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1209 PD: 3 open minutes with Richard Raymond

Richard Raymond Published on 05 August 2009

Chief author for “Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rbST): A Safety Assessment”

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley recently asked Richard Raymond, a faculty affiliate at Colorado State University in the Department of Animal Health Sciences, a few questions about a new white paper on rBST, which was released during the American Dairy Science Association’s annual meeting in Montreal, Canada, on July 14.

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How would you describe this paper?

RAYMOND: It is a review of literature available on the human and animal health safety aspects related to the use of rBST as a supplement. It also takes a look at the articles that have reviewed the environmental and economic impacts of the use of rBST. It’s an extensive literary review.

And how did you personally get involved with this project?

RAYMOND : I am a consultant for Elanco on issues regarding food safety and public health. They asked me to chair a committee of seven other scientists during last winter and then be the chief author of the paper produced by the review panel.

What was most outstanding about your panel participants?

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RAYMOND: The depth and breadth of the knowledge of each panel member. None of them would claim to be an expert on all aspects of rBST. We had an expert on lactation. We had other animal scientists. We had nutritionists. We had experts who have spent more than 30 years researching and exploring the impact of insulin-like growth factor impact on humans. Most of these men and women had published more than 300 articles, some more than 500, related to what we were reviewing.

In your opinion what do you believe will be the paper’s benefit to the dairy industry?

RAYMOND: I don’t know what the impact will be. However, I’m certainly convinced, after the work we did and the product we produced, that rBST poses absolutely no threat to human or animal health, that it has a very large positive environmental impact, and it allows milk to be produced more economically.

My hope is that having this paper, this first-ever compiled body of evidence since rBST was approved in 1993, will allow for us to discuss with not just the dairy industry, but with the consumers of their product and the retailers that sell their product, that there is no risk to human or animal health related to the use of this product and that it should not be a detriment in the sale of that product.

The paper answers 36 questions. How were they compiled?

RAYMOND: We were given a core list of questions that came from consumer interviews. Another set came from purported literature published by groups that do not want to see rBST used in dairy products.

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Was the most important myth addressed in this paper the question about the impact of rBST on the decline in age of puberty onset?

RAYMOND: I would say it was a very important myth that needed to be clarified with scientific backing. It’s probably the one that resonated the most with me being a physician and having addressed this issue many times with my patients. But I wouldn’t say it was the most important thing. The economic impact is big; the environmental impact is big. The questions about insulin-like growth factor not having an increased role in cancer prevalence will be important to some people. So I would say each reader will pick one or two of those questions and say, “These are the most important answers for me.”

Given your previous experience, how would you rank this project in order of importance in your career?

RAYMOND: I think this one is the most important one I’ve ever worked on from the aspect of feeding the world. Increasing production, while at the same time decreasing dairy’s carbon footprint, and making milk and dairy products more economical, will help us feed the world. Milk is the most nutrient-dense food product there is, and it is one of the best ways to help starving countries regain good health and good nutrition. And the more of it we can produce without increasing carbon footprint, the better off we will be as a country and as a global community.

What specific skills did you contribute to this paper?

RAYMOND: When dealing with seven experts, and most of them are academicians who are used to teaching at a high level to people with a high level of knowledge about their subject, I think one of the ways I was most useful was making sure it read at a lay-person’s level. But if someone wants to get into the big words and the technology, we’ve got the references in the paper where they can go read the scientific journal articles.

Are there any questions in your mind that remain unanswered about rBST?

RAYMOND: I think rBST was carefully researched for years before the FDA approved it in 1993. Because more than 30 million cows have now been supplemented since then, the body of research has multiplied many times over. Everything that had been done post-FDA approval has either confirmed pre-FDA approval results or even found fewer concerns. It’s been very well researched. I just can’t think of any area that needs more study. PD

Download a copy of the new white paper at www.progressivedairy.com/downloads/1209/1209_raymond_whitepaper.pdf

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