Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Frosts My Glass

This is infuriating.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania is stopping dairies from stamping milk containers with hormone-free labels in a precedent-setting decision being closely watched by the industry.

Synthetic hormones have been used to improve milk production in cows for more than a decade. The chemical has not been detected in milk, so there is no way to test for its use, but a growing number of retailers have been selling and promoting hormone-free products in response to consumer demand.

State Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff said advertising one brand of milk as free from artificial hormones implies that competitors' milk is not safe, and it often comes with what he said is an unjustified higher price.

... Effective Jan. 1, dairies selling milk in Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-largest dairy state, will be banned from advertising that their product comes from cows that have never been treated with rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin.

The product, sold by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. under the brand name Posilac, is the country's largest-selling dairy pharmaceutical. It is also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.

We buy our milk from a local dairy. You can drive by their farm and see their cows grazing in the field. We get two glass half-gallon jugs of it at market every Saturday, and bring the empties back the next week and get new filled ones. It costs a bit more than milk from the big grocery store; the difference is maybe a dollar a week.

They don't use BGH. That's one reason we buy it from them. But now they won't be able to alert people to that. Whose possible convenience could that be for, except the corporation that manufactures rBGH, or the big dairies (Wolff's family dairy is among them) who have been using the chemical?

It's certainly not in my interest, as a consumer. Or that of the small dairies who wish to cater to a niche market. And there's a lot of small dairies in Pennsylvania and exactly zero "Monsanto Co." in Pennsylvania. Who is this public servant serving?

I don't care that nobody has detected rBGH in milk. Maybe that just means they haven't tested it enough. And maybe that reaction just makes me paranoid. Very well, I'll be paranoid and spend my money accordingly. That's the American way, bud. The government can't take that away from me.

If I want to hold on to my suspicions that a flood of cow hormones might have something to do with why 11-year-old girls today look like 14-year-old girls did when I was in junior high school, that's my right. It murders no one, it picks no man's purse.

Monsanto spokesman Michael Doane said the hormone-free label "implies to consumers, who may or may not be informed on these issues, that there's a health-and-safety difference between these two milks, that there's 'good' milk and 'bad' milk, and we know that's not the case."

Nobody in Europe thought giving thalidomide to pregnant women was a problem, either, until babies started slithering out without arms or legs. Fortunately, there were a few "paranoid" people in America who waited for more tests. Otherwise I could have been one of those unfortunate babies.

And even so, if my local dairy wants to pay to print advertising that says its milk contains no radioactive waste, or moon rocks, or dead Egyptians, that's their business. Free markets? Caveat emptor? Since when did it become the responsibility of my tax dollars and my state government to protect a multinational corporation in St. Louis from the milk cows of Quarryville?

[As a P.S., to those of you who like to pigeonhole things into "liberal" and "conservative," which is this rant? I'm taking sides with "Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility," but I'm anti-Nannystate; I'm anti-corporate here, but pro-free-market; it's the green way, but I happen to like my milk the old-fashioned way; which political stance is that? Maybe there's no one answer, eh?]