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Dairy Label Debate “Churns Up” Today

December 19, 2007

Reynoldsburg, OH – Got milk -- and if so, how do you label it? The debate over dairy labels in Ohio is churning, and the Dairy Labeling Advisory Committee meets today to decide whether the state's labeling rules should be changed.

At the center of the controversy are dairy farmers and processors who include information on their labels that their milk is produced without synthetic bovine growth hormone, commonly known as "rBST" or "rBGH." These labels are being challenged by others in the industry, who claim they imply that other dairy products are somehow inferior.

Michael Hansen, who will speak at today's meeting on behalf of the Consumers Union, believes the labels should stay.

"Consumers have a basic right to know what's in the food they eat and how it's produced, and farmers and dairies have a basic right to tell consumers truthful information."

Hansen adds the labels allow consumers to make informed decisions, and points out that many people have reasonable concerns about the possible impacts of the synthetic hormones on animal health, human health, and the farm economy.
He says there's proven demand for hormone-free products, and the anti-labeling effort is an attempt by manufacturers of the product to stifle the free market.

"More and more markets want rBGH-free milk and, if you can't label that milk, then there's no way to allow the market to work."

He says the demand for milk made without the hormones can also be helpful for small farms. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, only 9 percent of small dairy farms use rBGH, while 42 percent of larger farms use it.

The Dairy Labeling Advisory Committee meets at the Ohio Department of Agriculture office in Reynoldsburg today at 1:00 PM.

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - OH