Monsanto sues over labelling of GE cattle drug treated milk (9/7/2003)

Monsanto claims here that "Numerous scientific and regulatory reviews throughout the world'" have declared its genetically engineered cattle drug (rBST) as safe. In fact, the GE drug failed such reviews in both the EU and Canada in both of which it is banned. Yet in the US even labelling milk as not treated with this banned drug leads to a lawsuit from Monsanto.

1.Monsanto sues Oakhurst Dairy over advertising, labeling
2.Monsanto sour on milk marketers' hormones claim
1.Monsanto sues Oakhurst Dairy over advertising, labeling
The Associated Press., July 8, 2003

Oakhurst Dairy Inc. is being sued by Monsanto Co., which alleges that Oakhurst's marketing campaign that touts its milk as being free of artificial growth hormones is misleading.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, demands that Oakhurst stop advertising that it doesn't sell milk from hormone-treated cows. It also asks that the dairy stop putting labels on its milk containers reading "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones."

Monsanto officials said Oakhurst's ads and labels are deceptive and disparage Monsanto's products with the inference that milk from untreated cows is better than milk from hormone-treated cows.

"We believe Oakhurst labels deceive consumers; they're marketing a perception that one milk product is safer or of higher quality than other milk," said Jennifer Garrett, director of technical services for Monsanto's dairy business. "Numerous scientific and regulatory reviews throughout the world demonstrate that that's unfounded. The milk is the same, and the amount of protein, fats, nutrients, etc. are all the same."

Oakhurst President Stanley Bennett II said his dairy sells milk without artificial growth hormones because of consumer demands. Oakhurst about five years ago began buying milk only from farms that pledge in writing that they won't use artificial hormones.

"On principle, it's also a question of free speech," Bennett said. "The world seems a little bit discombobulated when somebody attempts to prohibit you from trying to do the right thing."

Artificial growth hormone is a genetically engineered veterinary drug given to cows to increase milk production. Another name for the drug is recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST.

Many people oppose the use of rBST, believing it is linked to breast cancer and premature puberty in children. But Monsanto and others argue that no such link exists.

Canada and the European Union have banned the use of the hormone, but the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use in the United States.

Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis and is the leading producer of rBST, had revenues of $4.7 billion in 2002. Oakhurst, based in Portland, had sales of $185 million, according to Bennett.

Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles said Monsanto has not filed similar lawsuits against other dairies, but wouldn't say whether more were planned. Monsanto filed similar suits against two dairies in Illinois about 10 years ago, and both were settled out of court under confidential terms, he said.

The suit against Oakhurst claims unfair competition, unfair business practices and interference with advantageous business relationships. According to the suit, the business relationships between Monsanto and dairy producers who use the artificial growth hormone have suffered because the farmers will stop using the treatments.

Bennett said his company makes no claims on the science involved with growth hormones.

"We're in the business of marketing milk, not Monsanto's drugs," he said.

Earlier this year, Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe rejected a request from Monsanto that Maine abandon its Quality Trademark Seal program that indicates when milk is free of artificial growth hormones.

Monsanto argued that the seal, which was adopted in 1994, misleads consumers into thinking that hormone-free milk is superior to milk using an artificial growth hormone.

According to Garrett, an independent market study conducted in Massachusetts shopping malls showed that more than two-thirds of the 300 people surveyed thought that milk with the Oakhurst labels were healthier to drink than milk without such labels. Sixty percent of those surveyed thought that Oakhurst milk was safer to drink, Garrett said.
2.Monsanto sour on milk marketers' hormones claim
by J.M. Lawrence
Boston Herald, Friday, July 4, 2003

Monsanto asked a federal court yesterday to stop Oakhurst Dairy of Maine from marketing milk in Massachusetts with the label ``Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones.''

The red label on a jug of Oakhurst milk constitutes a ``deceptive'' business practice by trying to convince consumers that milk without bovine growth hormone is better, the St. Louis chemical corporation that launched BGH in 1994 charged.

Oakhurst Dairy, the biggest milk producer in northern New England, boosted sales by banning BGH and paying dairy farmers a bonus not to use it, the company's promotional materials state.

Supporters of BGH claim farmers' pledges are meaningless because there is no way to test for the substance. The FDA approved BGH use, but Canada and the European Union have banned it.

Opponents, including the Organic Consumers Union and Greenpeace, contend BGH is linked to breast and prostate cancer, as well as early puberty in kids.

”The scientific facts are there is no difference in milk from cows supplemented with (BGH) and milk from other cows, and there is no analytical test that can distinguish milk from cows supplemented with (BGH),'' Monsanto attorneys said.

In court papers filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston, Monsanto included a lengthy affidavit from a Babson College marketing professor who concluded Oakhurst's labels are leading Massachusetts buyers to choose its milk over the competition. ``Oakhurst Dairy's label is causing consumers to believe that its milk is different from, superior to, and safer and more healthful than milk that does not bear that label,'' said professor Dhruv Grewal.

Such competitors as HP Hood have pledged not to buy from dairy farmers who use the synthetic hormone. But Hood does not label its products as hormone-free.

Illinois, Nevada and Oklahoma have banned use of the labels.

An Oakhurst spokeswoman said the dairy's president was not available for comment yesterday.

C Copyright by the Boston Herald

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