Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
young people started to mature younger in the 1970s, and that
explains the fear that growth hormones in cattle production
are causing children to mature earlier.
Dig deeper, though, and it is clear that hormone use in beef
production bears no resemblance to the PBB scandal. First,
children may not even be maturing earlier. Studies that sug-
gest they do tend to rely on subjective judgments about the
size of breasts and testicles, but when you use an objective
measure like the age at which a girl first menstruates, a trend
towards earlier maturity isn't found.
Even if kids are maturing earlier, it cannot be because
of synthetic growth hormones in beef cattle. It is true that
cattle given estrogen will have more of the hormone in
their meat: an additional 0.4 nanograms of estrogen for every
4 ounces of beef, relative to cattle not receiving estrogen.
Compare that to four ounces of raw cabbage, which con-
tains 2,700 nanograms, a soy latte (with one ounce of soy
milk) which contains 30,000 nanograms, or three ounces of
soybean oil, which contains 168,000,000! One birth control
pill contains 25,000 nanograms, and the average prepuber-
tal girl will have 54,000 nanograms of estrogen in her body
every day.
All growth hormones given to cattle in the United States are
regulated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) as being safe for both humans and animals. Scientists
and regulators are not perfect. They failed to see how the feed-
ing of rendered carcasses to cattle might lead to mad cow dis-
ease. As this topic is going to press a growth promoter used in
the beef industry (Zilmax) is being accused of harming cattle
health. At the present it is unclear whether Zilmax is the prob-
lem, but its maker is defending itself by remarking upon all
the safety studies that were performed and reviewed by regu-
lators. So, no, regulators are not perfect, but we know of no
better way to determine what is safe and what isn't than the
science regulators employ. We certainly trust the science more
than rumor.
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