Special report: Monsanto's rBGH on the run (13/6/2006)

Interesting update from Rick North of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) on the rapidly escalating problems for Monsanto's genetically engineered cattle drug - rBGH, which is banned in Europe and Canada.

PSR Campaign for Safe Food

Everyone - The last two weeks have seen an incredible explosion of news on rBGH. Here it is:

June 9 - The Dairy & Food Market Analyst, edited by Jerry Dryer, reports that Dean Foods, Wal-Mart and Kroger, and possibly others, are on a nationwide search for rBGH-free milk. In response to this and a series of actions in the past year of dairies going rBGH-free, Monsanto is now lowering the price of rBGH to try to cling to its dwindling market.

These are all huge players - Dean is the largest milk processor in the country and Wal-Mart the largest retailer. This is the first time we've seen Kroger mentioned in the rBGH-free market. Kroger owns Fred Meyer, a large supermarket chain in the Pacific Northwest. In our campaign, we've educated thousands of consumers on rBGH and hundreds of them have sent Oregon PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility) postcards to Kroger's headquarters in Cincinnati urging them to go rBGH-free.

Because of increased consumer demand, there is a shortage of organic milk, which is rBGH-free by definition. These additional moves reflect another very large market, dairy consumers who want to go rBGH-free but don't feel they need or can afford organic.

June 4 - An Associated Press article in the Montana Independent Record reports that the state's two largest milk processors, Darigold Farms and Meadow Gold, are now requiring farmers to sign affidavits saying they're rBGH-free. (Darigold Farms is a not connected to Darigold, Inc., based in Seattle.)

Darigold's CEO Mike Monforton said the "decision was guided by the farmers themselves" and 'derived from consumer demand.'"

June 1 - The Garelick processing plant in Florence, New Jersey, declares itself rBGH-free. This is a major plant, producing 45 million lbs. of milk per month, and represents a growing desire of consumers in the mid-Atlantic states to get this drug out of their lives.

Garelick's plant supplying milk for Maine had already gone rBGH-free a few years ago because consumers there had already "voted with their dollars" and were buying competitors' rBGH-free milk, causing Garelick to lose market share.

These latest moves come on the heels of a stunning string of positive actions in Oregon in the past year:

* April, 2005 - Tillamook goes rBGH-free for their cheese (but not their other products). Tillamook is the second largest producer of chunk cheese in the country.

* June, 2005 - Eberhard Dairy in Redmond goes rBGH-free for all their products.

* Nov., 2005 - Alpenrose Dairy in Portland goes rBGH-free for all their products.

* Dec., 2005 - Darigold's processing plant in Portland goes rBGH-free (but not their other processing plants).

* Feb. 2006 - Darigold makes all its yogurt completely rBGH-free.

There are a lot more signs that the rBGH-free movement is accelerating nationwide in a big way. Health Care Without Harm (www.noharm.og), an international coalition of 443 organizations that promotes healthy practices in hospitals, issued a position statement in June 2005 against rBGH. Since then, numerous hospital systems all over the country have initiated actions toward going rBGH-free. Oregon PSR is working closely with many of them and we have sent hundreds of our 8-page brochures out nationwide.

It's going viral too. Two months ago, The Meatrix 2, a web-based cartoon (www.meatrix2.com) spoofing factory dairy farms, came out strong against rBGH. If it's anywhere near as popular as the first Meatrix, which attracted 10 million hits, it can't help but make an impact.

There's also a new non-profit, Food and Water Watch (www.foodandwaterwatch.org) which is taking a stance against the drug. Its website features a state-by-state chart of rBGH-free products, making it easy for consumers to check out available choices. The Organic Consumers Association (www.organicconsumers.org) and Center For Food Safety (www.centerforfoodsafety.org) have been leading advocates of going rBGH-free for many years and have a wealth of information on all kinds of food safety issues.

Finally, Oregon PSR (www.oregonpsr.org) is coordinating actions and connecting the dots with advocates all over the map. We've definitely expanded our outreach to assist anyone anywhere in the country by providing strategic advice, encouragement and materials. And we've made presentations at meetings and conferences in Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Boulder and other cities. But we're not neglecting our base, continuing our work with Oregon hospitals, schools, businesses and others in our educational programs that motivate individuals and institutions to take action and go rBGH-free.

This is all great news, but we're under no illusion that this battle is won. This horrible hormone won't go away without a continued all-out effort. We must continue to educate citizens and allow them to make an informed choice about what dairy products to buy.

Monsanto may have organized money, but we've got organized people, and it's truly amazing what ordinary citizens can accomplish.

As Frances Moore Lappe said, "Every choice we make can be a celebration of the world we want." Thank you all for your choice to support our efforts.



Back to the Archive