School Milk Campaign

March 26, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Michael Morowitz

Guest editorial by Dan Cannon, the Chicago Field Organizer for Food and Water Watch

When purchasing milk at a grocery store, more and more consumers are choosing organic milk or at least milk that does not contain recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Consumers are avoiding milk that was produced by cows injected with rBGH because of health concerns, both for the cows and also for themselves.

Luckily, as consumers we have the choice to purchase and drink rBGH-free milk. Unfortunately, school children do not. This is why Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food, is running the “School Milk” Campaign.

What are the risks of rBGH? In 1993 an agriculture company called Monsanto created rBGH to increase milk production within cows. Cows that are injected with rBGH have a greater risk of developing mastitis, an infection of the udders. These infections result in more antibiotics being used, with some researchers questioning links to antibiotic resistance in farm-borne human pathogens.

Why else is rBGH bad for humans? Injections of rBGH increase another powerful hormone in the cow and the cow’s milk, called IGF-1. Numerous studies indicate that IGF-1 survives human digestion. Too much IGF-1 in humans is linked with increased rates of colon, breast and prostate cancer. Although further research is necessary to determine whether there is a hard link between rBGH in milk and increased IGF-1 in humans, a potential linkage should make consumers think twice.

Evan large corporations are beginning to listen to consumers’ concerns. Companies like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Chipotle have all stopped selling rBGH milk. As a result our public school lunch programs have become the last remaining market, the dumping ground, for rBGH milk.

Here in Chicago the School Milk campaign is working with local school districts to inform them of problems associated with this tainted milk and ask them to switch to rBGH-free milk. Specifically Glenview School District 34 and Oak Park School District 97 have been informed that the milk they serve is produced with rBGH. This might come as a surprise to some, but even more surprising is the fact that the Chicago Public School District is rBGH-free. CPS is the third largest school district in the United States and unlike most school districts across the country they have added very specific language in their bid solicitation for milk providers, stating that they will only accept bids for rBGH-free milk. CPS is setting a national example, showing rBGH-free milk is not only available to schools but affordable.

Nationally the School Milk Campaign is urging legislators to support giving our schools the clear choice to buy rBGH-free and organic milk by adding clarifying language to the Child Nutrition Act, which is up for reauthorization this summer. Food and Water Watch is asking Senator Durbin to be a champion for healthy, rBGH-free milk in our schools.

As a constituent you can take action by signing this petition. Our children deserve the healthiest milk available.