Growth Hormones in Our Food  Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

More objectivity is however expected from scientists, but their opinions also vary. Specifically, the opinions of those who support growth hormones and those who reject them are all derived from scientific evidence. This in turn means that the results of scientific research could be manipulated and influenced so that the findings are indicative of the desires of those who initiated the study. In this particular sense, the most pertinent situation is revealed by the beef and dairy producers, who hire their own scientists to lead the research process in the direction desired by them.

Aside from these situations however, the scientists who have conducted studies tend to link various health problems with the growth hormones. Some of the side effects to consuming products with residual matters from growth hormones include the onset of early puberty in girls, an increase in the risk of breast cancer, an increase in the risk of prostate cancer (McLaughlin), but also any other form of cancer. The population categories most sensitive to these risks would be the children, the pregnant women and the unborn children (Sustainable Table).

At a political level, the stands regarding the usage of growth hormones in the raising of cattle vary again. Within the United States for instance, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration both approve of the growth hormones and argue that their usage is safe for the population. The same approach is implemented by the authorities in Canada. Within Europe however, the European Union dismisses these hormones as having a potential to harm human health, and forbids their usage onto its territory. At a global level, the general perception is a precautionary one, with the policy makers being rather attentive and limitation of the usage of growth hormones. Within the North American countries however, these concerns are not addressed at the political level.

The differing opinions of the European and American policy makers have materialized in an open trade conflict. Europe, by banning the usage of growth hormones, also banned the sale of beef and dairy coming from cattle that has been raised within growth hormones. Such imports from the United States were subsequently banned, causing major losses for the American exporters. The decision was challenged by the U.S. At the World Trade Organization, but a resolution is still pending (Sustainable Table).

As it has been mentioned before, a clear delimitation of the parties involved in the dispute over the usage of growth hormones in the raising of cattle is difficult to accomplish, especially since the identified parties are not homogenous groups. In this setting then, it is suitable to also identify the arguments, without clinging on to the parties. In this order of ideas, the lines below point out to the main arguments in favor and against the usage of growth hormones in cattle.

a) Arguments in favor of growth hormones

The usage of the rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, another name for the rBGH) reduces the numbers of cows required to produce a large quantity of milk, decreasing as such the negative impact of dairy firms upon the environment

The usage of growth hormones allows the beef cows to grow by at estimated 15 to 20 per cent higher rate and to also produce a leaner meet than the animals grown in the conventional manner

The existence of residual hormones in the dairy and the meat do not harm the consumers. When these residues exist in the products, they are present in low quantities and do not harm the human body. In the case of the bST, its residues are already dead and go through the digestive system of the consumers.

The studies conducted by researchers have proven the safety in using growth hormones. This argument relies on the existence of over 2,000 studies worldwide about the quality and healthfulness of the milk coming from injected cows and the findings which state that it is not dangerous for human consumption (Food Service Warehouse).

b) Arguments against growth hormones

The growth hormones are unsafe and unhealthy for the cows, the label of the injection revealing over 20 potential risks to the animals, including mastitis, a painful bacterial infection affecting the udder of the cow.

The milk of injected cows has residual hormones 10 times higher than the milk of non-injected cows. Research studies have linked this milk with an increasing risk of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer in human consumers.

The consumption of products deriving from animals injected with growth hormones causes early maturity in humans. In the 1970s decade, the United States banned DES -- a growth hormone known to cause cancer. Instead of destroying its residues, they sent them to Puerto Rico, where the farmers injected them into their chickens. As a result of consuming the meat, children as young as two had reached full sexual maturity.

Finally, the milk from cows injected with growth hormones might also contain residual antibiotics. The animals injected with bST often incur udder infections, which are treated with antibiotics that will also be present in the milk. If the farmer does not allow a sufficient withdrawal period, the entire supply of milk could be contaminated with the medicine (Food Service Warehouse).

6. Recommendations

The problem with cows injected with growth hormones is more common within the United States and Canada, with the other players in the international community embracing a more prudential approach. In this order of ideas, the general recommendation is for the authorities in the two North American countries to further investigate the matter and to make better informed decisions. The final expectation is for the authorities to forbid all together the use of growth hormones, in an effort to safeguard the health of the population. In this order of ideas, the following pin pointed recommendations are forwarded:

The careful assessment of the studies conducted outside the United States, as well as the studies conducted within the United States; the comparison of the two and the identification of the objectivity of each study. Specifically, at this stage, importance would be placed on the less obvious aspect of the studies, such as the existence of a link between the research center, the scientist, and the beef and dairy producers. The identification of such a relationship would be an automatic red flag.

The creation of its own team of scientists to investigate the concerns raised relative to the safety of the growth hormones. This team would be under the supervision of the government and its main scope would be that of generating objective findings.

The policy makers should move away from the interests of the companies. While this subject is often taboo, the role of the government as a structure of the people, for the people and by the people seems to lose its meaning. In this structure, corporations have intervened to create spectacular profits and to use their financial resources to influence the policy making process (Leonard). In such a setting then, it is necessary for the political structures to move away from the influence of the corporations and to base their decision making processes on objective and unbiased findings, which support the overall well-being of the population.

Overall then, the usage of growth hormones is a controversial matter, with some arguing its benefits, whereas others arguing its shortages. In essence, while the benefits are pertinent to some degree, they are still inferior to the potential of risks they raise. The current paper has strived to maintain a distant position from each argument and has forwarded the need for intensive and thorough study, as well as the reliance on objective research rather than any other source of influence.


Leonard, a., the story of stuff, the Story of Stuff Project, / last accessed on February 21, 2012

McLaughlin, a. 2011, the effects of growth hormones in food, Live Strong, / last accessed on February 21, 2012

Artificial hormones, Sustainable Table, / last accessed on February 21, 2012

EU scientists confirm health risks of growth hormones in meat, Organic Consumer Association, last accessed on February 21, 2012

Serving food with a side of growth hormones, Food Service Warehouse, last accessed on February 21, 2012

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