Urgent Action Needed: Milk Labeling In Kansas

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Urgent Action Needed:  Milk Labeling In Kansas Empty Urgent Action Needed: Milk Labeling In Kansas

Post  Shep on Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:54 am

The Kansas Legislature passed a bill at the request of large corporate dairies and corporate agriculture interests with the sole purpose of denying Kansas consumers information they want to know about the use of Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH) in the production of milk. Many individuals seek to purchase milk that is rbGH-free. Thanks to corporate pressure and the conservative Republicans disregard for consumer rights, the legislature passed HB 2121. Now it is up to concerned Kansans to get the Governor to veto the bill. As Rep. Svaty said: "This is a solution looking for a problem," when he voted against this attempt by corporate interests to deny consumers their right to know.

Below is a letter prepared by food advocates in the Kansas City area that has been revised. Use it as a guide and please make your request personal.

PLEASE write, phone or e-mail Governor Sebelius before Thursday, April 9th and request she veto this bill!

Office of the Governor
Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 212S
Topeka, KS 66612-1590

Tel. 785-296-6240
E-mail: http://www.governor.ks.gov/comments/comment.htm

Below is

Governor Kathleen Sebelius
Office of the Governor
Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 212S
Topeka, KS 66612-1590

Dear Governor Sebelius,

I am writing to ask you to veto HB 2121 that restricts labels on dairy products from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH), also called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST). This law would require a disclaimer (“The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbGH-supplemented and non-rbGH-supplemented cows”) in similar font size and on the same panel as where a label states “from cows not treated with rbGH.”

I feel that HB 2121 puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of consumers getting the information they want, restricts free speech rights of dairies and processors, and interferes with the smooth functioning of free markets.

RbGH (or rbST) is an animal drug originally manufactured by Monsanto (and now made by Elanco) that some farmers inject into dairy cows to increase milk production. The latest USDA survey in 2007 estimated that only 15.2% of farmers in the US used rbGH [ref to come]. Since that survey, dozens of processors and retailers, both small and large, have gone rbGH-free, so it’s estimated that far fewer are using it now. Most Kansan farmers contract with Dairy Farmers of America, which is rbGH-free.

I object to a section in this bill, which would make it more difficult for farmers to inform consumers that they are not using this hormone on their cows and require language that may mislead the consumer.

There are several reasons why I oppose the section which requires the disclaimer in a similar font, style, case, size, color and location as the main label claim (e.g. “this milk is from cows not supplemented with rbST”).

First, I urge you not to require the use of a disclaimer developed in 1994 because there is significant evidence it is no longer accurate. Significant differences exist between milk from cows treated with rbGH and from cows not treated, some of which have emerged only in the past few years as the science has developed. FDA’s own publications have demonstrated that milk from cows treated with rbGH show statistically significant increases of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1[1] (IGF-1) (which more recently has been linked to breast[2], colorectal[3], and prostate[4] cancer, although whether the increased IGF-1 levels due to rbGH in milk would affect health has not been established). The milk of treated cows also shows increases in average somatic cell counts (indicative of mastitis infections in cows and an indication of the quality of the milk).[5] The additional antibiotic required to treat these infections can’t help but contribute to the overall problem of antibiotic resistance in humans, a major and increasingly critical national health problem.

Any state that requires a specific statement on a label has an obligation to ensure that statement is true. It is obvious from a significant body of science and the positions of numerous respected organizations (American Nurses Association, Center For Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition, Humane Society of the U.S. and others) that there are serious questions whether this statement is true. With this level of uncertainty, it is simply not right for Kansas to require it and give Kansans the false impression that there is a consensus on whether milk from rbGH-treated cows is “significantly different.”

Secondly, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has explicitly said such labeling is not required. In a July 27, 1994 letter to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, FDA stated “the bottom line is that a contextual statement is not required, that in many instances a statement like “from cows not treated with rbST” would not be misleading, and in no instance is the specific statement “No significant difference . . .” required by FDA.”[6]

Third, I know of no other government agency, state or federal that requires such a contextual statement to be in a similar font, style, case, size and color as the main label claim. This constitutes undue interference with the exercise of free markets. To have such a detailed requirement will interfere with interstate commerce. Thus, a label that is legal in Missouri could be illegal in Kansas and could mean that that product would not be marketed in Kansas. National producers, such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or Tillamook cheese, would either have to not market products in Kansas or change labels on all their products to comply with the regulation.[7] A likely scenario is that national companies would stop any kind of rBGH-free labeling at all. This would deprive them of a very valuable marketing tool, since more and more consumers are looking for these labels. The net effect is that consumers would know less about what’s in their food at the same time they are expressing a desire to know more.

I request that you veto HR 2121

Thank you for your time and consideration of the negative impact of this bill on the Kansas consumer.

Sincerely yours,


[1] Freedom of Information Summary POSILAC (sterile sometribove zinc suspension), November 5, 1993 At: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/4390.htm#bst6j

[2] Hankinson, S.E., Willett, W.C., Colditz, G.A.. Hunter, D.J., Michaud, D.S., Deroo, B., Rosner, B. Speizer, F.E. and M. Pollack. 1998. Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1 and risk of breast cancer. Lancet, 351(9113): 1393-1396.

[3] Giovannucci, E., Pollack, M.N., Platz, E.A., Willett, W.C., Stampfer, M.J., Majeed, N., Colditz, G.A., Speizer, F.E. and S.E. Hankinson. 2000. A prospective study of plasma insulin-like growth factor-1 and binding protein-3 and risk of colorectal neoplasia in women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 9: 345-349.

[4] Chan, J.M., Stampfer, M.J., Giovannucci, E., Gann, P.H., Ma, J., Wilkinson, P., Hennekens, C.H. and M. Pollack. 1998a. Plasma insulin-like growth factor-I and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study. Science, 279: 563-566.

[5] Millstone, E, Brunner, E and I White. 1994. Plagiarism or protecting public health? Nature, 371: 647-648

[6] Letter dated July 27, 1994 from Jerold Mande, Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of FDA, to Harold Rudnick, Director, Division of Milk Control, New York Department of Agriculture and Markets

[7] International Dairy Foods Association Files Suit to Stop Ohio’s Labeling Law. At: http://www.rffretailer.com/CDA/Articles/Industry_News/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000370285


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