The average family drinks about two gallons of milk each week, or 104 gallons a year. On October 31, 2011, Ohio families won the right to know what's in that milk, after the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) reached an agreement with plaintiffs, including the Organic Trade Association, to withdraw a controversial dairy labeling rule.
In 2008, the State of Ohio had issued an emergency regulation to prohibit labeling dairy products as produced without the use of the artificial growth hormone, recombinant growth Hormone (rbGH).
“This agreement is a victory for consumer choice and transparency. Now, farmers and processors in Ohio will be able to accurately label their milk rbGH-free, and consumers will be able to use this information when they purchase dairy products,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland. “We applaud the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s commitment to end pursuit of regulations that restrict a consumers’ right to know and a farmers’ right to inform consumers about their production practices.”
The agreement follows a September 30, 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit decision striking down significant parts of the pending rule created by the ODA to prohibit labeling dairy products as “rbGH-free.”
Critical to the decision was the Court’s reliance on an amicus brief filed by The Center for Food Safety, OEFFA, and other organizations that demonstrated milk produced with synthetic hormones is different than milk produced without it. Significantly, the Appeals Court recognized the compositional differences in conventional milk compared to rbGH-free milk. They acknowledged that milk from cows treated with rbGH has elevated levels of IGF-1, higher somatic cell (dispersed pus) counts, and lower quality of milk during certain phases of the lactation cycle.
"As approval for new genetically-engineered foods is sought, to have a federal court come down on the side of transparency and consumer choice is a broader victory than just rbGH and milk," said Goland.
rbGH, a synthetic hormone injected into cows to boost milk production, has been linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in humans and increases the incidence of clinical mastitis and lameness in treated cows. Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia do not allow the hormone to be used in dairy production, and organizations such as the American Public Health Association have called for its ban in the U.S.
Yet, under the ODA’s 2008 rule, Ohio’s dairy producers could not label their milk “rbGH-free" or “artificial hormone free,” and could not make a statement about rbGH on their packaging without also adding: “The FDA has found no significant difference between milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone and those that have not been treated.”
OEFFA opposed this labeling law from the start, leading the Ohio-based opposition, and coordinating with our national partners, the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Consumers Association, The Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and Ben & Jerry's.
“After being on every panel, testifying at every hearing, working with our members to write letters and make calls, participating in the first lawsuit, and joining as a partner in the amica curiae brief, we’re pleased to see this multi-year campaign resolved in favor of consumer choice and to have the free speech of dairies and processors restored,” concluded Goland.
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