Pennsylvania rescinds law banning rBGH-free labels

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has rescinded a controversial law banning dairy producers from labeling milk products as free of a genetically engineered growth hormone, rBGH.

In mid-January, the PDA released revised rules that allow dairy companies to use rBGH-free labels as long as they use a US Food and Drug Administration recommended disclaimer saying there is no significant difference between milk derived from rBGH-treated and non-rBGH-treated cows.

“This is a victory for free speech, free markets, sustainable farming, and the consumer's right to know,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “Consumers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced, and particularly whether it is produced in a natural and sustainable manner. Pennsylvania deserves credit for realizing that its initial regulation prohibiting such labeling was flawed, and for reversing its position.”

In October, the PDA announced new rules that would prohibit any type of labeling that would indicate a dairy product was rBGH-free or hormone-free, saying that such claims were misleading and impossible to prove.

However, a backlash from consumers and dairy producers opposed to the proposed law was so fierce that Governor Ed Rendell postponed the law until further review.

An editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer opposing the original law stated, “The job of the state—and (Governor) Rendell and his ag secretary—is to give consumers more information and not to protect a special-interest group.”

The fight over rBGH-free labeling is also being fought in Ohio where the department of agriculture plans to make a final decision on the labeling issue. More than 70 dairy farmers, food processors and retailers, and consumer, farm and agricultural, public health, animal protection and environmental organizations, wrote to Gov. Ted Strickland urging the state not to prohibit farmers from telling consumers they do not use artificial hormones on their dairy cows.

(Sources: Newark Advocate, Philadelphia Inquirer)

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