Parliamentary Research Branch


PRB 98-1E


Prepared by:
Frédéric Forge
Science and Technology Division
October 1998

Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) is a veterinary medication produced by genetic engineering. When administered to lactating cows, it can increase their milk production by between 10 and 15%.

Approval of this product has been subject to controversy in this country since the early 1990s, primarily because of its possible effects on human health. The various House of Commons and Senate committees with an interest in the subject have regularly examined the issue and held hearings on it. In 1994, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food published a report entitled rbST in Canada. The first request for approval of an rbST-based product was made in 1988; however, no decision has yet been made on whether to authorize or to ban this medication. Health Canada, the department responsible for approving the product, is currently reviewing its process for evaluating rbST.

This document presents various issues relating to rbST and considers its effects on health and the dairy industry, its regulation in Canada, and its use abroad.