1.Monsanto's patchwork plan to deny consumer choice
2.Lobbyists try to keep milk information from consumers
3.Why Monsanto Doesn't Want You to Know About Those Hormones in Your Dairy
EXTRACTS: if you asked consumers if they want milk from cows injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone, I'm sure they would say no. At a time when more and more people want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced, Monsanto wants to deny that right. (ITEM 1)
...labeling is vitally needed because there are significant changes in milk and dairy products produced with rbGH... We believe that rbGH is a product with no redeeming qualities: It is bad for the consumer, the cow and the dairies. (ITEM 2)
'Some people even say that they don't personally mind the idea of milk with rBST but the dishonesty of this [anti-labeling] tactic makes them furious.' (ITEM 3)
1.Monsanto's patchwork plan to deny consumer choice
By Ken Roseboro The Organic & Non-GMO Report, April 2008
Three years ago, I lobbied at the Iowa legislature against a bill that would pre-empt local control over genetically modified seed. Such 'seed preemption' bills were passed in 15 states, including Iowa.
Back then, biotech supporters said the state bills were necessary to avoid a 'patchwork' of local city and county seed laws. But their main aim was to stop initiatives by local cities and counties to declare themselves GMO-free as several California counties did in 2004.
What was bad back then to biotech supporters is good today.
Today, Monsanto Company and its supporters want to create a patchwork of state laws””to pre-empt dairy manufacturers from labeling dairy products as free of Monsanto’s genetically modified bovine growth hormone, rBGH.
Monsanto is relentless. Seeing major dairies, supermarket chains, and food manufacturers nationwide dumping rBGH, the biotech giant sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission last year asking them to crack down on rBGH-free labels. Monsanto argued that such labels were misleading consumers about the safety of milk from rBGH-injected cows. The agencies refused to act. So Monsanto decided to work on state legislatures. Their public relations firm set up a front group, American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology, with the clever acronym, AFACT, to make it appear there was a grass roots initiative by dairy farmers to fight the rBGH-free trend. Bills were introduced in state legislatures to ban or restrict rBGH-free labels.
To date, the bills have received little support. Pennsylvania's agriculture secretary passed a law banning the labels then backed off after massive opposition. A hearing on a similar bill in New Jersey went nowhere. Another bill in Indiana never made it out of committee. Other bills have been proposed in Kansas, Utah, Missouri (Surprise! Monsanto's home state), and Vermont.
Ohio passed a bill that restricts labeling of rBGH-free milk. Manufacturers can only use a statement that says the milk does not come from cows 'supplemented' or 'treated' with the hormone. 'Supplemented' is the preferred language to Monsanto and its supporters, creating images of cows being fed a nutritious vitamin. In reality, the hormone, which the agriculture secretary of New Hampshire once described as 'steroids for cows,' is injected into them.
The label must also contain the FDA-approved disclaimer 'that no significant difference has been shown between milk from rBGH-injected, sorry, -supplemented cows and cows not supplemented with the hormone.'
The disclaimer, by the way, was written by Michael Taylor, a former FDA official who later became a vice president for Monsanto.
There is a method to Monsanto's madness with these bills. A patchwork of state rBGH-free labeling laws will discourage food manufacturers from using the labels because they will have to comply with different laws in different states. No labels, no consumer choice.
But to Monsanto, it means no misled consumers. It's another example of the twisted logic used by biotech proponents to foist their products on unwilling and unwitting American consumers. A patchwork of local seed laws is bad, but a patchwork of state laws banning rBGH-free labels is good. GM seed is unique and patentable, while GM food is substantially equivalent to normal food.
Luckily, Monsanto's patchwork plan has not succeeded so far. They have picked a fight with major food companies and retailers who want to market dairy products as rBGH-free. These include Kraft Foods, Wal-Mart, Kroger's, Publix Supermarkets, and Starbucks, to name a few. And if you asked consumers if they want milk from cows injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone, I'm sure they would say no.
At a time when more and more people want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced, Monsanto wants to deny that right. Hopefully, states won't let them.
2.Lobbyists try to keep milk information from consumers
By Michael Hansen and Rhonda Perry
St Louis Post Dispatch, 1 April 2008 http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/editorialcommentary/story/5A50C0030529C1F68625741D00810CD7?OpenDocument
Missouri lawmakers are about to consider House Bill 2283, which would ban milk labels that inform consumers that their dairy products are free of artificial growth hormones. That's a remarkable turn of events, and it bucks a well-established national trend toward more information in food labeling, not less.
Why is Missouri going backward while the rest of the country goes forward on consumer information labels? The answer is St. Louis-based Monsanto Company, the biotech giant that markets recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), a genetically engineered drug used to increase milk production in cows.
Monsanto and its advocates are claiming that milk from cows treated with the hormone is the same as natural milk, and that dairies are misleading consumers when they label their products 'rbGH-free.'
But, sales figures ”” and numerous polls ”” show widespread consumer demand for milk produced by cows not treated with the artificial hormone. For example, a 2007 Consumer Reports poll found that 88 percent of respondents agreed that milk from cows raised without synthetic bovine growth hormone should be allowed to be labeled as such.
As consumers have become more concerned about the effects of rbGH on human and animal health, demand for rbGH-free dairy products has grown. National food brands and retailers such as Ben & Jerry's, Tillamook Cheese, Starbucks, Kroger and, most recently, Wal-Mart have switched to rbGH-free milk.
The notion that consumers have a right to know whether their milk was produced by cows injected with artificial growth hormones has not been good for Monsanto's bottom line. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of dairy cows injected with rbGH dropped from 22.3 percent of all U.S. dairy cows in 2002 to 17.2 percent in 2007, a nearly 23 percent drop. This trend in response to consumer rejection probably will continue: Many more dairies have announced that they will go rbGH-free in 2008.
Last year, Monsanto asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its position on milk labeling. Monsanto claimed that labels identifying milk as 'free of artificial hormones' or 'from cows not treated with rbGH' cast doubt on the quality of milk that did not carry that labeling. The FDA disagreed, ruling that there is nothing wrong with labeling that tells consumers what is in or not in the milk they buy or how that milk was produced.
Since then, industry lobbyists and a new, supposedly grass-roots organization supported by Monsanto called American Farmers for the Advancement of Conservation of Technology have pushed for state legislation banning or restricting milk labeling in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, Kansas, Indiana and Utah. Almost all of these attempts have failed: Once consumers and farmers became aware that their rights were under attack, they spoke out, and lawmakers in those states dismissed the Monsanto-driven efforts.
But if Monsanto gets its way here in Missouri, the state's farmers no longer will be able to freely speak with their customers. Further, Missourians will lose the right to know if they are buying the safe, un-treated dairy products they have trusted for generations.
In fact, labeling is vitally needed because there are significant changes in milk and dairy products produced with rbGH. Use of the drug elevates levels in milk of another powerful hormone, Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). Although there are no strong scientific data on whether IGF-1 absorbed from diary foods increases IGF-1 levels in the blood of humans, some studies suggest that it might.
There also are correlations between the use of rbGH and animal health problems. Studies show an increased risk for infertility and a 50 percent increase in lameness associated with rbGH use, along with an increased risk of mastitis, an infection of dairy cow udders. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics, the use of which can produce increases in bacteria that are resistant to those antibiotics. With doctors warning of the increase in antibiotic-resistant diseases, this development is a public health issue that should concern all Missourians.
Regulators in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all 27 nations of the European Union have banned rbGH. We believe that rbGH is a product with no redeeming qualities: It is bad for the consumer, the cow and the dairies.
It is hard to understand why a family-farm state such as Missouri would want to interfere with supply and demand to protect a failing product. Giving in to the lobbyists would be an undemocratic and irresponsible action that puts Monsanto's corporate interests above Missourians' right to know what's in their food and the rights of dairies and farmers to tell them.
Michael Hansen is a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. Rhonda Perry is a livestock and grain farmer from Howard County, Mo., and program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.
3.Why Monsanto Doesn't Want You to Know About Those Hormones in Your Dairy
Environmental Network News, March 27 2008
New York state dairy farmer John Bunting doesn't use an artificial bovine growth hormone on his cows for one key reason. He doesn't want them getting sick. 'I care about my cows,' he said, 'I like my cows.'
The growth hormone in question is made by the Monsanto Company. The current debate about Monsanto's hormone involves labels. The multinational agricultural biotech company seems to be getting nervous about the prospect of telling consumers what's in their milk - or rather, what's not in their milk.
A Monsanto-backed advocacy group is now going from state to state, fighting labels that declare dairy products free from the bovine growth hormone. Monsanto is the only producer of an artificial hormone, the Posilac brand recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST or rBGH), that increases milk production in cows. Labels saying 'rBST-free' could lead to financial losses for the corporation.
The growth hormone can mean more milk at cheaper prices. But Posilac has been linked to health problems in both cows and humans -- one reason the European Union and Canada both banned its use. Anti-labeling measures by Monsanto are facing a backlash from consumers who want to know what goes into their milk. Labeling would alert many to the fact that a large majority of American dairy products come from cows injected with the hormone. Many dairy processors are now using rBST-free alternative to meet these growing consumer concerns, for the hormone has been linked to cancer and other problems. Yet it doesn't look like the FDA-approved synthetic hormone will be pushed out of the market any time soon.
The advocacy group making the argument for Monsanto is American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT) -- an organization that gets at least some financial backing from Monsanto. AFACT was established in 2007 by the consultant Monty G. Miller of the Colorado firm International Performance Solutions, whose client list includes Monsanto. In launching AFACT, Miller received help from the public relations firm Osborn & Barr, whose CEO, Steve Barr, is a former Monsanto marketing executive.
AFACT has been pressuring state agriculture departments and state legislators to introduce bills that would restrict hormone labels. Bills restricting 'rBST-free' labels have popped up in several state legislatures -- including Kansas, Utah, Indiana and Missouri. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, similar pro-hormone bills have already been voted down.
Most of the nation's leading dairy processors use milk from cows treated with the bovine growth hormone in at least some products. Land O'Lakes, Good Humor-Breyers, Dreyers, Dannon, Yoplait and Sargento are some of the biggest buyers of milk from rBST-treated cows. Dean Foods and Kraft, the leading U.S. dairy producers, use rBST milk in many products, but not all. In June, Kraft will introduce a line of rBST-free 2-percent milk products.
Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris says the company is responding to a growing consumer movement. 'We do understand that some consumers -- not all -- are looking for products from cows not treated with [rBST],' said Maglaris. 'So we are converting the line to give those consumers an option.'
Converting the line will mean an increase in price for those 2-percent products. But Kraft says that rBST-free products will attract new customers.
Many of those customers are pointing to related health concerns -- for both cows and humans. According to Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, rBST increases the risk of cancer by elevating levels of another hormone, IGF-1. High levels of IGF-1 can promote breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
'If you have even just subtle amounts of IGF-1, there's a link to breast, prostate and colon cancer,' said Dr. Jenny Pompilio, an internist with Kaiser Permanente in Oregon. 'It's been known for years that that particular hormone is linked with cancers [because of its] effects on the endocrine system. The endocrine system is so sensitive that subtle effects can [make a difference].'
The other health concern affects first cows and then humans, says the Oregon physicians group. People who consume these dairy products could become resistant to antibiotics -- making them prone to bacterial infections. The resistance is directly related to health problems of cows injected with the hormone. These cows have higher rates of udder infections, or mastitis. When they are treated with antibiotics, resistant bacteria can grow. People who later eat dairy products from these cows can also build up resistance. When antibiotics cease to be effective, the threat of infectious diseases increases.
Monsanto says its synthetic hormone does not create problems. 'POSILAC is perfectly healthy for cows,' said Monsanto spokesperson Lori Hoag, 'bST is a naturally occurring hormone in every cow -- rbST is an additional supplement of that naturally occurring hormone.'
Hoag says that there is no difference between milk from cows injected with rBGH/rBST and other milk. '[A]ll milk is the same. All milk has bST, all milk has hormones,' she said. 'Labels that claim 'rbST-free' are misleading to consumers, making them believe there is a difference in the milk, when, in fact, there is none.'
But New York dairy farmer Bunting disagrees. He says that rBST is a whole protein off from naturally occurring BST. 'If you created a molecule one protein different, you could not honestly say there could be no difference [between the two],' said Bunting. 'Monsanto and the FDA are asking farmers and consumers to take a risk for which there is no known benefit.'
While there may be no benefits when it comes to human health, economic gains could be great for some. Cows injected with the hormone produce roughly a gallon more milk a day than untreated cows. (On average, untreated cows produce about eight gallons a day.) That means dairy farmers can produce more milk at lower costs, and dairy processors can make their products at lower costs. Big dairy farmers, big dairy processors and Monsato all get more money.
But Bunting says that rBST poses risks to smaller dairy farms, including his own. He says big farms that use rBST to produce more milk could lead to smaller farms going under. 'More milk means fewer farmers,' said Bunting, 'It does not benefit the [whole] farm community.'
It could benefit consumers, though. Using rBST brings milk prices down. Monsanto's product therefore provides an option for people who just want less expensive milk, cheese and ice cream.
Monsanto says that labeling could be unfair to certain corporations. '[B]ecause there is no difference [between BST and rBST],' said spokesperson Hoag, 'there is no way to verify whether or not rbST was used as a supplement. So, even though some processors claim their milk to be 'rbST-free,' they cannot prove that to be true.'
The ice cream company GoodHumor-Breyers has concerns about this. 'We purchase our dairy ingredients from cooperatives, and are unable to guarantee that rBGH is not used,' said GoodHumor-Breyers spokesperson Andon Tate, 'Currently, there is no test available that can distinguish between the naturally-occurring BST and the rBGH growth hormone.'
But even consumers who don't care about the growth hormone's health effects, says consumer advocate Jill Richardson of Recipe for America, are speaking out against Monsanto's efforts to restrict dairy labeling. 'Some people even say that they don't personally mind the idea of milk with rBST,' she said, 'but the dishonesty of this [anti-labeling] tactic makes them furious.'
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