Shame On Monsanto!

It should come as no surprise that most of what we eat in America has been altered, either chemically or genetically. Natural flavors are no more natural than artifical flavors. Much of what we eat contains trans fatty acids, which the FDA recently determined to be unsafe at any level. Much of our produce is genetically altered to ensure higher yields, better color and that they can be kept long enough to make it to grocery store shelves. Much of our meat and dairy products come from animals that have been fed hormones and antibiotics and, in some cases, members of their own species.

So a smart little dairy in Maine decided it would make a point of the fact that "its milk comes from cows that haven't been treated with artificial growth hormones."

Oakhurst Dairy of Portland isn't unique in labelling its products for the healthy eater demographic, namely milk drinkers who worry about such things. Shouldn't consumers have a right to know what goes into the food that they consume?

Seems fair enough to me, but apparently not to Monsanto Corp.. The multinational agribusiness conglomerate, lately recharacterizing itself as a biotechnology business, is suing Oakhurst in federal court for their marketing practices, asserting "that no scientific evidence exists that proves milk from cows treated with the hormones differs from milk of untreated cows." Who manufactures the hormones in question? Of course, Monsanto.

In its defense, Oakhurst has asked to have the case dismissed and "says its customers have said they don't want milk from treated cows, and made no claims beyond the fact that their products come from untreated cows."

"Oakhurst does not take a position that milk from cows supplemented with (artificial hormones) is either safe or unsafe for human consumption," said the company in the recent court filing.

Why go after Oakhurst? Why not sue Berkeley Farms in California or any of the dozens of dairies on the West Coast which use similar methods to market their dairy products to conscientious consumers? Maybe it has something to do with where Oakhurst is located.
"U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine will join Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, in introducing a bill to ban the use of eight antibiotics commonly used in agriculture to promote the growth of poultry and livestock. Snowe is the first Republican to endorse the measure, which is a revised version of a bill that failed last year."

Snowe and Kennedy have written the bill based on growing scientific evidence that use of such antibiotics is contributing to the rise of "super bugs" that are resistant to treatment. Meat producers are crying foul, saying that legislation will cut into their bottom line.
"Unfortunately, decades after the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics, diseases of bacterial origin remain a real and increasing threat to public health," Snowe said in a written statement. "Overuse of medically important antibiotics in humans and animals promotes resistance in bacteria. Infections caused by resistant bacteria cannot be treated with traditional antibiotics. If left unchecked, the problem of bacterial resistance represents an impending public health crisis."

The American Medical Association has come out in support of use restrictions. A study released in March by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine called for an end to nontherapeutic use of the drugs, as did a 2002 study in the medical journal "Clinical Infectious Diseases."

Some businesses, including some poultry producers, have voluntarily taken steps to reduce their antibiotic use. Last month, McDonald's announced that it has asked its meat suppliers to phase out the use of growth-promoting antibiotics by the end of 2004. It is the first fast-food chain to do so, but it probably won't be the last.

Rebecca Goldburg, a senior scientist at Environmental Defense, said her organization will work with McDonald's to try to persuade other companies to adopt similar policies.

"Consumers, frankly, don't want food that's produced with large quantities of artificial hormones or pesticides or antibiotics and so on," Goldburg said, "and companies that can say they're doing without have an advantage in the marketplace."

"I think what we're going to end up doing is just slowing the process by restricting the use in agriculture," Dr. Syd Sewall, a pediatrician in Hallowell who is former president of the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said. "What we want to do is make it so the age of antibiotics is prolonged as long as possible until we have some other kind of breakthrough in how we deal with infectious illnesses, which hopefully medicine and science will give us before it's too late."

A scheduling conference has been set for Aug. 18 in Boston.