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Monsanto on the Defensive: Large California Dairy Coop Going rBGH-free

Update on Safeway rBGH-free Conversion

There was some confusion within Safeway about how many of their dairy products had gone rBGH-free and I was getting conflicting stories. That's all straightened out now, so here's the scoop:

It is ONLY their fluid milk processed in their Seattle, Portland and northern California plants that is now rBGH-free. The two brand names are Dairy Glen (which won't be labeled) and Lucerne (which will be labeled). There is no word from Safeway yet if their other processing plants will go rBGH-free.

Their non-fluid milk products, such as butter, ice cream, yogurt, etc. are NOT rBGH-free anywhere yet.

Update on Fred Meyer rBGH Status

You may remember that I was cited in the Oregonian as saying that Fred Meyer, a division of Kroger, was the only fluid milk processor left in Oregon allowing rBGH. Melinda Merrill, spokeswoman from Fred Meyer, disputed that. She said the company, for the past several years, had received assurances from its suppliers that they aren't using rBGH. This is simply not accurate.

Kroger's own Policy Statement on rBGH, obtained in October 2006, says that "Kroger has no control over whether individual farmers decide to use synthetic bST" and also "Kroger's policy of expressing a preference for milk from untreated herds should not be interpreted as a guarantee."

I tried calling Ms. Merrill and left messages asking her to call back so we could resolve this difference. She never returned the calls. So then I got through to Dave Jordal, Fred Meyer's category manager for dairy. We had a good conversation, and he said that Kroger is reviewing their policy on rBGH and has already gone rBGH-free in Texas. He said they get most of their milk in the Portland plant from a supplier that is already rBGH-free but declined to say where the rest of their milk came from.

Oregon PSR's position is firm. Without a commercial test to detect rBGH, the industry standard for rBGH-free status is written affidavits from all farmers supplying their milk that they're not using the drug. Until Fred Meyer is willing and able to take this step, and until their own policy statement reflects that, they are STILL the only fluid milk processor based in Oregon allowing rBGH.

Honor Role of rBGH-Free Milk in Oregon

A number of you have suggested that we give some recognition to all dairy processors who had gone rBGH-free, since we tend to emphasize the most recent. Great idea, and here they are. For space purposes, this is limited to fluid milk in Oregon and SW Washington - remember that some of these companies, like Darigold, Safeway and Umpqua, haven't gone completely rBGH-free yet. For all dairy categories, check out the updated Consumers' Guide on our website at www.oregonpsr.org www.oregonpsr.org .

Alpenrose
Darigold
Eberhard's
Horizon
Lochmead
Mallories
Market of Choice
Noris
Organic Valley
Safeway
Stremick's Heritage
Sunshine
Trader Joe's
Umpqua
Wilcox

California Dairies, Inc. Going rBGH-Free!

Oregon PSR has learned that California Dairies, Inc. (CDI) is going rBGH-free as of Aug. 1, 2007! This is BIG. CDI is an enormous co-op in the central California valley, with 656 members. Their output is over 15 billion (that's billion, with a b) lbs. of milk per year, which means they produce 8% of all the milk in the country!

CDI cited recent news stories about Starbucks and retailers in Oregon and Washington going rBGH-free as part of their reasoning, plus the fact that the demand for rBGH-free is more than their current ability to supply it.

One other piece of good news out of CDI - they will NOT accept any milk from a cloned cow.

Monsanto Striking Back

Well, you didn't think the big M would take all this lying down, did you? Here's what they and their friends are up to.

First, their buddies, including one land grant university professor who was involved in developing rBGH, are going around to farmers' meetings and friendly dairy people telling them that they have every right to keep using rBGH. Of course, this ignores the fact that there is scarcely a consumer in the country that actually WANTS the stuff in their milk. Companies have a natural tendency to want to protect their profits and keep customers who have found out about rBGH and purposely DON'T want it.

Second, they're seeding editorials in newspapers saying the same misinformation that rBGH milk is the same as rBGH-free, and there are no animal or human health risks. The Wall Street Journal just had one, and we responded with a letter to the editor, which has not been printed.

Finally, Monsanto came out last week with a "study" that said their "scientific analysis" showed that there was no difference between conventional milk and milk labeled rBGH-free. They said they intend to submit this for a scientific journal. Please.

Real scientific studies aren't put out by press release first. They go through peer review first to see if they have enough merit to warrant inclusion in a scientific journal. Other than saying they collected 215 samples of 95 milk brands in 48 states, Monsanto has released no detailed information on data or methodology. With this lack of information, and with Monsanto's funding of the study, the credibility of this "study" is zero and it's impossible to take it seriously.

And speaking of lack of credibility, get this: a Monsanto spokesman actually said "We're not aware of any consumer demand for this type of (rBGH-free) product." Huh? I guess he forgot that when Monsanto tried to muscle in to reverse Tillamook's decision to go rBGH-free for their cheese in 2005, Tillamook received over 8,500 comments with well over 99% of them saying to stay rBGH-free. Since then, dairy processors all over the country have been quoted in the media saying they're going rBGH-free because they're hearing from consumers that that's what they want.

I'm seeing ugly evidence of what I think is Monsanto's scheme - they want to get the federal government to stop dairies from labeling their products rBGH-free. If they try to take away our right to know what is in our food, I can assure you we will raise holy hell to stop them.

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