Is Milk Safe?

Starting January 1st 2008 the state of Pennsylvania will ban labels on dairy products which claim to be rBGH, pesticide and antibiotic free.  This means consumers will no longer be allowed to distinguish between dairy products containing hormones, antibiotics or recombinant bovine growth hormone, and dairy products which do not.

The states of New Jersey and Ohio are also considering bans on labelling which would prevent consumers from making informed choices between clean versus tainted dairy products.  Organic dairy farmers pledge to avoid the use of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone, or somatotropin) in their cows.  Commercial dairy farmers use rBGH to increase milk production.

The state change in labeling guidelines, which blindsided many in the organic dairy industry, is part of a broader effort by the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department to crack down on labels that highlight what is not in a product, such as “antibiotic-free” and “pesticide-free.”

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said in a news release that “antibiotic-free” and “pesticide-free” are misleading terms because all processed milk sold in the state is tested a minimum of 10 times for such substances, which are not permitted in milk.  The PA Department of Agriculture has also said that there’s no way to tell the difference between milk containing rBGH and milk which does not.

Haven’t we all seen that tampering with nature for profit is always bad for the consumer?  “The consumer needs to be able to make a choice and needs to have the information to make a decision”, said Leslie Zuck, executive director of Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a nonprofit in Centre Hall, PA that certifies organic farmers.

The Pennsylvania ruling is a major coup for Monsanto, the food and chemical giant that manufactures most of the rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone which is banned in Europe) given to US cows.  Monsanto also manufactures Round-Up fertilizer and Round-Up Ready seed, creating a monstrous dependence on their patented seed, which only grows when fertilized with their chemicals.  Aggressive marketing of Round-Up products nearly decimated organic farming in India.

Monsanto defends the Pennsylvania labelling ruling by saying, to quote their press secretary Michael Doane, that the hormone-free label “implies to consumers, who may or may not be informed on these issues, that there’s a health-and-safety difference between these two milks – that there’s “good” milk and “bad” milk, and we know that’s not the case.”

Right?  Wrong.  Stay informed.  The only way to fight the Goliaths is by voting with your dollar.