Thursday, September 30, 2010

rbST Ohio Ruling

(click on image to enlarge)

Today, the Sixth Court of Appeals handed down a ruling regarding Ohio's rbST labeling rule. The ruling was not exactly an all out win for either side.

Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) (corporate friendly) had decided to create a rule which would virtually eliminate any labeling of rbST issues on milk. Ohio claimed consumers were misled.

The Appellate Court sent the case back to the lower court with explicit instructions.

Here is some of the opinion:

The ODA then issued a proposed Rule restricting the types of claims that dairy processors could make about milk and milk products. To gauge public support for these labeling restrictions, the ODA solicited comments about the proposed Rule and held two public hearings. Less than 70 of the 2,700 emails and letters sent to the ODA during this time period were in favor of the proposed Rule, according to estimates made by the Processors. (page 5)

The district court held that the composition claims were inherently misleading
because “they imply a compositional difference between those products that are
produced with rb[ST] and those that are not,” in contravention of the FDA’s finding that there is no measurable compositional difference between the two. This conclusion is elied by the record, however, which shows that, contrary to the district court’s assertion, a compositional difference does exist between milk from untreated cows and conventional milk (“conventional milk,” as used throughout this opinion, refers to milk from cows treated with rbST). (page 9)

Also unhelpful are the consumer comments that the ODA received after issuing
the proposed Rule. The State received approximately 2,700 comments, of which the Processors estimate that only 70 were in support of the Rule. We agree with the State that some of these comments demonstrate consumer confusion regarding the use of rbST in milk production. One commenter, for example, asserted that she needed “to know that the milk I drink has no added hormones,” thereby indicating that she believed rbST to be present in conventional milk. But few if any of these commenters indicated that their
confusion stemmed from the product labels. The commenter quoted above, for instance, was informed about rbST and milk production from conversations with her oncologist,not from reading the labels. Although there is not a “complete absence of deception” as there was in Ibanez, the proof falls far short of establishing that Ohio consumers have been misled by dairy-product labeling. (Page 13)

we conclude that the Rule’s prophylactic ban of composition claims such as “rbST free” is more extensive than necessary to serve the State’s interest
in preventing consumer deception. (page 14)

No one can make a macroeconomic case of rbST benefiting the dairy farmers. Logically, rbST has probably hurt the dairy industry.

This whole pro-corporate defense of rbST was started by Dennis Wolff when he Secretary of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. The Govenor would have nothing to do with it. So, the corporate strategy moved to Ohio, where they found a friend.


  1. rBST has been proven safe and are a tool dairy farmers should be able to use without being penalized for it. Has it been "abused"? certainly. all this labeling has done is pit farmer against farmer and made liars out of many.

  2. Safety aside one can't help but see that when you are standing at the point of purchase and now have a gazillion choices it is hard to make the decision; most folks look and often choose the higher price milk thinking it must be better when in reality it is all pretty much the same; yes milk from different breeds of cattle has different component levels, and stage of lactation affect those as well but you know that a significant amount of exposure to pollution is air borne, meaning that even an organic, grazing herd is exposed to pollutants of some type. We are all in this together unless we are processing and marketing what is produced on our farm at our farm; even then we are together. So it is our and consumers best interest to have
    less confusion at the dairy case, in my opinion!

  3. And liars out of the retailers who are trying to create a distinction between milk from cows treated or not treated with rBST.

    I love the fact that the Appellate court thinks that there is a compositional difference between the two milks because of IGF-1 content in the milk. Since IGF-1 content is also higher in the summer and also in higher producing dairy cows maybe we should have retailers warn customers about the hazards of drinking either. Obviously lawyers are not required to take biology classes as a prerequisite for their law degrees.

  4. So when the FDA disclaimer says that there's "no significant difference" between rbST milk and milk not supplemented with rbST, does that affect this court ruling that says there IS a compositional difference? I sure would like to know what "test" they have to differentiate the milk. We all know such a test doesn't exist. Why? Because it IS compositionally the same. I don't feel like fighting this battle anymore, but the ruling is wrong.

  5. Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility has intensively researched rBGH for the past seven years and has come out squarely in opposition to it.

    We're not alone. In the last few years, several major public health organizations have reviewed it and also adopted official positions opposing it, including the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, Consumers Union (publisher of Consumers Report), Center for Food Safety and Health Care Without Harm, a coalition of over 460 institutions that promotes safe and healthy practices in hospitals.

    Since rBGH increases mastitis rates, it can't help but increase antibiotic use and therefore antibiotic resistance in humans, a major health danger. And even though there isn't 100% proof that the increased IGF-1 levels increase cancer rates in humans, there is significant scientific data pointing in that direction. Our stance is that this hormone is an unnecessary risk to human health.

    For more information, check out our website at and click on Safe Food and rBGH.

    Rick North, Project Director - Campaign For Safe Food
    OR Physicians for Social Responsibility