[Editor’s Note: The following was released by Consumers International, a coalition of 245 consumer organizations in 110 countries, which has consistently opposed the use of Bovine Growth Hormone)

ROME (June 30) – Governments attending the biennial Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome have failed to agree on an international standard on BST (Bovine Somatotropin) which is used to increase cows' milk production. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the main United Nations body that sets international food standards.

Failure to agree to what is known as a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for BST means that governments will have much more leeway at the national level to decide whether to allow the use of BST in their countries. Already, the European Union has a moratorium on its use in the EU and Canadian regulators have rejected Monsanto's request for its approval. However it is widely used in the United States.

The discussion at Codex today was unexpectedly brief with the United States immediately proposing, in view of the lack of consensus, that no standard be adopted. This was supported by the European Union and then adopted by the meeting. A long debate had been expected between the EU and the US. The US proposal took the meeting by surprise, as in previous discussions on this issue they had argued strongly for Codex to adopt a standard .

Consumers International, the federation of 245 consumer organizations in 110 countries, welcomes this decision and sees it as a victory for the health and safety of consumers. "With this decision Codex has taken an important step in listening to the concerns of consumers. Consumers International applauds this result and the fact that national governments will be able to act to ensure that their citizens are not forced to consume products produced with the use of BST" said Julian Edwards, Director General of Consumers International.

The hormone has been widely criticized for its detrimental effects on animal welfare and could pose possible health hazards to those who drink the milk. Consumers International believes the hormones have not been proven to be safe. The adoption of a standard would have asserted that the hormone was safe to use and countries refusing to import dairy products from countries where BST is used could be brought before the World Trade Organization on the grounds they are creating a barrier to trade.


See follow-up report on July 3, 1999:

Comments on the Proposed MRL on BST

And for further information, visit Consumers International's website: UPDATE directory