The Efficacy, Safety and Benefits of Bovine Somatotropin and Porcine Somatotropin

By ACSH Staff — Jul 01, 1994
As the world's population grows, the National Research Council estimates that the supply of food required to adequately meet human nutritional needs over the next 40 years will be equal to the amount of food previously produced throughout the entire history of humankind. To meet this demand, animal scientists must develop new technologies to increase productive efficiency (that is, the yield of milk or meat per unit of feed), produce leaner animals and provide increased economic return on investment to producers. During the past decade, scientists have developed many new agricultural biotechnologies that meet these goals. Their adoption will have many positive effects on food production, processing and availability.

On November 5, 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first biotechnological product for animal production, bovine somatotropin (bST) for commercial use. This action ushered in a remarkable new era for animal agriculture and the dairy industry. BST use results in a substantial increase in milk yield (4 to 6 kg/day or 10 to 15%) accompanied by an approximate 12% increase in productive efficiency. Milk yield increases in a dose-dependent manner and the composition of milk is unaltered.

Scientists in academia, government and industry have conducted more than 2,000 scientific studies of bST throughout the world. These studies have clearly shown the efficacy, safety and benefits realized by integrating bST into dairy production. BST does not adversely affect the health of treated cows. Supplemental administration of bST does not affect the quantity of bST found in milk or the milk's composition. Milk and meat derived from bST treated cows are safe for human consumption.

A second biotechnology product, porcine somatotropin (pST), likely will be approved shortly by the FDA. When maximally effective doses of pST are given to growing pigs, there is a marked increase in growth rate (10 to 15%), productive efficiency (body weight gain/feed consumed) is increased by as much as 15 to 35%, and carcass fat is reduced by as much as 80%. Producing leaner pork will benefit consumers who wish to reduce their intake of total and saturated fat.

Technologies that lower the quantity of feed consumed per unit of output (meat or milk) will also benefit the producer because feed constitutes the major component (about 50 to 70 percent) of animal production costs. The use of bST and pST will also have a beneficial effect on the environment. A reduction in the amount of feed required to produce a unit of meat or milk would reduce the need for fertilizer and other inputs associated with growing, harvesting, processing and storing animal feed. Increases in productive efficiency reduce the production of animal wastes including methane.

Although the biotechnological advances made in the past 15 years have been accepted by the scientific community, public misunderstanding about the safety and benefits of bST and pST endures. Many consumers do not receive factual information or, even worse, hear misinformation about biotechnology. Thus, it is difficult for them to evaluate accurately the safety and benefits of these products. It is important that credible scientists and scientific organizations make an effort to inform consumers about the benefits and safety of bST and pST. To benefit society, biotechnology products must provide tangible benefits and be accepted by the public as safe.

Bovine Somatotropin (bST) and Porcine Somatotropin (pST)