The prices of raw agricultural products, such as live animals sold to packers, are not controlled under President Nixon’s economic stabilization program, including the recent ceilings he ordered on retail and wholesale prices for beef, pork and lamb. Beef producers, faced with higher production costs, could demand higher prices for the raw product. Meat packers then would probably push for relief from the ceilings to pass their higher costs along to consumers.
No Health Hazard Found
Dr. Aaron Andrews, president of Hess & Clark of Ashland, Ohio, a major producer of growth stimulants for cattie, said the ban “is definitely going to have an upward effect on beef prices because DES is the very best cattle growth drug ever produced.”
Dr. Andrews characterized today’s ban as “rather stupid,” noting that five other comparties that make DES, or diethylstilbestrol, had objected to the ban on the hormone, which has been in widespread use for over 20 years.
The hormone would have been banned under the terms of the Delaney amendment forbidding the use in foods of agents known to cause cancer. But Congress 10 years ago passed a special exemption allowing the use of DES as long as residues of the hormone were not found in meat.
Sherwin Gardner, acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs, said today that new studies conducted on behalf of the Department of Agriculture had found minute traces of DES, on the order of 120 parts per trillion of animal tissue, in beef liver.
Mr. Gardner emphasized that the new studies, which were received by his agency 10 days ago, did not demonstrate “any public health hazard” but that the tests “question the basis on which the drug was approved.”
Until the partial ban was imposed last year, most DES had been added to feed for cattle, as well as chickens and sheep. When this was prohibited, the hormone was formed into pellets that were implanted in the animals’ ears.
DES has been shown to pro duce cancer in laboratory animals and has been traced to the development of a rare form of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who had taken the drug during pregnancy. The hormone is the main ingredient in a so‐called “morning‐after” contraceptive pill for women, the use of which has been challenged by public interest groups as potenially hazardous.
C. W. McMillian, vice president of the American National Cattlemen’s Association, complained that “a person would have to consume several thousand pounds of liver daily to get the equivalent DES in one of the morning‐after pills.” The DES residues were found in the livers and kidneys of cattle up to four months after the implantation of the pellets.
Other Cost Estimates Vary
The Department of Agriculture noted that the growth stimulants Synovex‐H, Synovex‐S and Ralgro remain available for use in cattle. But department specialists said these products may be more expensive than DES.
Federal experts have estimated that a beef animal given DES reaches market weight of 1,000 pounds about 35 days sooner than those not given the hormone. This in turn saves about 500 pounds of cattle feed.
The Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture esthnated last year that a total ban on DES would raise the price of beef by 3.5 cents a pound, or at least $300‐million a year. But a departmental spokesman said that figure had been outdated by increases in demand, consumption and population.
David Ringler of the Animal Health Institute here said some estimates placed the potential increase at “up to 15 cents per pound with most experts tending to give a middle ground of about 8 cents.”
According to the Cattlemen’s Association, a rise of 8 cents would increase the national beef bill $1.8‐billion a year. An estimate by Dr. Andrews put the increase at about 1 per cent.
The F.D.A. order is to officially go into effect Friday with publication in the Congressional Record. But the order will not affect cattle that have already been implanted with DES pellets, or meat from such animals.