Science and Social Context. The Regulation of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone in North America
The first major product of agricultural biotechnology was recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH, also know as rbST), a drug produced by Monsanto to increase milk production in cows. Following worldwide debate about its safety, it was approved in the United States in 1993 but rejected in Canada and Europe in 1999. In Science and Social Context Lisa Mills looks at how regulatory scientists arrive at conclusions about product safety, given the constraints of the environment in which they work. She examines the decision-making processes at Monsanto that led to their making the drug available and discusses corporate, academic, and regulatory decision-making in the context of a restructured global political economy for agriculture. Mills shows that there was consensus about the scientific evidence but interpretation of that evidence differed depending on the context from which it was viewed. Scientists who analysed it for regulatory bodies interpreted it differently than scientists in corporate or academic institutions, and scientists in Canada and Europe interpreted it differently than those in the United States. In the United States it was assumed that any problems arising from its use could be taken care of within the existing dairy system; in Canada and Europe these problems were regarded as legitimate animal welfare issues. While all regulatory bodies agreed that human health problems were unlikely, in Canada the Health Protection Branch questioned this, but ultimately rejected the drug on animal health grounds.