For those of us who thought the battle to retain "hormone-free" labels on milk had ended when Monsanto sold its controversial synthetic hormone business to Eli Lilly in August, think again.
Just last week, the Kansas Department of Agriculture heard arguments about a rule it has proposed, as several states did before it, that would ban the use of phrases like "rBST-free" on milk. rBST is recombinant bovine somatotropin, a.k.a. rBGH or recombinant bovine growth hormone. No consumers are clamoring for less information on their labels; it's been an industry effort led by Monsanto.
Similar rules have been proposed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and Indiana. Defeated in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the rules in Ohio and Indiana are still being contested.
The artificial hormones are banned in several other developed countries, including in Europe and Canada, and organic milk producers are prohibited from using them.
When consumers go to the supermarket, many want information to help them choose those products they think are most healthy, raised with high ethical standards and developed without damaging the environment. For many, that means choosing hormone-free milk.
Many see the hormone-free label as a proxy for a wider set of issues. Is it right or necessary to speed up the development and boost the milk output of our dairy cows? Doesn't use of hormones go hand-in-hand with use of antibiotics to treat cows sickened by the exertion of round-the-calender milk production? Might there be some health problems associated with synthetic hormones that we just haven't identified yet?
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