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Monsanto's Strong Arm Tactics Against Oregon Dairy Put Them in the News Again

Fom Portland (Maine) Press Herald


February 25, 2005

COLUMN: Eric Blom

Monsanto is in another dispute

The situation has a familiar ring to anyone who remembers the 2003 Monsanto
Co. lawsuit against Maine's Oakhurst Dairy.

Last Friday, an Oregon creamery decided not to take milk from cows injected
with a genetically engineered growth hormone, rBST. Monsanto, the
Missouri-based biotechnology giant that sells the hormone, is unhappy.

The creamery argues that some consumers have questions and concerns.
Monsanto takes action to squelch any suggestion, even an oblique one, that
there's something wrong with the milk.

In 2003, Monsanto sued Oakhurst over a label that said "Our Farmers'
Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones." Monsanto argued that this implied
there's something wrong with hormone-generated milk, while the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration concludes that it's just fine.

This time, the dispute involves an Oregon dairy - Tillamook County Creamery
Association - located to the west of Portland. The association announced
last week that it would no longer accept milk from cows injected with rBST.

In making that announcement, the creamery complained about what it said is
"an aggressive intrusion by Monsanto into the association's decision-making
process." Monsanto denies the particulars cited by Tillamook - that it hired
a lawyer and helped draft a proposal to overturn the ban - and says that it
merely provided its rBST customers with a list of attorneys and other
information when approached.

Monsanto's product has never taken hold in Europe because consumers there
have been aggressive in fighting genetically modified agricultural
processes. The biochemical firm doesn't want that attitude to catch fire
here in the United States, too.

"We believe it is important for the dairy producers because we believe they
should have the right to choose what technologies they use in their
dairies," said Jennifer Garrett, director of public affairs at Monsanto.

The Oregon creamery has been talking about the ban for two years, and
Oakhurst's experience has been part of the discussion, said Christie
Lincoln, corporate communications manager.

"It's actually an example that's thrown around a lot in the industry when
you look in the direction of rBST," she said. Nobody wants to end up in
court with Monsanto.

The creamery has decided not to trumpet its stance on labels. It only will
tell consumers who ask that none of its cheese originates with milk from
hormone-using farms.

Monsanto, meanwhile, wrote to Tillamook farmers. The letter said that
Monsanto had been contacted by some cooperative members who wanted to keep
using the hormone. The letter said Monsanto wants to keep rBST accessible to
any farmer who likes using it.

The Oregon dispute seems to have hit a nerve, just like the one involving

"The media inquiries have been from around the country, and there have even
been some international contacts," said Lincoln. Many creamery customers
also have been contacting the cooperative to show their support.

"A lot of people take a great deal of pride in it being a local dairy
cooperative," Lincoln said. "It was emotional for them to see their local
cooperative being influenced by an outside company."

On Monday, farmers will vote on a proposal to reverse Tillamook's ban on