The Jan. 17th, 2008 decision of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to revise its ruling banning farmers from labeling their milk so consumers can tell whether or not it comes from cows injected with artificial hormones, has brought milk into the limelight again. But it’s not the first time there’s been a tiff between the factory farming industry and small farmers over milk production practices, and it won’t be the last. Proposals of similar rulings are being fought in Washington State, Missouri and Ohio.
The story begins with pharmaceutical giant Monsanto, who produces the artificial hormone, which for some reason has several different nick-names – rBST, rBGH, BGH, BST. Let’s just use the commercial name Monsanto came up with: Posilac (cute, huh? Fusing ‘positive’ with ‘lactate’ – man, they are good). Is this a story of corporate greed? Or are the organic milk farms unfairly stealing business from Monsanto, by making gullible consumers think artificial, genetically-engineered hormones are BAD?
Most of the tellings of the story kind of go like this: the FDA has gone out of its way to prove that milk containing traces of Posilac is not harmful to humans, plus the use of Posilac allows struggling farmers to increase their production of milk without increasing the number of cows (Isn’t Monsanto thoughtful?), and the organic farms are making big bucks anyway just for putting the word ‘organic’ on the cartons, so why all the fuss? Well, let me tell the story from a slightly different angle. Big factory farms with thousands of cows produce so much milk they drive down the price and squeeze out the small family farms, then a pharmaceutical company seizes the opportunity to offer a ray of hope the the struggling small farmer: a drug that will make their cows make more milk. But like all drug dependencies, the downsides are a) diminished health – health of the cows, health of the humans who drink the milk of the cows, b) empty pockets – as the struggling farmers keep struggling, the drug sellers just get richer, and c) broken relationships – as word of the possible dangers of these drugs spreads across the land, consumers abandon farmers who use the drugs, up goes the demand for drug-free milk, and the drug sellers start seeing a drop in sales. Uh oh.
And if you’re still unsure that there could maybe, just possibly be a potential for health problems associated with ingestion of milk tainted with Posilac, antibiotics, growth factors, more antibiotics, pesticides and pus (eewwww!), think about this: Canada, and all 25 countries of the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand have banned the use of artificial hormones in dairy farming.
And hey, besides finding sources of milk without potential toxins, it’s not a bad idea to skip milk altogether, or at least vary it up, and BiG TeA PaRtY has been promoting other sources of calcium and vitamin D since day one – check out our video with Elizabeth Fiend’s recipe for Vegan French Toast [click here]. Consider cutting down on dairy consumption and adding these other great sources of calcium to your diet: *collard greens, *blackstrap molasses, *spinach, *soy beans and soy products, even *1/2 cup of white beans has 96 mg of calcium (the others I mentioned all contain way over 100 mg of calcium in a standard serving; so say the USDA dietary guidelines).
But since cow’s milk is still the leading food source of Calcium and vitamin D for American children (I’m not just being nationalistic here, many other countries have already banned the use of artificial hormones on cows), it’s worth investigating what’s in there. Ciao, VaLerie K
|Sour Grapes Over Milk Labeling
By Kristen Philipkoski
Stanley Bennet, president of Oakhurst Dairy, says he will fight the lawsuit brought against his company by Monsanto. He said the company has no plans to change its labels.
The calls from distressed dairy farmers come nearly every day, and John Bunting does what he can to help.
A mother of 14 tells Bunting that her husband feels like a failure because he can’t provide for his family on milk sales alone. Another farmer says he had to sell one of his cows to repair a broken tractor. They know Bunting, who talks to them on a cordless phone while milking his cows, will lend a commiserative ear. He might also write about them in Milkweed, the dairy publication to which he is a contributor.
By some accounts, the past 18 months have been the worst in history for the U.S. dairy farmer. Milk prices have not increased enough to adjust for inflation in the past decade, and many family dairies have shut down. Sick cows don’t get treatment because farmers can’t afford a vet, or, worse, the vet won’t come anymore because he didn’t get paid last time.
Many small farmers place much of the blame on agribusiness giant Monsanto and a bovine drug called Posilac the company sells to increase the amount of milk a cow can produce.