Organic Consumers Association

Monsanto & Maine Dairy May Settle Lawsuit on rBGH Labels

Oakhurst in settlement talks over labels

Monsanto: Hormone claim is deceptive

By Bruce Mohl, Boston Globe Staff, 12/11/2003

Oakhurst Dairy of Portland, Maine, and Monsanto Corp. said yesterday they
are attempting to settle out of court a lawsuit brought by Monsanto alleging
that Oakhurst's labels deceptively suggest that the dairy's milk is safer
because it doesn't contain artificial growth hormone.

A motion filed in US District Court in Boston said the two companies had
reached agreement on the elements of a settlement and planned to meet again
next week ''for the purpose of completing their settlement discussions.''

Both firms declined to comment on how they would resolve their differences,
but Oakhurst released a statement indicating it would continue to publicize
the fact that its farmers don't use the artificial hormone produced by St.
Louis-based Monsanto.

''No matter what happens in this case,'' the statement said, ''our goals
remain the same -- to protect our customer's right to information about
where their food comes from, and to maintain our ability to tell our
customers what's special about Oakhurst milk, including our farmers' pledge
not to use artificial growth hormones.''

Monsanto sued two small dairies in Illinois and Texas on similar grounds in
1994 and reached out-of-court settlements with both firms. A Monsanto
spokesman said the terms of the settlements were confidential but that both
dairies adjusted their labels after the settlement.

Ben & Jerry's, the Vermont-based ice cream company, makes the same claim on
its labels as Oakhurst but has avoided any legal challenges by adding that
the US Food and Drug Administration has said there is no significant
difference between milk from cows treated with the synthetic hormone and
untreated cows.

Three years ago, Oakhurst attached a label to its milk cartons stating:
''Our farmers pledge: No artificial growth hormones.'' The label hit a nerve
with consumers concerned about the safety of the nation's milk supply; sales
of the dairy's milk rose 10 percent in each of the years since the label was

But the label didn't raise the ire of Monsanto until H.P. Hood and Garelick
Farms, New England's two largest dairies, began selling milk in northern New
England with similar labels.

Monsanto filed suit against Oakhurst in August, alleging that its labels may
technically be accurate but were nevertheless deceptive because they implied
that Oakhurst milk was safer than milk from cows injected with the growth

Stanley T. Bennett II, president of Oakhurst, told the Globe in September
that his company's labels were designed to tell customers something they
wanted to know. He said he didn't understand genetic science and didn't know
whether his dairy's milk was any better than milk from cows treated with
Posilac, the artificial growth hormone produced by Monsanto.

Monsanto, which won approval for Posilac from the FDA a decade ago, says
one-third of the nation's dairy cattle are regularly injected with the
artificial growth hormone, boosting the typical cow's milk production by
about a gallon a day.

Opponents of the growth hormone say it gets passed along to milk drinkers
and has been linked to cancer and accelerated physical development in boys
and girls.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at

Home | News | Organics | GE Food | Health | Environment | Food Safety | Fair Trade | Peace | Farm Issues | Politics
Español | Campaigns | Buying Guide | Press | Search | Donate | About Us | Contact Us

Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.