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90 groups and dairies urge Utah to not ban milk hormone labeling

Monday, February 25, 2008

Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Hearing to be Held

Today, ninety dairy farmers, consumer, farm and agricultural, public health, animal protection and environmental organizations, food processors and retailers wrote to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. to urge the state not to prohibit farmers from telling consumers that they do not use artificial hormones on their dairy cows. Recently, labeling rules similar to those under consideration have been dismissed in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New Jersey due to overwhelming consumer opposition. Ohio is in the process of evaluating such a rule. A copy of the letter can be found here:
On Tuesday, February 26, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food will hold a public hearing to discuss the proposed food labeling and advertising rules (Administrative Rule R70-340), which would put severe restrictions on labeling of dairy products produced without recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST), a genetically engineered hormone created by Monsanto that induces cows to produce more milk. Under the guise of protecting consumers from misleading information, this rule extends to all advertising and to all food products, taking away farmer’s right to free speech and censoring the truthful information consumers want and need.
“The long-term health impacts of rBST are not yet understood, and families with young children understandably want to avoid synthetic hormone use,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety. “We urge the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to consider Utahan’s right to know how their milk is produced, and to protect the rights of dairy farmers to supply the safe and wholesome milk consumers are demanding.”
In 1994, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of Monsanto’s rBST, the FDA also said that the following label statement, in proper context, is acceptable: “from cows not treated with rBST.” Earlier last year, Monsanto asked FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to declare these labels to be misleading. However, in late August 2007, the FTC wrote to Monsanto, “The FTC staff agrees with FDA that food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST.”
“Since the FDA’s controversial decision to approve the use of rBGH, questions have only grown about its safety for humans,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist for Food Safety for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and how it’s produced and farmers and dairies have the right to tell them.”
Numerous polls show that there is widespread consumer demand for milk produced by cows not treated with artificial hormones and the market is responding to that demand. A June 2007 Consumer Reports National Research Center poll of over 1,000 people nationwide found that 76 percent of consumers were concerned with dairy cows given synthetic growth hormones and 88 percent agreed that milk from cows raised without synthetic bovine growth hormone should be allowed to be labeled as such.
“As an advocate for women and children now for over eight years, I know first hand the mothers in Utah do want to know what goes into the food they are feeding their children. To say that a consumer would not want to know is ridiculous and insulting,” said Adriane Colvin, a Salt Lake City mother and founder of MOM, Maternal Organic Methods.
The following organizations have signed onto the letter:
American Agriculture Movement; American Corn Growers Association; Aurora Organic Dairy; BioVision2020; Bon Appetit Management Co.; Boulder Ice Cream; Breast Cancer Action; Beyond Pesticides; The Campaign; Campaign for Safe Food; Center for Corporate Policy; Center for Food Safety; Center for Media and Democracy; Center for Rural Affairs; Citizens for Health; Clintonville Farmers Market; Community Farm Alliance; Community Food Initiatives; Consumer Federation of America; Center for Environmental Health; Cornucopia Institute; Countryside Conservancy; Edmonds Institute; Endangered Habitats League, Los Angeles; Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Randolph County; Family Farm Defenders; Farm Sanctuary; Farmer-to-farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering; Florida Organic Growers and Consumers; Food & Water Watch; Georgia Organics; Good Earth Natural Foods; Food and Drug Safety Officer, Government Accountability Project; Hahn Natural Foods; Horizon Dairy; Humane Farming Association; Humane Society of the United States; Illinois Stewardship Alliance; Indiana Campaign for Family Farmers; Indiana Farmers Union; Innovative Farmers of Ohio; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Institute for Justice; Institute for Responsible Technology; Kansas City Food Circle; Kansas Farmers Union; Kansas Rural Center; Kirschenmann Family Farms; Local Matters; Mississippi Livestock Markets Association; Maternal Organic Methods; MOON Cooperative Services; National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture; National Family Farm Coalition; National Farmers Union; Natural Resources Defense Council; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Organic Crop Improvement Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Northwood Farms; Ohio Citizen Action; Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association; Ohio Environmental Council; Ohio Farmers Union; Oneota Community Co-op; Oregon Ice Cream Company; Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility; Organic Consumers Association; Organic Farming Research Foundation; Organic Trade Association; Peacework Farm; Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture; Protect our Woods; Radiance Dairy, Fairfield; Reclaim Democracy; Rodale Institute; Rural advancement Foundation International; Science and Environmental Health Network; Straus Family Creamery; Sierra Club; Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Sustainable Earth; Stonyfield Farms; Union of Concerned Scientists; Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group; White Dog Community Enterprises; Whole Foods Market; Willow Creek Farm; Wright Way Dairy.
NOTE: Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, sent a similar letter on February 25, 2008.
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Naomi Starkman, CU, 917.539.3924
John Bianchi, Goodman Media, 212.576.2700