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New Kansas Bill Restricts rBGH Labeling

Ever since recombinant bovine-growth hormone was approved by the FDA, there's been so much backlash that the nation's top retail stores -- Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger's, Safeway -- refuse to carry milk from cows on rBGH.

The public has spoken -- people don't like the idea of steroid cows -- and normally the public gets its way.

Just not in Kansas. Last Friday, the Kansas House approved bill 2295 (PDF) which includes the following:

 Each milk, milk product or dairy product label that has a statement regarding the composition of milk with respect to hormones, including ''No Hormone,'' ''Hormone Free,'' ''rBST Free,'' ''rBGH Free,'' and ''BST Free,'' shall be deemed false and misleading.

Instead of simply being able to say a product is "hormone free," its label must state specifically which hormones a product does not have -- for example, "this milk is from cows not supplemented with rBSTAs." And after each statement the following must be included: "The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST-supplemented cows."

Kansas lawmakers and rBGH's producer, Monsanto, don't want to make consumers afraid of milk they believe is safe. But farmers who never use rBGH and simply want their customers to know that are now on the defensive.

Local farmers like Shatto Dairy may be forced to change their labels. Currently, Shatto proudly advertises, "The milk sold by Shatto Milk Company comes from cows not treated with rbST [recombinant bovine somatotropin] or recombinant bovine growth hormone." Under the new law, unless Shatto adds the part about the FDA finding no difference between the hormone-supplemented or non-hormone-supplemented milk, those claims would be labeled false and misleading.

And since the FDA has found no dangers in milk treated with rBGT, it must be safe, right? But the FDA has made blunders galore. Add rBGH to the list of products originally thought to be safe but turned ant (asbestos, Fen-phen) and it's clear the Kansas government should be helping citizens make more informed choices, not the opposite.