Monday, February 25, 2008
RECENT SIMILAR ATTEMPTS TO BAN RBGH-FREE LABELS IN OTHER STATES HAVE FAILED
Today, ninety-three dairy farmers; consumer, farm and agricultural groups; public health, animal protection and environmental organizations; food processors, and retailers wrote to the Kansas Senate Agriculture Committee 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: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/Kansas%20Letter.pdf
On Tuesday, February 26, the Kansas Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing to discuss Senate Bill 595, which would ban any type of labeling which enables consumers to know if their dairy products contain recombinant bovine growth hormone (also known as rbGH or rBST) a genetically engineered hormone that induces cows to produce more milk. Under the guise of protecting consumers from misleading information, this bill actually takes away farmers’ right to free speech and censors the truthful information consumers want and need and it extends that censorship to all agricultural products.
“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 Senate Agriculture Committee to consider Kansans’ 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.”
“SB 595 is an insult to any common-sense person whether consumer or producer. To think that a law is proposed that takes away the consumers right to know how the products they purchase are produced and which would prevent free-enterprise and entrepreneurship utilizing niche marketing is an embarrassment and goes against the very roots and work ethic that Kansas is so proud of,” said Donn Teske, President of the Kansas Farmers Union. “I fear that the loose wording of SB 595 would threaten much more than rGBH milk labeling and could outlaw other unique labeling utilized by free enterprise such as ‘pasture poultry’ or ‘grass-fed beef.’ ”
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.”
“As a Kansas farmer, I should be able to produce and promote products that respond to desires in the marketplace. As a Kansas consumer, I want a lot more information about the food I buy—where it comes from and how it’s raised—not less,” said Laura Fortmeyer, a Kansas farmer and boardmember of the Kansas Rural Center. “If milk producers and processors are willing to make the effort to provide the rBGH-free milk that I am looking for, they deserve my business. The Kansas legislature should not interfere with the workings of an informed market.”
The following organizations have signed onto the letter:
American Agriculture Movement; American Corn Growers Association; Aurora Organic Dairy; Beyond Pesticides; BioVision2020; Bon Appetit Management Co.; Boulder Ice Cream; Breast Cancer Action; The Campaign; Campaign for Safe Food; Center for Corporate Policy; Center for Food Safety; Center for Media and Democracy; Center for Rural Affairs – Nebraska; 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; Jako, Inc.; Kansas City Food Circle; Kansas Farmers Union; Kansas Rural Center; Kansas Sierra Club; Kirschenmann Family Farms; Local Matters; Mississippi Livestock Markets Association; MOON Cooperative Services; National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture; National Family Farm Coalition; National Farmers Union; Natural Resources Defense Council; Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; 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 Crop Improvement 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; Science and Environmental Health Network; Rural Advancement Foundation International, USA; Straus Family Creamery; Sierra Club; Stonyfield Farms; Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Sustainable Earth, Indiana; 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.
Naomi Starkman, CU, 917.539.3924
John Bianchi, Goodman Media, 212.576.2700