Dairy farmers using Monsanto Co.'s recombinant bovine somatotropin(BST) product, Posilac, to boost milk production have reported nosignificant increase in mastitis in cows over the last six months.Monsanto surveyed the farmers as part of a two-year study the St.Louis-based company is conducting to monitor Posilac, which receivedapproval from the FDA last November. Monsanto began selling therecombinant bovine growth hormone in February amid protests fromconsumer activist groups, such as the Washington-based Pure FoodCampaign, which warned that the drug would increase mastitis. Thecondition is an inflammation of the udder and is treated withantibiotics. Those opposed to BST were concerned that farmers usingthe growth hormone would be forced to rely more on antibiotics,increasing the risk that traces of antibiotics might taint milk supplies.Monsanto said that in the past six months more than 10,000 producerstreated more than 800,000 cows (or about 8 percent of the nation's 9.5million dairy cows) with 6.8 million doses of Posilac. The companysaid it received 95 reports of concern about the drug from thoseproducers, including 14 customers who reported concerns withmastitis.In the report, which was released last week, Monsanto concluded, "Thenumbers suggest that producers have not seen a significant increase inthis condition."Ronald Cummins, national director of the Pure Food Campaign,questioned Monsanto's figures on the use of Posilac.He said Monsanto has described New York as its second largestmarket, but only one out of every 27 dairy farmers has applied with thestate Department of Health to use the growth hormone. "And only 1.6 percent of Wisconsin's farmers are using it," he added."I don't know where they get that 8 percent [of all cows in the nation]have been treated with it."Cummins said Monsanto's release of the sixth-month report is anattempt "to cover up the fact that sales [of Posilac] peaked and are nowgoing down."Monsanto also reported that in a random sample survey after Posilacwas on the market three months, more than 90 percent of producerswho used it said they were satisfied and 97.3 percent said milkproduction increased. The average daily increase, the company said,was 10 pounds of milk per cow.Monsanto said its two-year study, which will be reported in 1996, isintended to reinforce the FDA's conclusion that Posilac is safe forcows. n

-- Charles Craig

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