Dairy Farmers Seek Time to Implement SC Ban on Hormonal Injections

PAKISTAN - Upset by the recent Supreme Court ban on the sale and import of hormonal injections for use in livestock, associations of dairy farmers have appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to give farmers at least five months to abandon this practice and replace their old cattle on these drugs with new animals.
calendar icon 10 January 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

They warned that milk production would be cut down by 70 per cent and the dairy industry in Karachi would collapse if relief time was not provided.

Speaking to Dawn on Tuesday, representatives of Dairy Farmers Association and Karachi Dairy Farmers Association said that the sudden decision to ban the hormonal injections being used for increasing milk production for the past 15 years at dairy farms — around 7,000 in Karachi — had started affecting dairy businesses.

"Most dairy farmers in Karachi have been using these hormonal injections for many years. Their current cattle stock is also on these drugs. Our animals are used to getting these injections and it’s impossible to change their behaviour overnight or immediately create natural conditions to increase milk production," explained Shaukat Mukhtar, representing the Karachi Dairy Farmers Association.

According to him, milk production at dairy farms has gone down and Karachiites would soon experience shortage in milk supplies. The city is supplied with 5.5m liters of milk daily.

"We are not against the ban but want some time to replace our animals already used to getting these injections. Otherwise, this ban would ruin thousands of families associated directly or indirectly with the dairy business," Haji Mukhtar of the Dairy Farmers Association said, insisting that farmers had done nothing illegal as these hormonal drugs were registered with the government.

Milk prices, he pointed out, hadn’t been increased in the city for four years and this court decision would add to farmers’ woes.

These reps, however, expressed ignorance about any harmful effects these drugs may cause to animals and humans and argued that they were approved by FDA and were being used in many countries including the US.

To a question, they said an animal received a single dose of milk production hormone once a day for almost the whole lactating period (on an average eight months).

Dr Nasrullah Panhwar, a senior veterinarian, agreed with the farmers’ demand for granting relief period to farmers and said that the sudden decision would reduce milk production.

"I couldn’t find any scientific literature against these drugs 20 years back when they were being introduced in Pakistan, though they did increase calving interval. Having said that, I believe that the Supreme Court decision should be implemented by giving farmers adequate time to bring new animals and increase milk production through changing livestock feeding pattern," he said.

Dr Panhwar criticised the composition of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), which, he said was dominated by Punjab.

Upon contact, director general livestock Sindh Dr Ali Akbar Soomro said that though the court ban would be implemented by the provincial health department in coordination with Drap inspectors, a proposal would soon be sent to the chief secretary to ban the drugs in Sindh as well.

"We have decided to send a letter to the chief secretary with a request banning these drugs. They are harmful to both animals and humans," he said.

Harmful effects

Recently, Drap decided to direct health departments across the country to recall the synthetic recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) injection used for increasing the production of milk in cattle. It also delisted three hormone injections.

The decision was taken after the Supreme Court of Pakistan vacated a stay granted against the ban of the hormone injection by the Sindh High Court.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of National Health Services, the apex court vacated the stay against the cancellation of the registration of the rBST injection by Drap.

The injection was registered in Pakistan in 1998 on the basis of its registration in the United States and other countries. The injection is mainly used for increasing the production of milk from cows.

Recent studies have shown that the hormone — recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) — has serious health risks for animals who are administered the hormonal injection and humans who consumed their milk.

According to sources, the hormone is banned in the EU, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and even India though it is still in use in the US where hormone-treated products are labelled and priced lower than organic products.

In Pakistan, the sources added, the hormone had been in use for the past many years.

Further Reading

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