29 Groups Urge Kansas Gov. Sebelius to Veto Bill on RBGH Milk Labeling

For Immediate Release

Consumers Union
Contact: 

John Bianchi, Goodman Media, 212-576-2700
Naomi Starkman, CU, 917-539-3924

29 Groups Urge Kansas Gov. Sebelius to Veto Bill on RBGH Milk Labeling

Citing Conerns for Food Safety, Consumers' Right to Know, and Freedom of Speech

WASHINGTON - Today a broad array of 29 farmers, consumer groups, businesses and
other organizations sent a letter to Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius,
President Obama's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human
Services, urging her to veto HR 2121, a bill passed by the Kansas State
Legislature last week which would require an additional disclaimer on
labels for dairy products produced from cows not treated with
recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), a genetically
engineered, artificial hormone that induces cows to produce more milk.
The bill was sent yesterday to Governor Sebelius, who has ten days to
veto it. A copy of the letter can be found at: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/010910.html

"Since the FDA's controversial decision to approve the use of rbGH,
questions have only grown about its safety for humans," said Dr.
Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist for Food Safety for Consumers Union,
nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. "HR 2121 interferes with
consumers' right to know what is in their food and how it's produced
and farmers and dairies have the right to tell them." Consumers Union
sent a similar letter to Sebelius urging her to veto the bill.

The required disclaimer would read: "the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has determined there are no significant
differences between milk from cows that receive injections of the
artificial hormone and milk from those that do not." That statement is
based on an 18-year-old FDA review; however, FDA's own publications, as
well as subsequent scientific studies have shown that there are
significant differences, some of which may affect human health. The
Kansas bill also goes against long-established Federal policy as
outlined by the FDA in a July 27, 1994 letter to New York Department of
Agriculture and Markets: "The bottom line is that a contextual
statement is not required...and in no instance is the specific
statement 'No significant difference has been shown...' required by
FDA."

In addition, the Legislature tacked on the dairy labeling rules of
HB 2295 as a rider on HB 2121 without a hearing in the Senate
Agriculture Committee. This denied the numerous opponents of labeling
restrictions the chance to testify. Even with the lack of proper
debate, the bill barely passed the Senate by a 22-15 vote, just two
votes short of failing, demonstrating that there is barely a mandate
for labeling changes in Kansas.

"As she reviews this bill, and ascends to the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, we urge Governor Sebelius to veto this bill,
protect the health of Kansas' citizens, and to leave a legacy of
support for the public interest, not special interests," said Patty
Lovera, Assistant Director at Food and Water Watch.

Due to growing consumer demand, companies are removing rbGH from
their dairy products across the country. In addition, over 160
hospitals all over the country have pledged to serve rbGH-free products
and the past president of the American Medical Association said in a
letter to all AMA members that hospitals should serve only milk
produced without rbGH.

"Kansas is taking a step in the wrong direction, as more than half
of the 100 largest dairy processors in the country have gone partially
or completely rbGH-free to satisfy consumer demand," said Heather
Whitehead, True Food Network Director at the Center for Food Safety.
"If dairies decide not to label milk as rbGH-free due to these
unnecessary labeling requirements, or decide not to sell their products
in Kansas, citizens will be denied the chance to make informed choices
about what kind of dairy products to buy."

Local retailers are also concerned about the effects of the labeling
requirements. "We hope that Governor Sebelius will veto HB 2121 which
could create a financial hardship for the state's mid-sized and small
dairy producers and retailers, and could raise barriers to interstate
commerce," said Devrin Forte, Store Manager at Topeka Natural Foods.

Kansas farms, consumer groups and businesses Catalpa Grove Gardens,
Pretty Prairie, Community Mercantile Consumer Coop,Creek Four Mill,
Iwig Family Dairy, Janzen Family Farms, Kansas City Food Circle, Kayala
Emu Estates, Hesston, Larson Acres, Little Red Hen Bakery, Norm's
Flour, Sierra Club Kansas Chapter, Spring Creek Ranch, and Wichitaw
Food Coop signed the letter to Governor Sebelius urging her to veto the
bill, along with national groups AllergyKids, Breast Cancer Action, The
Cornucopia Institute, Organic Consumers Association, Center for
Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Media and
Democracy, Family Farm Defenders, Food and Water Watch, The Humane
Society of the United States, Institute for Responsible Technology,
National Family Farm Coalition, Oregon Physicians for Social
Responsibility, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Sierra Club, and
Stonyfield Farm, Inc.

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