Pennsylvania resisted a lobbying push by Monsanto that sought to outlaw the labeling of milk that is free of artificial hormones.
Monsanto had argued that there is no discernible difference between milk from cows that have or have not been injected with its recombinant bovine growth hormones, known as alternately as rbST, bST, BGH or rBGH. It is banned in Europe and Canada.
While health concerns are on the minds of some consumers, others choose hormone-free milk because it means the cows were raised in somewhat more natural conditions. Hormones make cows produce more milk and for a longer period of time, and often go hand-in-hand with other industrial farming techniques like the heavy use of antibiotics and a corn-heavy diet.
Organic milk cannot come from cows treated with hormones.
Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture reversed course today in deciding that consumers ought to have the right to know how the cows that produced their milk were being raised. Whatever the reason for the choice consumers make, they can't make it without a label defining its meaning.
"This is a victory for free speech, free markets, sustainable farming, and the consumer's right to know," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. "Consumers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced, and particularly whether it is produced in natural and sustainable manner. There is no justification for prohibiting information about rbGH use on a milk label. Pennsylvania deserves credit for realizing that its initial regulation prohibiting such labeling was flawed, and for reversing its position."
Pennsylvania isn't the only state where this discussion is happening. Washington, Missouri and Ohio have also been considering bans on the use of hormone-free milk labels, and New Jersey rejected the idea recently.
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