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Friday, July 24, 2009
Monsanto introduces a controversial synthetic hormone rBST / rBGH into market
Monsanto is an USA based multinational agricultural biotechnological corporation. It is the leading producer of genetically engineered seeds and herbicides. Due to its aggressive marketing of biotech products and lobbying practices have made the company controversial all over the world and a primary target of environmental activist.
Following are some critical problems which got Monsanto in trouble with the development of synthetic hormone rBST/rBGH, product named POSILAC.
1. Monsanto lied about the side effects of the synthetic hormone (recombinant Bovine Somatotropin - rBST) used to increase milk production in cows. They presented insufficient reports to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in order to keep the product on the market (POSILAC). Direct or indirect pressure was put on the University professors and research scientist who served on the committee for approval of the product. The conclusion of some Canadian and European scientists about the side effects of the drug were omitted from the final report presented to the FDA.
2. News reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre of WTVT (Fox 13) acquired the reports, which showed evidence of the side effects of rBST. They produced a story on the dangers of this synthetic hormone. Monsanto put pressure on the Fox Network for not airing the show. Monsanto threatened to withdraw its advertisements from all the channels owned by the Fox Corporation. Wilson and Akre refused to modify the story and as a consequence Fox fired them. Thus, Monsanto used lobbying practices in order to keep the product on the market, which is an unethical business practice. In short, Monsanto sole objective was gaining profit, ignoring the health of both animals and humans.
3. Obvious adverse side effects were seen on the cows that were treated with POSILAC. It caused the cow unnecessary pain and suffering, distress, and also caused infection in their udders. This also affected the milk produced. Additionally, the composition of the milk was not same as the milk from the untreated cows. Ultimately, human health is also in danger and can cause severe health issues.
1. Monsanto should show ethical behavior in terms of business, government and society. Furthermore, Monsanto should clearly reveal the side effects and release all reports generated from the testing of POSILAC to the general public and FDA. Showing some social responsibility and care for animal and human health will improve the trust of the company.
2. Monsanto should conduct more research on synthetic hormones and to find out ways in which the adverse effects could be reduced. Moreover, if any adverse effect occurs, the results should be well stated to the general public. Lastly, it is recommended Monsanto concentrate on research and finding out new alternatives, rather than solely making profits, at the expense of the health of animals and humans.
Based on the above recommendations, carrying out extensive research on the product and stating the side effects to the general public is the most crucial recommendation.
As research suggests, synthetic hormones cannot match the functionality and the superiority of natural hormones. Most of the companies which work in production of synthetic hormones begin with a natural substance. Because natural substances cannot be patented, the chemical composition is slightly altered. Thus, synthetic hormones are not an exact match of the body. Monsanto’s rBST differs from the cattle’s natural BST by a single amino acid. The milk produced from cattle treated with rBST is not equivalent to milk produced from the cattle which are not treated with rBST. To occupy the market and make profits, Monsanto ignored the side effects and additional research. The product severely affected the cattle, which ultimately affected the humans as they consumed the milk. Thus, both lack of testing and neglecting the obvious side effects caused Monsanto much trouble with law suits. Some reasons were Monsanto didn’t have the first hand knowledge of the effects of the synthetic hormone. After knowing the danger responsible behavior was not shown towards the damage done to the farm cattle’s. The resources of the company which worked on the team was not concentrated on the research but was into forcibly making the product used globally as well as in USA.
In a similar case with different results, Eli Lilly and Company is also into production of synthetic hormones. They developed synthetic insulin for diabetic patients (Product name-Humulin) which even today act as a life-saving drug in the market. The way Lilly operated as a company is different than the way Monsanto operated; they responsibly reported the research with the possible side effects of the hormone in humans to the FDA. The FDA worked in collaboration with Lilly to restrict some of the side effects. Now, the drug is widely used all over the world. Thus, in comparison to Monsanto, Eli Lilly’s approach was more defined, ethical and the resources were distributed more appropriately. This led to not only a successful product, but also a well recognized and accepted drug. Lilly had to face rejection and law suits. However, they handled it with medical and research evidence, not by pressurizing or dominating any adversaries. The care for social responsibility, human health and global responsibility followed with the well researched product.
Thus, any well-researched product holds key to the success of the product. Monsanto should work on researching the product and reduce or eliminate the side effects, which admittedly, is difficult at times. However, all corporations must at least show some social ethical behavior towards the society and follow ethical business practices.