View Full Version : Judge Rules Lack of Hormones May be Mentioned on Organic Dairy Labels

10-04-10, 10:49 PM
Source: Organic Trade Association
October 04, 2010 12:01 AM

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidates key portions of Ohio Dept. of Agriculture rule and protects consumers' and producers' rights to truthful information on organic product labels.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today ruled in favor of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in a landmark case that would have prevented consumers in Ohio from knowing whether products on grocery store shelves were produced without synthetic growth hormones.

"OTA believes consumers have a right to know how their food was produced, and organic farmers and manufacturers should be allowed to tell them," said Christine Bushway, CEO of OTA, the leading voice for the $26.6 billion organic industry in North America. "We are pleased the court agrees," added Bushway.

In order to qualify for the organic label, organic farmers are prohibited from using synthetic growth hormones (rBGH), genetically engineered organisms (GMOs), antibiotics and toxic, persistent, synthetic pesticides. The standards also mandate a rigorous system for inspection, certification and verification of organic practices, all of which protect consumers who choose organic foods.

The court's decision upholds consumers' rights to receive truthful information about organic production practices on the labels of their milk and other dairy products. Additionally, it recognizes the rights of organic dairy farmers and processors to communicate truthfully with consumers regarding federally regulated organic production practices under the USDA Organic seal. As a result of this victory for organic, consumers will continue to see truthful information on organic product labels in Ohio and across the country.

The Organic Trade Association and its members, including Horizon Organic(R), Organic Valley(R), and Stonyfield Farm(R), filed the appeal in conjunction with the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).
The overwhelming majority of Americans seeks this information on product labels. The Consumer Reports National Research Center polled more than 1,000 people nationwide on various food labeling issues; some 76% of those polled were concerned with 'dairy cows given synthetic growth hormones' and 88% agreed that 'milk from cows raised without synthetic bovine growth hormone should be allowed to be labeled as such.'

The United States is in the minority among industrialized nations by allowing the use of synthetic growth hormones to artificially stimulate milk production in dairy herds. The practice is already prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union. The best way for consumers to be sure they are choosing products produced without the use of synthetic growth hormones (rBGH), genetically engineered organisms (GMOs), antibiotics and toxic and persistent pesticides is to look for the organic label.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has 1200 members, across 49 states, representing over 4500 certified organic operations. OTA members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, retailers and other allied organizations.


10-05-10, 10:06 PM
A bit more background here.

Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Ban on "rBGH Free" Milk Label
by Kristen Ridley October 03, 2010

Those of us who prefer our milk hormone-free have a reason to celebrate. A federal judge just struck down an Ohio law banning the use of the "rBGH free" label. Ohio was the last state to maintain such a ban after a largely unsuccessful campaign by a Monsanto-backed trade group a few years ago. The reasoning for the ban was that milk from cows treated with the growth hormone was compositionally identical to milk from untreated cows, and thus the ban was misleading. Industry groups argued, as they always do, that the label implied that the milk from treated cows was inferior or unsafe.

The Appeals Court Judge ruled that not only was that logic flawed, but that milk from cows treated with rBGH is compositionally different from untreated milk. According to the ruling, "the use of rbST in milk production has been shown to elevate the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a naturally-occurring hormone that in high levels is linked to several types of cancers, among other things." The plaintiffs found that milk produced during what should be the cow's "downphase," thanks to the hormone contained higher levels of fat and protein, further signs of low-quality milk. They also found that rBST milk also has a higher somatic cell count, which "makes the milk turn sour more quickly and is another indicator of poor milk quality."

In a one-two punch, the Court both freed the flow of information between producers who refrain from using artificial growth hormones and the consumers who prefer that product as well as establishing in a court of law that rBGH milk is inferior. Now those big agribusinesses don't even have a grey area to work with. It remains to be seen whether this case will be appealed again to the Supreme Court, but for now this is a major victory that sets some serious precedent, especially in light of the ongoing battle over the pending approval of genetically-modified salmon and whether or not they should be labeled.

We hope the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps this court case in mind as it deliberates those issues, as well as in the upcoming months when they revisit the rules for all food labels. Jessica Leighton, the senior scientific advisor for the FDA, announced in a speech recently that the agency will be revisiting food labeling guidelines and will be seeking public comment. When that time comes, we'll be sure to let them know that the consumers have a right to be informed about their food choices.