Gas-X for cows: Can rbST solve the methane problem?

A study led by Cornell’s Judith Capper finds significant global warming benefits to using a synthetic growth hormone for cows. As reported by American Public Radio’s Greenwash Brigade Capper says “switching a million cows onto somatotropin would lead to savings equivalent to removing 400,000 family cars from the U.S. roads.”

On first read, I slapped my head and said “Holy cow!” But as Steve Balogh at GroovyGreen reminds us, “always check the assumptions.”

Turns out, two of the 4 authors are connected to Monsanto, the maker of Posilac (their rbST tradename). One is a full time employee, the other a paid consultant of Monstanto. Some dismiss this as messenger bashing, though it seems very significant to me.

But lets assume that the source of funding for the study had no impact on its findings. DKos diarist OrangeClouds115 gets to the heart of the matter:

Their entire argument assumes that you need to feed cows corn.

She goes on to point out the familiar litany of problems with CAFO dairy – mastitis, e Coli, use and overuse of antibiotics, fossil fuel consumption to produce and transport and support the operation, etc etc etc.

To say nothing of Monsanto’s despicable attempts to quash honest food labeling.

Still, this is Cornell! It’s a journal! Meredith Niles, Cool Foods Campaign Coordinator for The Center for Food Safety sums it up nicely in the thread at Grist:

…none of the emissions created by producing, packaging and transporting rBGH were considered in the overall analysis. Without a supporting life cycle analysis of rBGH it is too early to claim that it can reduce overall emissions and “hoofprints” based solely on production. As well, the study assumes that organic milk production drops 20% (not necessarily true) and does not take into account sequestration from pasture raised animals. Bottom line- the study is premature and fails to consider a variety of factors that are traditionally necessary in peer-reviewed life cycle analysis.


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