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A genetically engineered protein hormone designed to increase milk production is getting mixed reviews from Idaho dairymen.

Researchers at the University of Idaho College of Agriculture say bovine somatotropin, or BST, can help dairy farmers produce 10-25 percent more milk while requiring less feed.The hormone is produced naturally in the pituitary glands of cattle, and trace amounts of BST occur naturally in milk. Using biotechnology, researchers have developed a method for producing BST artificially.

BST has been cleared for human consumption by the federal Food and Drug Administration, but the agency is still investigating its long-term effects on cows.

"The only people who are going to benefit are the companies that make it and the dairymen who are going to use it right at first when it comes out," said Jack Davis, chairman of the Idaho Dairymen's Association and a Kuna dairy farmer. "We're going to have more milk than we can sell, and I feel that there's going to be a lot of consumer resistance to it."

But Nampa dairy farmer Jim Stewart said it offers the dairyman an opportunity to increase production, and he sees no reason why it would put anyone out of business.

"There are other things they could do now to increase production, and they haven't used them," he said. "Dairymen who have used three-times-a-day milking have gotten the same increase that they say we'll have with this BST, and it's never forced anyone out of business."

The Idaho Dairy Products Association has not yet taken a stand on BST, said administrator Don Papenberg.

"We are reviewing both sides and taking a wait-and-see attitude," he said.