTO ruling condemning Europe's ban on hormone-treated beef, yet, the WTO has said that the EU failed to carry out a proper scientific risk assessment justifying the ban…[continue]

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