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Rapid response to:


Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 28 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6015

Rapid Response:

In the comment of Karl Michaëlsson, Alicja Wolk and Liisa Byberg dated 4th of December 2014, they state the following.

“We note with interest that these authors also reference the incorrect calculations of crude mortality made by Staffan Hellstrand, who is consultant for the Federation of Swedish Farmers, an organization who is owner of milk industries (e.g., Arla Foods). In a previous response (, we have corrected Staffan Hellstrand and guided him to the correct data for use. Despite erroneous figures, Astrup and Givens have chosen to repeat the presentation of Staffan Hellstrand’s incorrect calculations – an interesting action given the fact that Arne Astrup should be an objective key opinion leader in field of nutritional research by his role as editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Hopefully, his action to criticize our study by distorted arguments is not related to his financial conflicts of interest, for example research support from Arla Foods (25).”

First, the most well-known Swede with the name Staffan Hellstrand is a song-writer. My friends know that neither singing nor lyrics is my fields of competence.

My name is Stefan Hellstrand, nothing else.

Second, I am not a consultant for the Federation of Swedish Farmers. It is correct that I have made some jobs for them, but I have made jobs for numerous of organisations, at the homepage of my enterprise (in Swedish only) information about my field of expertise, organisations I have worked for, networks are obtained.

Third, The Federation of Swedish Farmers – LRF is to my knowledge not an owner of milk industries including Arla. The organisation of the farmers cooperatives have for many decades, close to one century, been divided in one branch dealing with agricultural politics which is LRF and before LRF RLF. The other branch with sub-branches had and has response for agricultural industries. My father, uncle and grandfather contributed in the creation and development of these organisations, which together with consumer cooperatives, labour unions, and other organisations empowering the people since the 1900th century was a substantial part of the explanation why Sweden together with Japan had the fastest growing economy in the world 1870 to 1970, (see SOU 1991:82 for detailed analysis).

Fourth, the authors have not in a previous response “corrected Staffan Hellstrand and guided him to the correct data for use.” This i will elaborate on further in a following commentary.

Fifth, the figure I presented in the first comment and the calculations made are not incorrect. I will show this in a following commentary.

The last two sentences in the quotation above from Michaëlsson et al. are the most disturbing ones. I read it as an effort to weaken the strength of the argumentation of Astrup and Givens in that part where they have made use of my previous comment by implying that I repeat what the dairy industry wants me to say, and that I do that in a rather amateurish way. If I have misunderstood Michaëlsson et al. in this part I apologise for that, and ask for a clarification about what they mean.

I was in 2008 contacted by a group of around 40 scientists internationally that planned a qualified scientific contribution regarding what a more sustainable agriculture globally can be. They asked me to be the man responsible for that part that treated animal production systems in a more sustainable agriculture globally, and co-responsible for the issue of how to measure sustainability performance in such complex systems that agricultural systems are given the combined biophysical and socioeconomic contexts and their variation in time and space. Both issues are challenging not only for me but for the scientific community. How comes that that proposal came to me and my little enterprise? Does it reflect that qualified scientists internationally appreciate my overall competence regarding agriculture, food production, milk production and human health in a sustainability context?

Prof David Pimentel Cornell University, on the behalf of the editorial committee, revived my proposal and summarised it with the word “excellent”. David is author of around 700 scientific papers and 20 books. This gave Hellstrand (2013).

From the content of Hellstrand (2006; 2013) it is obvious that I work independent of the Swedish Farmers Federation and the dairy industry. At the same time I acknowledge that they have an important task to secure the economic viability of Swedish farmers including milk producers in their delivery of one of the most important ecosystem services needed to secure human wealth, namely food, in accordance with principles for sustainability put forward by Odum (1989), OECD (2001), Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005), FAO (2006), UN Millennium Development Goals (UN 2008), TEEB (2010). It is a reason that food in Swedish is called “livs-medel”, that is means for life.

I regard myself as quite well informed about the systems and issues treated in the quotation in the beginning of this comment. Given the substantial discrepancies between the content of the quotation and my own understanding of these systems, my last question is to what degree a similar discrepancy is at hand in the article itself in the way it describes the investigated system and the investigated system itself, i.e. reality.

The article of Michaëlsson et al. exists in a context. Hellstrand (2013) shows that the way ruminant production systems, where milk production is the most important one, are treated on an operative level in scientific articles and policy-areas in Sweden and internationally is in conflict with known properties of concerned systems in the disciplines that have the competence of excellence. That creates a situation where these “contributions” are in conflict with Odum (1989), OECD (2001), Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005), FAO (2006), UN Millennium Development Goals (UN 2008), TEEB (2010). This has resulted in a situation where the strategy for bioenergy from IPCC (2012) may threaten global food security in 20 years (Hellstrand 2013).

Hellstrand (ibid.) shows that one part of this problem is official proposals for cost-recommendations for good health of people and the environment in Sweden. If there is substance in Michaëlsson et al., this shall be acknowledged. If their results mainly reflects weaknesses, and possible flaws it is equally important that this is shown, so that they do not in the prolongation contribute to cost recommendations that threaten global food security and sustainability.


FAO. 2006. Livestock’s long shadow, Rome.

Hellstrand, S. 2006. A Multi-Criteria Analysis of Sustainability Effects of Increasing Concentrate Intensity in Swedish Milk Production 1989-1999. Environment, Development and Sustainability, Kluwer Academic Publisher, Volume 8, Number 3, Pages: 351 – 373.

Hellstrand, S. 2013. Animal production in a sustainable agriculture. Environment, Development & Sustainability 15:4 999-1036.

IPCC. 2012. Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Eds: Edenhofer, O., Pichs-Madruga, R: & Y. Sokona.

MEA. 2005. Accessed 6th of February 2009.

Odum, E.P. 1989. Ecology and Our Endangered Life-Support Systems. Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc., Publishers.

OECD. 2001. Policies to Enhance Sustainable Development. Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial level, 2001.

SOU. 1991. Drivkrafter för produktivitet och välstånd, SOU 1991:82.

TEEB. 2010. Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB.

UN. 2008. UN Millennium Goals,, accessed 2008-08-25.

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 January 2015
Stefan Hellstrand
Consultant and PhD-student
Nolby Ekostrategi and School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology Mälardalen University
Tolita 8, 665 92 Kil, Sweden