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ROBERT COHEN - THE "NOTMILKMAN"
At Long Island University's Southampton College I studied physiological psychology under Robert K. Orndoff, Ph.D., whom I consider my mentor. I selected psychobiology as my major to prepare for a career in biological research. I loved the challenge of exploring a hypothesis, designing experiments to test it, and solving the riddles, the maze of variables and influences associated with the scientific investigation of living organisms and life processes. I was soon immersed in laboratory research in the field of psychoneuroendocrinology, studying the influence of hormones on brain chemistry and subsequent mammalian behavior. I performed surgery on hundreds of laboratory animals and learned how slight details, easily overlooked, can drastically affect a research project, or nullify it altogether. Undergraduate students, correctly instructed in performing proper research techniques or experimental protocols, learn that very subtle cues may modify and manipulate behavior.
We are all unique individuals. We are all the sum of our previous experiences. All of my life experiences have made me into a unique individual. I possess many skills. Those skills allow me to write this book. I can communicate with scientists, understand complicated scientific data, and I can translate scientific experience into concepts easily understood by non-scientists. All of my life has been a journey to take me to where I now am.
How "Science" Can Go Wrong
In performing research, a scientist must endeavor to eliminate any variables which compromise that research. It's usually a good idea, when treating one group of animals with a drug or device, to use a control group. Without a control group one can never know what the effects of that drug would be on the "untreated" group. This makes sense! Undergraduate students are taught proper research techniques.
An example of how unanticipated variables can betray a scientist illustrates the care that must be taken in designing and conducting studies. Here is what occurred in one study in which I participated. By telling you about this mistake, and revealing my techniques, and subsequent discovery of a serious error, you might accept my credentials and excuse the fact that I have no M.D. or Ph.D. after my name. I helped to design a study intended to discover how the female hormone, estrogen, worked inside of an animal's body. Where does estrogen go, what tissues does it affect? Working with rats I injected a radioactive form of estrogen (tritiated estradiol benzoate) into two dozen animals. I carefully sacrificed these animals ("sacrificed", a politically acceptable way of saying I killed them) and using surgical techniques mastered from previous experience, I carefully separated various organs and tissues for testing. (I had previously operated on hundreds of animals, performing ovario-hysterectomies, ligating renal arteries in kidney hypertension studies, implanting electrodes in various areas of the brain, among other things). I was proficient at isolating various tissues including thigh muscle, organs and brain tissues.
Using a machine called a scintillation spectrometer which measured the radioactive samples of estrogen, I was able to calibrate how, where and in what amounts estrogen was bound to various organs and tissues. The study provided enlightenment into previously conceived areas of knowledge. I was excited, until a dreaded word emerged from deep within my consciousness. A word never to be uttered by a surgeon or a doctor treating a patient. A word to strike fear in the hearts of scientists and lab personnel everywhere. "Mistake!" We had made a mistake! I hadn't considered a variable so critical as to negate six months of planning and compromise all results of the study. I rushed to check, and found my worst fears confirmed. Rat Chow! Purina Rat Chow! Made from alfalfa! Oh, no! Alfalfa contains a substance that is almost identical in steroid structure to estrogen.
I tell this story to demonstrate how critical every detail of a research project is. It was my responsibility to identify and eliminate all possible extraneous variables, but I overlooked the powerful influence of dietary hormones. The last thing scientists or pharmaceutical companies want is to have their work questioned or compromised. Twenty-four years would pass before I applied my scientific training and knowledge and love of reading journal articles and interpolating complicated scientific data to the milk controversy generated by Monsanto's new genetically engineered hormone.
I doubt that many doctors or scientists have the opportunity, or more specifically, the time and desire to spend three years reading, analyzing every aspect of research, contacting hundreds of labs and scientists, putting together a complete picture of how milk hormones work and affect the human body. When people go to work they do their jobs and then leave those jobs to go home. They have hundreds or thousands of different tasks and assignments over a two-year period. I had one. They went home for a weekend. I worked seven days per week. I read and studied and analyzed.
The approval of the genetically engineered milk hormone was the most controversial in the history of the Food and Drug Administration. The amount of research submitted by Monsanto, 55,000 pages, overwhelmed FDA reviewers. Monsanto invested $500 million in developing this new drug and food additive. I became the one person in America to meet with the FDA on the scientific merits of this controversy and on April 21, 1995, I was invited to the Center for Veterinary Medicine and discussed many of the issues in this book with FDA scientists.
My children are the reason I developed an interest in milk. One day in August 1994, I read a column written by Jane Heimlich, a health and nutrition writer for Julian Whitaker's Health and Healing newsletter. Her column explored all aspects of the controversy surrounding the first genetically engineered product developed for our food supply. This new hormone, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) also was named recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH). The Monsanto Agricultural Company of St. Louis, Missouri, had found a way to combine the genetic material from a naturally occurring cow hormone with bacteria. This new technology allowed Monsanto scientists to grow this new version of the naturally occurring hormone inside of a specially developed strain of bacteria so that the growth factor could be inexpensively mass produced.
The bacteria were then "harvested" with sophisticated new techniques, and the hormone collected. The new drug called re-combinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) would then be injected into cows. The rBST-treated cows then would produce more milk. The controversy revealed that there might be problems with the milk. This was the first I had heard of it. I called the publisher of this newsletter and soon connected with Jane Heimlich. The more I learned, the more concerned I became for my children. I certainly could control the milk my children consumed. It was summer, but there were personnel working at the Board of Education at the public school which they attended. After a few phone calls I learned that their school was negotiating with a new milk supplier. They were about to sign a contract to buy milk from a company that was buying milk from dairies that treated their cows with this new hormone. I protested this decision by writing letters, making phone calls, and successfully stalled this decision. Instead, the school bought milk from a supplier who stated that his dairy farmers do not use the new hormone and he would not accept milk from cows treated with rBST. That was good enough for me. I had won a minor skirmish. Soon there'd be more battles.