aims to clear air on labeling of milk
Use of hormone
injections to be at heart of Tuesday's public gathering in Topeka
(Hutchinson News, KS)
By Jessica Self
Dairy farmer Bob Seiler swears there is no difference in
the milk produced by hormone-injected cows and those that aren't.
"It's the same stuff," said Seiler, who uses a growth hormone
injection that helps the cattle on his milking operation near Sedgwick
produce more milk.
"All milk contains some level of hormones, and to say it doesn't is
misleading to consumers."
However, those who don't use the injection - and are labeling their products
as such - say they are meeting the demand of consumers who don't want
genetically engineered hormones in their milk.
They typically use labels claiming "rbST
free" or "hormone free."
Under a proposed regulation by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, those
labels would no longer be permitted.
The new rule would let manufacturers label a product as "from cows not
supplemented with rbST," or something similar,
but it must have an additional label that says "the FDA has determined
that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST
It would also require the processor or manufacturer to verify the claim.
"We want to be able to provide some guidance about
what is and what is not acceptable," said Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for
the KDA, which is seeking public comment on the regulation at 10 a.m. Tuesday
"The law, passed in 1951, said it is unlawful to label a dairy product
with misleading information, and this is an attempt to have appropriate label
It is not an effort, she says, to limit consumer choice.
But opponents say stricter labeling requirements are unfair and would make it
harder for smaller producers to market their products.
"It seems to me they are trying to force those who don't use the hormone
to jump through extra hoops," said Dan Nagengast,
executive director of Kansas
"Consumers are basically rejecting products that contain rbST and by doing this, they (KDA) are trying to make it
more acceptable. It seems, however, to be something on its way out. The vast
majority of dairy farmers are not using the injection."
More than 80 percent of dairies don't use the hormone, according to a U.S. Department
of Agriculture survey.
The hormone - rbST, a synthetic variant of the
naturally occurring hormone in cattle - was developed by Monsanto and
approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994. The agency states there
is no significant difference between milk from rbST-treated
cows and cows not injected.
Despite the statement, consumer demand is for milk from cows without the
injected hormones, and dairies say they are simply responding to that demand.
Braum's has long advertised rbST-free
on the milk cap. In February of this year, Kroger announced all milk
processed by their company would be from cows not injected with rbST. Wal-Mart made the same shift in March with its private-label
Great Value milk.
Despite the moves by major retailers, dairy farmer Seiler said he is still
confident the injection he uses is safe for consumers.
"Those who are labeling their products hormone-free are misleading those
who are buying the products," he said. "They are promoting their
milk as different, but it is the same product." 11-29-08