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Hormones on cows: Consumers want to know

November 29, 2007

Sixty-Five Consumer, Environmental Groups and Dairies Urge Pennsylvania Governor Rendell to Rescind Ban on Milk Hormone Labeling;
Consumers Want to Know About Hormone Use on Dairy Cows

More than 65 dairy farmers, consumer, farm and agricultural, public health, animal protection and environmental organizations, food processors and retailers today wrote to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell to protest the recent Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) action which would prohibit state farmers from telling consumers that they aren’t using artificial hormones on their dairy cows. A copy of the letter can be found here:
In late October, PDA informed 16 dairies that they cannot use certain labels on milk, including “Our farmers’ pledge: no artificial growth hormones,” “From cows not treated with the growth hormone rBST,” and “free of artificial growth hormones.” The ban on using these labels will go into effect on February 1, 2008.
“The PDA action interferes with consumers’ right-to-know about the foods they eat,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director at the Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety. “Many consumers prefer to buy milk produced by cows not treated with artificial hormones, as evidenced by the success in stores across the country of such milk.”
“This infringes on our rights to free speech. We are proud of the fact that we don’t use synthetic hormones on our cows and we want to be able to let our customers know about this,” said Kim Seeley, proprietor of Milky Way Farms in Troy, PA.
PDA’s action contradicts long established federal policy on this matter. In 1994, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (also known as rbGH or rBST), the FDA also said that the following label statement, in proper context, is acceptable: “from cows not treated with rBST.” Earlier this year, Monsanto asked FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to declare these labels to be misleading. In late August, 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 should have the ability to buy milk from untreated cows if they want to.”
“Pennsylvania has many smaller dairy farms where the use of more natural farming methods and specialty labeling is an essential part of their economic success,” said Brian Snyder, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). “Consumers are becoming more interested in understanding and responding to how their food is produced. The PDA shouldn’t prohibit them from talking about these things.”
“We urge the state of Pennsylvania to rescind this poorly conceived policy which interferes with the rights of farmers, dairies and consumers and constitutes inappropriate government interference in the marketplace,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association. “This new policy on part of PDA was issued with no opportunity for comment or input from consumers, dairy farmers, processors or the general public, and as such, is a violation of basic democratic process.”
The following organizations have signed onto the letter:
Boulder Ice Cream, Bridge View Dairy, The Campaign, Carl Colteryahn Dairy, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Media and Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, Cornucopia Institute, CROPP Co-op/Organic Valley, Empire Organic, Endangered Habitats League, Family Farm Defenders, Farm Sanctuary, Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, Food and Water Watch, Goldfinch Farm CSA, Government Accountability Project, Hahn Natural Foods, Healthcare Without Harm, Humane Farming Association, Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection Institute, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Institute for Responsible Technology, J&B Dairy, Kirschenmann Family Farms, Live Earth Farm, Livewater Farm, Martindale’s Natural Market, Milky Way Farms, Minnesota Food Association, Mississippi Livestock Markets Association, Moonglow Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farming Association representing seven states (NOFA-VT, NOFA-NH, NOFA-MASS, NOFA-CT, NOFA-NY, NOFA-NJ and NOFA-RI), Oak Valley Dairy, Oneota Community Co-op, Ore Bank Farm, Oregon Ice Cream Company, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Organic Consumers Association, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Organic Trade Association, PennEnvironment, PennPIRG, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Radiance Dairy, Rodale Institute, Science and Environmental Health Network, Genetic Engineering Committee, Stonyfield Farm, Inc., Tiffany Hill Farm, Turner Dairy Farms, Trader’s Point Creamery, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Willow Creek Farm, Wright Way Dairy
NOTE: Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, sent a similar letter to Governor Rendell on November 29, 2007.
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John Bianchi, Goodman Media, 212.576.2700
Naomi Starkman, CU, 917.539.3924