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 Farm Groups, Consumer Groups, Environmentalists, and Dairies Urge Indiana House Not to Ban Labeling On Milk 
by Center for Food Safety - 1/28/2008

Coalition of Groups Asks House to Protect Farmers' and Dairies' Right to Communicate with their Customers Through Accurate, Honest Labeling

Monday, January 28, 2008 - Only days before the Indiana House of Representatives may vote to make it illegal for dairies to label their milk as "produced without artificial growth hormones," a coalition of more than seventy-five dairy farmers, farm and agriculture groups, consumer groups, public health, animal welfare, and environmental organizations appealed to that body, urging them not to ban labeling.  The coalition made their appeal this morning via letters sent to each member of the Indiana House.

House Bill 1300, authored by Representative William Friend of Macy, would change labeling standards for milk in Indiana, and would no longer allow the use of all current variations of "rBGH-Free" and "Artificial Growth Hormone Free" labels.  If passed, the order would go into effect July 1, 2008, and Indiana would become the only state in the union prohibiting its dairies from providing this information to milk customers.

"HB.1300 would be a serious infringement on the free speech rights of farmers who want to inform the public about their agricultural practices," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. "Indiana's consumers - like consumers nationally - are rejecting milk made with rBGH and have to be given the basic right to choose about the characteristics of the food they buy."

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH (also known as rBST), is a genetically engineered hormone injected into cows to make them produce more milk.  The use of this artificial hormone has been linked to increased rates of infections in dairy cows and elevated antibiotic use.  There are numerous unresolved questions about links to cancer in humans who drink milk from cows treated with rBGH.  Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union do not allow the use of rBGH.

"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.  Food labeling allows them to make that choice."

As U.S. consumers have grown more concerned about the effects of rBGH on their health, demand for rBGH-free dairy products has grown.  National brands like Tillamook Cheese and Ben & Jerrys have switched to rBGH-free milk.  In Indiana, dairies have responded to consumers' concerns and gone rBGH-free.  A recent poll conducted for Food & Water Watch indicates that 80 percent of consumers want milk from cows not treated with the hormone to be labeled "rBGH-free."

"HB. 1300 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."

HB. 1300 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, 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 response, the FTC wrote Monsanto in August that, "The FTC staff agrees with FDA that food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST."

View the Letter

The following organizations have signed onto the letter:
Indiana Farmers Union, Indiana Campaign for Family Farmers, Sustainable Earth Indiana, American Agriculture Movement, American Corn Growers Association, Aurora Organic Dairy, BioVision2020, Bon Appetit Management Co., Boulder Ice Cream, Breast Cancer Action, The Campaign, Center for Corporate Policy, Center for Food Safety, Center for Media and Democracy, 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, Family Farm Defenders, Farm Sanctuary, Farmer-to-farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, Food & Water Watch, Good Earth Natural Foods, Government Accountability Project, Hahn Natural Foods, Horizon Dairy, Humane Farming Association, Humane Society of the United States, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Institute for Justice, Institute for Responsible Technology, 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 representing 7 states (NOFA-VT, NOFA-NH, NOFA-MASS, NOFA-CT, NOFA-NY, NOFA-NJ and NOFA-RI), 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, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), Radiance Dairy Fairfield, Reclaim Democracy, Rodale Institute, Straus Family Creamery, Agriculture Committee of Ohio Sierra Club, Stonyfield Farms, Union of Concerned Scientists, Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, White Dog Community Enterprises, Whole Foods Market Emeryville, Willow Creek Farm, Wright Way Dairy

Provided by Center for Food Safety on 1/28/2008
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