Kansas Legislature joins list of those who prefer consumers stay ignorant

Members of the Kansas Legislature have joined the esteemed lawmakers or regulators in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio who want to spare their citizens the challenge of too much information. Specifically, they want to keep consumers ignorant of whether the milk they’re drinking comes from cows not dosed with recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH, which is also known as bovine somatotropin, or rBST. These are artificially derived hormones given to cows to increase their milk production.

Controversy over the hormones isn’t new. Opponents of the labeling, primarily some conventional dairy farmers and Monsanto, which sells the hormone, contend that the milk and cows are the same, with or without the rGBH. They add that the labels imply there’s something wrong with milk from rBGH cows.

The Pennsylvanians, after much controversy, decided that it was OK to state that milk was produced from cows without rGBH/rBST. That decision came after much public outcry.

I can’t claim to know that the cows and the milk are the same or different with or without rGBH. As someone who likes to know where my food comes from, though — and last year’s recalls have given me lots of company, I think — I like to know that kind of information.

If you agree and you’re a Kansan, you can let your lawmakers know through the Center for Food Safety’s action page.

5 Responsesto “Kansas Legislature joins list of those who prefer consumers stay ignorant”

  1. Christina says:

    Personally, I’ve banned milk that doesn’t state it’s rGBH/rBST-free, however, I can see issues with labeling. In the US companies put all sorts of texts on the labels in order to attract buyers and without rules and regulations the words becoming meaningless. Take, for instance, the word “natural” used for everything from chicken to granola bars. Question is, what does “natural” mean in this context? I’m not sure anyone knows.

    Back to the milk, though. Wouldn’t it be nice if dairy from rGBH/rBST cows had to be labeled as such — just like any label of content.

  2. What does natural mean?

    Check out http://NaturallyGrown.org and see.

  3. farmboy says:

    Christina’s question has a very specific answer. The USDA has regulatory authority for the inspection and labeling of meat and poultry products that are shipped across state lines for sale. The use of the term “natural” on the label of meat and poultry products is regulated by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The definition has a very minimal set of criteria: A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as – no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.)It doesn’t tell you much, but it does establish that the product is fundamentally straight from the animal. Use of the term “natural” on other products, such as granola bars, has virtually no regulatory meaning. USDA has no authority for it other than with meat and poultry. The Federal Trade Commission has set conditions for “natural”, but they are essentially meaningless. There is another term, “naturally raised”, for which a separate division of USDA, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is currently developing regulatory requirements. See here for the details: http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/stand/naturalclaim.htm
    Most people wo support direct marketing of livestock products find the proposed “naturally raised” standard to be weak and insufficient. I would argue that so is the organic standard when it comes to livestock living conditions, i.e. access to pasture and the outdoors. Bottom line is opt whenever possible to rely on first party certification: deal directly with the farmers who raise and slaughter the animals that you eat. Government standards start off with substantive meaning and gradually erode; private commercial claims will be spin-driven and manipulative from the get go. Walter cites an independent self-certication process that uses “naturally grown” to designiate food that producers raise in low-input, biologically based production systems. I like the naturally grown label and think it has helped some growers identify themselves in a crowded marketplace.

  4. Robyn M. says:

    FYI–the Indiana bill got pulled off the docket after angry consumers contacted *every single bloody one of the Senators & Reps* demanding the labels be left alone.

    Myself? I’m actually disturbed that we’re so far removed from our food supply that we even need labels to tell us whether or not the milk was adulterated or not. Eesh.

  5. ExPat Chef says:

    The FDA already ruled that rBGH-free labeling is allowable. This state-by-state attempt to get around the ruling is reprehensible and a statement on the condition of our legislatures to go along with special interests OVER consumer information with regard to their food. We need to all, not just Kansas residents, send a message loud and clear that we have A RIGHT TO KNOW what we are eating. Word is Missouri is next up for the attempt at label-banning, your state could be after that. Stand up now for our consumer rights.