having a cow in milk label dispute
'Hormone free' tag unfair, company says
By Stephen J. Hedges
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
Published April 15, 2007
Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. is challenging a growing trend among
dairies to label their milk "hormone free," saying those claims
mislead consumers into believing that the cow growth hormone Monsanto makes
In an action that could send ripples through the food industry, St.
Louis-based Monsanto is moving aggressively against a group of dairies to
halt the use of "hormone free." It said that such labels suggest
that there is something unhealthy about its synthetic hormone drug.
In letters filed recently with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and
the Federal Trade Commission, Monsanto protests that milk labels touting
the fact that cows did not receive the hormone—known as rGBH, rBST or
Posilac—have unfairly damaged its business, as well as that of dairy
farmers who use the drug on their cows.
The FDA has found no difference in the milk produced by cows that received
rBST and those that did not, Monsanto says. The hormone increases milk
production by about 10 percent.
Monsanto's action reflects a shift in the food industry in recent years, as
consumers demand more natural and organic foods and seek labeling that
explains just what went into their production. Cartons of eggs, for
example, increasingly boast that the chickens that produced them were
"cage-free." Beef is marketed as "grass-fed." Dairies
began tagging milk as "hormone free" soon after Monsanto won FDA
approval for its growth hormone in 1993.
The food producers who use such labels say consumers have the right to know
what is in their food and that they are responding to buyers' desires.
"Our customers tell us this is what they want," said Stanley
Bennett, president of Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine, which sells
no-hormone milk. "They ask us for this."
Monsanto's latest claims renew a fight the company started several years
ago when it sued Oakhurst, which is owned by Bennett's family. The case was
settled in 2003 when Oakhurst agreed to include language on its labels that
explains that the FDA has found no significant difference between milk from
cows that were given rGBH, and those that did not get the hormone.
Dairy pushes pledge
Bennett and Oakhurst,
though, have hardly shied away from using the no-hormones pitch in selling
dairy products. The dairy pays farmers not to use the hormone.
"Oakhurst knows that consumers want a choice," its Web site says.
"So Oakhurst will continue working only with local farmers who pledge
not to use artificial growth hormone."
Monsanto contends that its hormone does not affect the cows' health or
their milk's taste. An FDA review of the drug during its approval process
found no difference between milk from cows that did or did not receive the
"False and deceptive advertising regarding milk and (rBST) has mislead
consumers for years," Monsanto states in its complaint to the FTC.
"These practices are clear violations of the Federal Trade Commission
Act and result in higher milk price for consumers and less choice for dairy
While Monsanto won't release sales figures for its hormone, company
spokesman Andrew Burchett said that "about a third of the dairy cows
in the U.S. are in herds where farmers choose to use Posilac."
Posilac is the company's trademark name for the hormone.
In Illinois, the state Department of Public Health reached a settlement
with three dairy producers in 1997 that resolved a federal lawsuit over
"hormone free" claims on labels. Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice
Cream, Organic Valley Farms, a producer of diary and other items, and Stonyfield
Farms, whose main product is yogurt, sued the state after it declined their
request to use the "hormone free" language.
The Illinois settlement allows milk producers to use labels that read:
"We oppose rBGH. The family farmers who supply our milk pledge not to
treat their cows with rBGH."
Those labels must also include language that the FDA has not found a
difference between milk produced from rBGH cows and those cows not given
That's what is on milk labels sold at Whole Food Markets in Illinois and
"Our customers are very interested in it," said Will Betts, the
Midwest region grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market Inc. "They
are concerned with a lot of factors. They're concerned with what they put
in their bodies. While it's true that the studies haven't proven any
difference [between milk from rBGH cows and those not given rBGH], they
still want the most natural product they can get. The other issue is that
they're concerned about the land and the animals."
Monsanto answers critics
In that regard, Whole Foods notes that
"recent studies have supported earlier conclusions regarding the
negative effects of rBGH/rBST on dairy cows. A report by the Canadian
Veterinary Medical Association on rBGH/rBST in November 1998 indicates that
there are quantifiable reductions in the health of the cows treated with
Monsanto's Burchett disputed those findings. In an e-mail, he said the
Canadian study "was not as comprehensive in its review of the
scientific literature on rBST as the U.S. FDA pre- and post-approval review
He also said the study "included data based on the use of different
product formulations, dose levels and application practices of prototype
products from more than one company that were never approved for commercial
"Farmers depend on the health and well-being of their herds and will
not choose to use products that are not beneficial," Burchett said.
"A large number of dairy producers have used Posilac with great
success since the product was introduced 13 years ago."
An FDA spokeswoman said the agency would have no immediate response to
Monsanto's most recent complaint, which was submitted April 3.
But in a statement, the agency said: "This drug was only approved
after FDA established that it is effective and safe. Effectiveness means
that Posilac does what the company claims (increases milk production).
Safety covers three main areas: safety of the food products to humans,
safety to the target animal (the cow) and safety to the environment."
Monsanto's complaint includes examples of labels and advertisement from 13
For instance, milk from HP Hood, a diary operator based in Chelsea, Mass.,
carried a label that had "No Artificial Growth Hormones" on the
package, along with an attached note that read "To Satisfy Our
Dutch-Way Dairy in Pennsylvania sells milk with labels touting, "No
Added BST The way it's meant to be!"
That marketing logic, Monsanto complains, distorts the research on Posilac
and the FDA's conclusions.
The "claim that milk from non-supplemented cow is healthier for
children is patently false," Monsanto writes. "There is no
evidence to suggest that milk from rBST-supplemented cows has any adverse
developmental effect on children."
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By: Kelli B. Kavanaugh, 5/3/2007
Local food is more than a rage
May 4, 2007
markets have been around as long as there have been people living in
groups. In North America, while large urban centers like Los Angeles, New
York and Toronto have always supported—and been supported
by—markets, they haven't always been a prioritized part of small- or
medium-sized town life—goodbye, Farmer Jack and hello Farmer
is all changing—nationally, statewide and locally.
the country, thanks to visionaries like Alice Waters and
successful grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's people are starting to
think locally and seasonally about their food.
admit it, is that tomato you slice up in February even all that good? If
you are fooled in to thinking so, when you finally taste one in June, you
probably say, "Ahhh…tomato! This is what they are supposed to
Kingsolver tackles the of-the-moment issue in her latest book,
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," in which she
and her family live one year from food produced near their southwest
Virginia farm. In a recent interview
with Salon.com, she sums up what many people are talking about.
is the one consumer choice we have to make every day. We can use that
buying power in a transaction that burns excessive fossil fuels, erodes
topsoil, supports multinationals that pay their workers just a few bucks a
day -- or the same money could strengthen neighborhood food economies, keep
green spaces alive around our towns, and compensate farmers for applying
humane values. Every purchase weighs in on one side or the other."
northern Michigan, the fine folks at the Michigan
Land Use Institute are spearheading a campaign called Taste the Local Difference that
connects individuals, restaurants and institutions to locally-grown food.
Their reasoning is economic as well as anti-sprawl: strengthening Michigan
farms in turn strengthens urban areas. Kind of like "the enemy of your
enemy is your friend" line of reasoning…
Southeastern Michigan, the Food
System Economic Partnership is doing much the same thing—linking
local community-supported agriculture farms like Maple
Creek Farm to institutions like The Henry Ford.
what about the average Joe or Jolene who wants to stock their shelves and
fridges with goodies that are shipped over less mileage, support the local
economy and frankly, taste a hell of a lot better than your average
supermarket mango? This area offers a wide range of farmers markets, from
those serving just a neighborhood up through smaller suburbs and cities to
those serving a region.
A bountiful harvest
Michigan's two largest cities are well-served by markets. Ann
Arbor's, located in quaint Kerrytown, is open year-round on Saturdays
and adds Wednesdays beginning in May. It boasts over 150 stalls with not
just locally-grown fruits and vegetables, but plants and bulbs and baked
goods and homemade jams, salsas, honey, and the like. The market is a
"third place" of sorts for Ann Arborites—a place in the
community, for the community, open to all.
Market is truly one of the gems of the state. It has
operated since 1891 in its current location, anchored by several historic
sheds and surrounded by specialty shops, tasty restaurants and produce wholesalers.
Increasingly a mixed-use district, Eastern Market is a sure bet not just
for an aspiring Naked Chef, but
for any resident of Michigan who wants to show a guest just how much we
really do have going on around here.
40,000 people visit Eastern Market on a peak Saturday from all over
Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. Locally-grown delicacies like morels and
organic spinach and crisp Michigan apples are sold just stalls away from
exotic vegetables that may require an American native to reference a cook
book or dictionary for identification.
outdoor market stalls are surrounded by lofts, art galleries, antique
shops, restaurants and specialty markets with amazing cheese, spice, olive
and wine selections, to name just a few. Eastern Market is a market that
acts symbiotically with the neighborhood around it—more than a
market, it is a micro-economy that runs 24 hours, from slaughterhouse
operations that begin in the wee hours of the morning to omelets with spicy
bloody Marys to fat corned beef sandwiches or spicy Thai noodles to
late-night art gallery dance parties that wrap up well, in the wee hours of
detailed information on Eastern Market's special events, shops and other
amenities, check out Model D's Visit
Little cities big on vegetables
of Southeastern Michigan's more vibrant small cities and towns offer their
residents a seasonal downtown farmers market. Most function only through
warmer months, so are thus open at least from May through October. They
tend to carry not just produce, but locally-produced goods like honey,
maple syrup and jams.
smaller-scale farmers markets can be found in:
not even qualifying as "little," Royal Oak's Farmers Market is
open year-round on Saturdays and houses a complementary flea market on
Sundays. It's been around for over 80 years, and is one of the few markets
at which Maple Creek Farm's organic produce is available.
Urban farming and neighborhood markets
local farmers markets exist for reasons much more basic than as a place to
shop for white asparagus and bouquets of flowers. The Garden
Resource Program Collaborative—a joint project of Greening of
Detroit, Detroit Agriculture Network, Earth
Works Urban Garden and Michigan State University Extension—works
to promote urban farming and community gardening in Detroit, Highland Park
and Hamtramck. Their motivation? Food security, both for individuals and
the community-at-large. One has only to look at last year's E. coli-laden spinach scare to
witness the effects of mass contamination.
their network of urban gardeners expands and grows ever more sophisticated,
GRP has formed a Market Workgroup that teaches marketing, packing and other
skills to families looking to take in some extra income in exchange for
their extra produce.
runs markets in Highland Park and Detroit neighborhoods Corktown and
Rosedale Park. Wayne State University urban planning professor Kami
Pothukucki has logged years of research around the concept of food security
in urban areas, particularly Detroit. She explains what is so important
about the concept, and why farmers markets are one way of meeting that mark.
a food security perspective, food needs to be fresh and healthy and these
food needs are to be met in ways that are affordable, convenient and in
ways that meet cultural preferences. Farmers can provide that readily and
from the other side, small farmers, small growers can make cash. People who
grow in cities, in city lots, can produce enough produce to sell, which can
be a fairly substantial supplement to your income if you are willing to put
in the labor."
benefit to locally-grown produce is the distance, or lack thereof, that
food travels to reach its end consumer. Pothukuchi says, "This is a
very important aspect because it brings food not transported over long
distances, it reduces the amount food has to travel and allows consumers to
see how it is grown. There's income support, then there's this whole aspect
of people knowing where their food comes from. It's hard to care very much
when we don't know where it comes from."
benefits are another farmers market positive that Pothukcuchi has studied.
"Farmers markets are important as they are for the market environment
they create and the buzz they create for places. They are tools for much
larger objectives, regional objectives in terms of economic
cites a study that shows that money spent at markets stays in the
community. "Ten dollars spent in the market can result in $20 worth of
business in the surrounding area."
B. Kavanaugh is metromode's innovation news editor and Model D's development news editor. Her
last article for metromode was From Rust
Belt To Green Belt.