Tillamook Cheese Rejects Monsanto rBGH

March 3, 2005

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“Dairy Co-Op Rejects Monsanto Proposal to Drop Hormone Ban”
The Oregonian, February 28, 2005
By William McCall

PORTLAND, OR (AP) – Dairy farmers whose cows provide milk for the second largest producer of chunk cheese in the nation voted Monday to ban a Monsanto Co hormone on schedule, rejecting pressure from the chemical company.

The Tillamook County Creamery Association said its members voted 83-43 in favor of the ban on recombinant bovine somatotropin hormone, or rBST. “I think this is a confirmation that our members believe in us,” said Christie Lincoln, association spokeswoman in Tillamook. “We are a consumer-driven company, so we’re keeping consumers in mind.”

A Monsanto spokeswoman said the company hopes the dairy farmers will reconsider.

“For individual producers, it is unfortunate that their choice to use a product that has provided a significant economic benefit for many Tillamook family farms has been limited,” said Jennifer Garrett at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis.

The dairy association’s board voted last May to phase out the hormone, sold under the brand name Posilac, following consumer complaints. It was one of the first major biotechnology-related products to enter the nation’s food supply when it was approved in 1993 by the Food and Drug Administration to boost milk production in dairy cows.

Lincoln said the dairy association had been under intense pressure recently from Monsanto to withdraw the proposed ban. She noted the company sent its attorneys to Oregon to propose an amendment to association bylaws that would have prevented the ban.

But 126 of the 147 co-op members met in a special session Monday at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds to discuss the issue and cast their votes to reject the amendment.

The ban will be fully implemented by April 1.

Rick North, spokesman for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, called the Tillamook ban a victory for consumers.

“They’re not only doing the right thing, they’re doing the smart thing,” North said of the co-op vote. “This should be great for their business.”

The medical organization estimates that up to 15 percent of dairy farmers are using the rBST hormone on their herds in Oregon and nationally.

North noted the hormone is banned in a number of other countries as concerns have increased among doctors and scientists.

Canada rejected Monsanto attempts to win regulatory approval for Posilac after a Canadian Veterinary Medical Association panel concluded in 1998 that cows ran a 50 percent higher risk of lameness in the feet and legs using Posilac.

Tillamook, which had 2003 sales of $260 million, is the nation’s second-largest maker of chunk cheese behind Kraft Foods Inc. Tillamook makes cheese, sour cream, butter and other dairy products.

On the Net:

Tillamook County Creamery Association: http://www.tillamookcheese.com/

Monsanto Co: http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/layout/default.asp

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