Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Wired News: Sour Grapes Over Milk Labeling
"Producing more milk efficiently allows dairy farmers to make more money," said Jennifer Garrett, technical services director for Monsanto's dairy business. "The farms with the highest-producing cows are those that are making the most money. Posilac is a product that allows them to do that."

Many dairy farmers say, however, that not using the hormone is one way they can get a competitive edge. Some milk distributors pay a premium for milk from cows not treated with rBST. Plus, even though studies show rBST is safe for humans, increasing numbers of consumers are drawn to "all-natural" products.

Farmers who don't use rBST want to advertise that fact on their product labels. But Monsanto officials say labels like "No rBST" or "rBST-free" are misleading, unfair and deceptive. The company has recently sued one dairy for its labels.

Oakhurst Dairy in Maine labels its milk: "Our farmer's pledge: no artificial hormones." Monsanto's lawsuit says the label implies Oakhurst's milk is somehow better than milk from cows treated with rBST, and that unfairly harms Monsanto's business.

A federal judge in Boston has set a trial date for Jan. 5, 2004, but denied Monsanto's request for a hearing to argue that Oakhurst should stop its labeling immediately, pending the trial's outcome. Monsanto isn't seeking monetary damages; its lawyers just want Oakhurst to remove the label. Oakhurst officials say they have no intention of doing so.

"We intend to defend our right to, through our labeling, let consumers know what is and what is not used in the production of the milk they drink," said Oakhurst President Stanley Bennet.

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