Update on grassroots campaign to drive Monsanto’s rBGH off market

August 24, 2007

monsanto.jpgBy Rick North /Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Lactaid, the nationwide milk product specially designed for those who are lactose-intolerant, has confirmed that they’re now rBGH-free. This is printed on their labels and prominently displayed on their website.

They are associated with HP Hood Dairy, the 7th largest processor in the country, which is now mostly rBGH-free. A representative of Lactaid told me she was very happy the company made this move. She said that “consumers are concerned” and she had received “so many questions about it.” She can now proudly say to people they’re not using the hormone any more. Thank you Lactaid!

Finally! ­ Tillamook Starts to Label

More than two years since Tillamook officially went rBGH-free for their cheese, they have finally started to label. I stopped by the local Safeway last week and noticed that most of their chunk cheese was labeled as rBGH-free, although none of their sliced cheese was. Hopefully, all their cheese will be labeled soon.

As many of you know, Tillamook is only rBGH-free for their cheese. They have not declared their other main products, ice cream, yogurt and butter, free of the hormone. I often get asked in my presentations how this can be and the reason is that they have separate suppliers for these other products, not all of whom have declared themselves rBGH-free. For instance, Tillamook doesn’t produce its own butter. It’s made by Land O’ Lakes and then packaged by Tillamook.

Hospitals Take Aim at rBGH

Last Thursday in Boston, I presented at Food Med, a national conference of Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition of organizations promoting health and safety in hospitals. Health Care Without Harm has a position statement opposing rBGH.

I can tell you there is a lot of interest in hospitals all over the country going rBGH-free and instituting other measures to promote healthy, sustainable food. Oregon PSR is currently working with several safe food advocates on the east coast in promoting rBGH-free purchasing by hospitals, including sending our 8-page brochure and linking up our Power Point presentation with groups seeing it while we provide the narration by phone.

Henry Miller Takes Aim at Us

Henry Miller, who was the head of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993 and is now at the Hoover Institution, is an unapologetic cheerleader for all foods biotech, including rBGH. Last Friday, he had an outrageous op-ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Cry Over rBST Milk” in which he skewered “bad-faith efforts by biotechnology opponents” and “Activists’ purely speculative concerns about rBST” as “baseless.”

There are so many falsehoods, half-truths and omissions in this op-ed that I’m not going to go into each. But here’s an example ­ he says that natural cow growth hormone is identical to rBGH. No it isn’t. rBGH has one more amino acid than natural cow growth hormone, which doesn’t sound like much, but actually creates all kinds of differences in the milk. And one of those differences, which Miller fails to mention, is that rBGH increases levels of another growth hormone, IGF-1, which is present in both cows’ milk and humans, and which at excessive levels has been linked to all kinds of cancers.

However, the op-ed did present one laugh-out-loud statement: “In a more rational world, (activists) would embrace ­ and enlightened consumers would demand ­ milk with a label that boasted, “A Proud Product of rBST-Supplemented Cows.” Right, Henry. Consumers have demanded rBGH-laced milk so much that it’s totally mystifying why not one of the hundreds of dairies that have used rBGH have ever told their customers by putting this or a similar statement acknowledging rBGH use on their labels.

My letter to the editor unfortunately didn’t make it in but many others appeared today opposing Miller’s views.

Meanwhile, in a Different Part of New York

After the Boston conference, I went to Albany, NY to see family for the weekend. While there, I visited a Price Chopper supermarket. Here’s the tale of the dairy case:

· Both Price Chopper and Garelick brand milk had this label: “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones”

· Hood brand milk: “No Artificial Growth Hormones ­ To Satisfy our Consumers”

· Lactaid’s label: “No Artificial Growth Hormones ­ Lactaid Farmers Pledge”

· Plus, three organic brands ­ Wild Oats, The Organic Cow and Horizon.

Grand total: 7 milk brands, ALL rBGH-free. This is great news, and a wonderful example of how far the rBGH-free movement has come. As recently as two years ago, none of these conventional milk brands were rBGH-free.

But this is no time to let up. Other parts of the country are nowhere near this good, especially the Midwest and much of the Southeast. Also, we have much work to do in products such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter. These are still predominantly rBGH, no matter if you’re in Oregon or Nebraska. We will be successful in ridding the country of this awful hormone only if we’re persistent in our efforts.

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