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Consumer Milk Hormone Labeling Fight Moves to Indiana

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:15 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances

 

The fight over whether farmers can label their dairy as coming from non hormone treated cows moves to Indiana

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While consumers were savoring a victory in Pennsylvania over dairy labels, Indiana has quietly introduced legislation that would stop farmers from telling consumers whether artificial hormones have been used in the production of their dairy products.

It’s the same issue that raised such a grass-roots ruckus in Pennsylvania last week that the Governor had to step in to stop a labeling ban that was set for February first.   

Labels are the only way consumers can learn whether their dairy products have been produced with the use of the controversial milk hormone rbGH or rBST, commercially known as Posilac and made by Monsanto.

And that’s the point says Rep. William Friend who introduced House Bill 1300.

Rep. Friend tells IB News that consumers don’t need to be able to choose because the milk isn’t any different.

He says,  “The reason for the bill is that there is no lab test that can definitely say you are using or not because it is a naturally occurring hormone in every glass of milk regardless of its source."

Many consumers believe there is a difference. Monsanto published studies show milk from treated cows has increased levels of a spin-off hormone IGF-1, that's been linked to prostate and colon cancer. Given a choice, Consumers Union finds that 88 percent of those polled believe milk should be labeled. That has driven the double digit climb in the sale of dairy products produced without Posilac. 

HB 1300 is as much about money as milk.

“The companies are trying gain market advantage with the same techniques used to market organic, that is hormone free or rBST free,” says Rep. Friend.

So House Bill 1300 makes labeling more difficult by amending the state's “Milk Labeling Standards” and expanding the definition of the "misbranding” of food.

Now besides “false and misleading” a label will be considered illegal if it contains a “compositional claim that cannot be confirmed through laboratory analysis” or  “compositional or production-related claim that is supported solely by sworn statements, affidavits or testimonials.”

The bill is directed at dairy.

Farmers who swear not to use rbGH sign affidavits as a pledge to consumers and the purchaser. 

So for farmers not keen on using Monsanto’s genetically engineered hormone on their cows, the label that says  “rbGH-free”  or “Our Farmers Pledge” No Artificial Growth Hormones” --  will be illegal when the bill goes into effect July 1.  

Rep. Friend says he introduced the bill after hearing from farmers in his district who wanted to be able to continue using the FDA approved hormone for increased milk production and profit.  

He tells IB News,  “Usually they are individual proprietors who are milking maybe 50 to 200 cows and they are selling their milk to Kroger or Dean Foods or Prairie Farms. There is a movement afoot in the industry for the processors to go around to the farmers with an affidavit in hand that says I, as a producer, swear I do not use rbst.”

That’s what happened to Michael Yoder, 53, a dairy farmer from Middlebury, Indiana.  Yoder says he’s been a farmer all his life and used rBST on about 40 percent of his herd of 400.

No longer.  By February 1, all of his dairy cows must be weaned off rbST. He feels he's the victim of strong armed tactics.

“The people who pick up my milk said if you don’t sign they’re not going to pick up my milk starting January first. So we had to sign,”  Yoder tells IB News.  “By forcing us they can say the entire milk industry is not using, so they can label as "No Added Hormones and Antibiotics.""

Yoder says weaning his herd off the hormone will cost him about $120,000 in reduced milk production while Kroger and Dean will charge more for artificial hormone-free milk. There's something in it for him too.

“I’m being paid about $30,000 to $40,000 additional because I signed the affidavit, but that goes away after one year. So most of us are irritated with Dean Food and Kroger, they are the winners while the farmer is taking the entire brunt of the decision,” he says.

It was Yoder, with the help of the Indiana Farm Bureau, who forwarded the language for HB 1300 to Rep. Friend.

Indiana farmers are now put in the uncomfortable position of fighting labels that give consumers a choice but that hurt their bottom line.  

The European Union had expressed a concern over the hormone's potential for impacting small and regional farms when it issued its 1993 moratorium on rbGH. Canada prohibited rbGH in 1999, largely because of concerns about animal and human welfare. 

Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union tells IB News, “Obviously this bill should not go through because the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have said labels are not misleading and consumers have a right to know how their dairy is produced and dairy processors have a right to tell truthful information.”

As they did in Pennsylvania, consumers and dairies that don’t use rBST have an option to file a commercial free speech lawsuit. 

Critics say that, along with thousands of emails, letters and phone calls, turned the tide in Pennsylvania. Hansen says, expect a citizen outcry in Indiana and perhaps next in South Carolina and Ohio.

Critics point to the group, American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT), as working behind the scenes on behalf of the only company that makes Posilac, Monsanto to stop labeling and slow the dwindling sales of the drug.  

AFACT works on dairy issues through its spin-off group, Voices for Choices.

On its web site, Voices for Choices calls itself a campaign, “aimed at creating industry support for producers’ opportunities to use safe and approved technologies and safeguarding the image of all milk as a natural and wholesome product.”

“If you have the market working, more are going rBST free.  The only way you can stop that is if you stop labeling. It’s an anti-free market campaign,” says Hansen.  #


4 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Joe Schmidt
Friday, January 25, 2008 10:21 AM EST

The FDA, surgeon general and state agencies have all said rBST is safe for cows and milk from these cows for human consumption.

Nonetheless, did Monsanto ever take into consideration the public ignorance fear factor of where their food comes from when they created Posilac, no they didn't.

Did dairy farmers ever ask the question, what will my ultimate consumer think of my giving my cows rBSt and how will they react to consuming milk if they knew I was givng my cows rBST? No they didn't.

Is it not then reasonable to think there would be a backlash against rBST given all that the public has gone through? Yes is it reasonable thought.

Now will state legislators who want to create state labeling laws regarding rBST ask milk processors, retailers and consumer what they think before they move forward with even more ignorance? No I don't think they will.

This issue is a detriment to the dairy industry. We all need to realize that more and more public are moving away from producing food. It is reasonable to then understand that that public will want to know how their food is produced, because they no longer control that aspect of their needs. Remember, they are the customer and is true with all sales, the customer is always right.

Regardless if rBST, if used properly might give the producer a little extra income, can't we all see that it isn't helping increase sales!

Sometimes we all have to give up a little. Not everthing that is created that is new and good technology is going to be accepted. Everyone involved in the dairy industry marketing chain has to realize this is a no win issue. Maybe we need to move on and forget about rBST. Lets give the consumer what they want.

Does the dairy farmer have the right to use rBST, yes, but here is the question, if they do are they not cutting off their noses to spite their face? With that you have your answer to the issue.

Anonymous User
Posted by Denise Richter
Monday, January 28, 2008 3:33 PM EST

Dear Joe,
We are heading into a recession, people are trying to stretch their money, and you expect me to believe that the consumer WANTS dairy farmers to increase their cost of production and decrease their income? How do you expect the dwindling number of dairy farms to continue to feed this country if they are not allowed to use safe modern technology? The consumer has been given a huge amount of misinformation that is aimed at terrifying them into demanding a more expensive product that is identical to what they could have at a lower price. There have been several focus group studies regarding this issue and in each study, the consumer was angry when they were presented with the facts, and were in favor of the absence labeling ban. Banning the use of rbST will do nothing to increase the sale of milk, in fact it will do just the opposite. It will force families to cut back on their consumption and milk will become more of a luxery item than a commodity item. Is that what we want, to take milk away from our children?

Anonymous User
Posted by Indiana Resident
Monday, January 28, 2008 9:56 PM EST

The FDA, surgeon general and state agencies are all bought and paid for by Monsanto and many, many, other corporations who have no interest in the health and well-being of the general population. The studies they point to for their evidence of safety are biased by the source of their funding. They cannot be trusted. I don't care what they tell us, it will take a lot to convince me they aren't lying.

In the mean time, I don't care what it costs, I will never consider food that isn't poisoned to be a luxury.

Anonymous User
Posted by Another IN resident
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 11:50 AM EST

I second Indiana Resident in that I, too, will never consider safe, REAL food a luxury.

We may be heading towards a recession and, of course, we don't want anyone to suffer, but taking away a person's right to chose food products based of safety (which seems to be a personal matter depending if you believe the "facts" Monsanto provides or the "facts" provided by people interested in a safe, sustainable food supply.

Those opposed to this HB aren't benefiting financially from the cows injected with Monsanto's product. Personally, I tend to lean towards those "facts" not connected to money.

Oh, by the way, dairy farmers may think they are making more money by getting rid of the label, however, maybe they should be pushing for not only labeling, but also raw milk and direct sales. Why give Monsanto and the retail giants all the profits from their hard working cows???

Comments for this article are closed.

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