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Organic Consumers Association

Victory! Kansas Governor Vetoes Milk Labeling Bill

In a victory for local dairy farmers and consumers, Gov. Sebelius vetoes controversial bill that would have limited rbGH labeling on dairy products in the state

To support Kansas dairy farmers and consumers, Governor Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed legislation concerning the labels on milk products. The bill, HB 2121, faced massive opposition from dairy, consumer, health, animal welfare and environmental organizations across the country; nearly 30 of which wrote a letter to Governor Sebelius, President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, urging her to veto HR 2121. The bill passed by the Kansas State Legislature would have required an additional disclaimer on labels for dairy products produced from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), a genetically engineered, artificial hormone that induces cows to produce more milk.

The Governor’s office sent out a press release late this afternoon, explaining why she vetoed the bill:

“…the Bill before me…provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information. The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer’s ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST).”

“Supporters of the bill claim it’s necessary to protect consumers from false or misleading information. Yet there has been overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation. Therefore, pursuant to Article 2, Section 14 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas, I veto HB 2121.”

“I applaud Governor Sebelius’ veto of HB 2121, which would have made it more difficult for dairy farmers who don’t use recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) to label their milk as such. Governor Sebelius clearly recognized that the bill’s provisions on dairy labeling would have made it harder for consumers to get the information they want about the dairy products they consume and would have hindered dairy farmer’s ability to tell consumers that their milk is from cows not treated with rbGH,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

Due to growing consumer demand, companies are removing rbGH from their dairy products across the country. In addition, over 160 hospitals all over the country have pledged to serve rbGH-free products and the past president of the American Medical Association said in a letter to all AMA members that hospitals should serve only milk produced without rbGH. A recent report compiled by the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility found that more than half of the 100 largest dairy processors in the country have gone completely or partially rBGH-free due to consumer demand.

“Governor Sebelius made the right decision for dairy producers, businesses, and citizens today,” said Heather Whitehead, True Food Network Director at the Center for Food Safety. “Consumers want more information about the foods we purchase and feed to our families; not less. HR 2121 would have taken Kansas in the wrong direction, and we applaud Governor Sebelius for protecting Kansas farmers and consumers.”

“There was overwhelming opposition by consumer groups, small dairy producers and retailers to this proposed legislation,” said Patty Lovera, Assistant Director at Food and Water Watch. “As she ascends to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Sebelius has left a legacy of support for the public interest in Kansas with this veto.”

Kansas farms, consumer groups and businesses Catalpa Grove Gardens, Pretty Prairie, Community Mercantile Consumer Coop, Creek Four Mill, Iwig Family Dairy, Janzen Family Farms, Kansas City Food Circle, Kayala Emu Estates, Hesston, Larson Acres, Little Red Hen Bakery, Norm’s Flour, Sierra Club Kansas Chapter, Spring Creek Ranch, and Wichitaw Food Coop signed the letter to Governor Sebelius urging her to veto the bill, along with national groups AllergyKids, Breast Cancer Action, The Cornucopia Institute, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Media and Democracy, Consumers Union, Family Farm Defenders, Food and Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, Institute for Responsible Technology, National Family Farm Coalition, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Sierra Club, and Stonyfield Farm, Inc.

A copy of the letter can be found here

Related Story: 29 Groups Urge Governor Sebelius to Veto Bill on rbGH Milk Labeling, Citing Concerns for Food Safety, Consumers’ Right to Know and Freedom of Speech

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