To protect sales of synthetic hormones, Monsanto tries censorship
Published December 19, 2007
Updated January 17, 2008
Millions of Americans now seek out dairy products coming from farms that do not inject their cows with synthetic growth hormones. Some people want to ensure they are not contributing to demonstrably higher rates of sickness among animals injected with the hormones, often referred to as rBGH or rBST. Others simply want to support more natural forms of agriculture or believe there may be health risks from ingesting rBGH-derived products.
In most places, we have the freedom to choose because many companies recognize the demand for such products and increasingly are providing customers what they want. Consumers also can easily discern those products because most companies use labels to identify products from farms that do not use these artificial hormones.
All this is unobjectionable to anyone who believes in a market-based economy.
The corporation that enjoys an absolute monopoly on the product in question, however, isn’t keen on consumers making informed decisions.
The Monsanto Corporation manufactures Posilac, the only bovine growth hormone approved for sale in the U.S. Monsanto claims the increased milk yield that results from Posilac outweighs the products expense and the cost of increased rates of illness among cows that results from its use.
Faced with a growing resistance to Posilac, Monsanto is waging war on informed decision-making, lobbying state officials to ban dairies from placing factual information about rBGH on their label. Its lobbyists argue that consumers are making poorly-informed choices based on fear-mongering, necessitating government intervention to save us from being misled by alarmists.
For more than a decade, Monsanto has attempted and (mostly) failed to censor such information through lawsuits and federal lobbying efforts. Incredibly, four states — Indiana, Washington, Missouri, and Ohio — have legislative or executive efforts pending that would ban dairies from using product labels that assert they purchase only from dairies not using Posilac.
Pennsylvania actually had a ban slated to take effect on February 1, 2008, but citizen outcry led PA Governor Edward Rendell to scrap the plan just two weeks prior. A similar plan in NewJersey was abandoned in the face of strong public opposition on Jan. 4, 2008.
Regardless of anyone’s views on the utility of rBGH, citizens should be outraged at state governments censoring information that many citizens need to make decisions consistent with their values. We hope you’ll use the information below to speak out.
- Ohio residents
- Indiana residents. On January 15, 2008, Bill 1300 was introduced into the Indiana Assembly. Tell your elected officials your thoughts on censoring product information.
- Nationwide: If you live elsewhere in the U.S., don’t wait to be put on the defensive — start educating people about potential assaults on their rights, why so many people seek out Posilac-free products (see resources linked below), and consider proactive measures like:
- propose banning Posilac-derived products from being sold in your community or state
- propose mandatory labeling of products that do come from synthetic hormones.
Such actions will be challenged in court and the former measure likely would be struck down in the short term. Though a federal court struck down vermont’s mandatory rBGH labeling law in 1996 in International Dairy v. Amnestoy, such a law should withstand any legal challenge if written with that goal in mind. Please contact our office for direct assistance if you consider these actions.
Information sources on Monsanto and Posilac
The Organic Consumers Association and Food and Water Watch provide a wide array of anti-rBGH information. The Environmental research Foundation hosts many articles opposing rBGH itself and indexes opposition groups and their material.
Monsanto’s press release announcing its FTC complaint is posted here (pdf). Unfortunately, the company removed its complaint letters to the FDA, the FTC and accompanying exhibits from its website sometime during Dec, 2007.
ReclaimDemocracy.org article addressing Monsanto and corporate/ government suppression of consumer information: When Silence is Not Golden: Negative Free Speech and Human Rights for Corporations by Dean Ritz
© 2007 ReclaimDemocracy.org