The state of America's food supply has been the subject of some concern recently with the revelations of melamine and other toxins present in foodstuffs imported from China. Risking the chance of groundless charges of xenophobia, I'd say it's clear that China represents a regulation-free environment that poses a significant risk to the health and safety of American citizens.
The problem, however, is much larger than that and it's closer to home than China. Industrial ranching practices are drowning us in hormones, and most of them are similar to estrogen, which will come up again toward the end of this post.
You're probably familiar with recombinant Bovine Growth Somatotropin/Hormone, made mainly by Monsanto Corporation under the brand name Posilac. This synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone is injected into dairy cattle because it stimulates mammary tissue in cows, increasing milk production drastically. There's quite a bit that can be said about this practice, especially the way that the FDA rushed approval for it. But for this post we need only recognize its widespread use and the fact that it causes the cow's body to think that it's pregnant/nursing and needs to produce more milk - just like the respective hormones in humans.
Beef cattle are not injected with rBGH. Rather, they are usually given a cocktail of six different hormones. Three of them occur naturally: oestradiol, progesterone and testosterone. Oestradiol is basically what we think of as "estrogen." Progesterone is known as the "pregnancy hormone," even though men do have it as well. It's essential to the development of the fetus and levels increase sharply during pregnancy. Testosterone is pretty much to males what oestradiol is to females.
The three artificial hormones injected into beef cattle are zeranol, trenbolone and melengestrol. Zeranol is "an anabolic-estrogenic agent that has been used for estrogen replacement in humans but is used primarily in veterinary medicine as a growth stimulant." Trenbolone is an anabolic steriod popular for both beef cattle and bodybuilders because of how effective it is for producing muscle. Melengestrol is another growth hormone, as well as a contraceptive.
So what we have is the widespread use of hormones to artificially increase the weight of beef cattle and decrease the amount of time it takes for them to reach the desired weight. These hormones, both natural and artificial, are almost all similar to estrogen and have similar effects in both cattle and humans. A study by the Institute of Physiology and Institute of Animal Hygiene in Germany took solid and liquid manure from cattle treated with both trenbolone and melengestrol and used it as fertilizer on maize fields after several months in storage. Trenbolone was found to have a half-life of around 267 days, while melengestrol was detected all the way to the end of the growing season. Obviously these compounds are able to enter the wider environment, and presumably the other hormones injected into beef and dairy cattle are able to as well.
Indeed, there are studies which have found not only the presence of synthetic estrogens in the environment, but the ways in which they can affect it. For example, studies have been done on white sucker fish in Colorado streams near Denver and Boulder. They found that near wastewater treatment plants, white sucker fish are predominantly female, the males are sometimes underdeveloped and some fish are even intersex.
But there's a plot twist. You knew there would be a plot twist, right? The twist is that WorldNet Daily and the National Catholic Register are rather less worried about white sucker fish than they are "consequence-free sex." That's right. The culprit, according to them, is the Pill.
America's per capita consumption of beef is around 90 pounds a year. Our per capita consumption of dairy products is almost 600 pounds a year. The vast majority of this comes from cattle pumped full of estrogen and estrogen-like hormones. Until 2004 cattle bones were ground up and used for chicken feed, whose waste was used to supplement the feed of the cattle whose bones would be ground up and used to feed the chicken - well, you get the idea.
Virtually every man, woman and child in this country eating beef and dairy products full of hormones. Approximately 29% of women aged 15-44, however, use birth control pills. This works out to almost 17 million women across the United States, or 5.5% of the total population. That means that there's something like 156,000 women in Denver who use birth control, as opposed to 2.6 million people who eat and drink estrogen-laced beef, cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream.
Obviously it's a problem if the hormones in birth control pills are not being filtered out by waste water treatment plants. However, there are so many additives, whether high levels of natural substances or synthetics, present in our food supply that what we clearly need is better technology at our waste water treatment plants in addition to a serious reduction in the amount of hormones and other chemicals food producers are allowed to put in our food.
Even if WorldNet Daily and the National Catholic Register are able to realize their wildest wet dream and deny hormonal contraceptives to women - taking away the most common way to enjoy "consequence-free sex" - the white sucker fish in Colorado, other animals throughout the USA and the human population itself will continue to be poisoned by rampant food adulteration done in the name of ease and greater profits. WorldNet Daily and the National Catholic Register both snidely noted that environmentalists just don't seem too concerned about the plight of the white sucker fish, and not-so-subtly implied that the reason is because of the all-powerful feminists and their desire to enjoy "consequence-free sex."* Since I know that progressives are generally concerned about the entire environment and would like to see an infinite number of business practices cleaned up, I'd like to state clearly that it would be nice if these conservative publications and their readers could work up an iota of concern about the environment even when they aren't able to use their faux-concern to condemn women for the problems.*I know, feminists are supposed to hate sex. It's all very confusing.