Court overturns Ohio law restricting rBGH-free labels on dairy products

 The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals protects consumers' and producers' rights to truthful information on organic product labels

In October the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in a landmark case that would have prevented consumers in Ohio from knowing whether products on grocery store shelves were produced without the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, rBGH/rBST.  

Nearly two years ago, the State of Ohio issued a regulation that restricted a company’s ability from stating that the milk it markets is rBGH-free and produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or pesticides.

In October, the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court decision, agreeing that consumers have a right to know how their dairy products are produced. The Sixth Circuit confirmed that the First Amendment allows organic dairy products to proudly state that they are free from rBGH.

“OTA believes consumers have a right to know how their food was produced, and organic farmers and manufacturers should be allowed to tell them,” said Christine Bushway, CEO of OTA. “We are pleased the court agrees,” added Bushway.

OTA and its members, including Horizon Organic, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, filed the appeal in conjunction with the International Dairy Foods Association.

Significantly, the court also found that there is a compositional difference between milk from untreated cows and milk from cows injected with rBGH. The latter contains elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone linked to several types of cancers.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center polled more than 1,000 people nationwide on various food labeling issues; some 76% of those polled were concerned with “dairy cows given synthetic growth hormones” and 88% agreed that “milk from cows raised without rBGH should be allowed to be labeled as such.”

The United States is in the minority among industrialized nations by allowing the use of rBGH to artificially stimulate milk production in dairy herds. The practice is already prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the 27 countries of the European Union.

© Copyright November 2010, The Organic & Non-GMO Report