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Monsanto sour on milk marketers' hormones claim

(Wednesday, July 9, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- J.M. Lawrence, Boston Herald, 07/04/03: Monsanto asked a federal court yesterday to stop Oakhurst Dairy of Maine from marketing milk in Massachusetts with the label ``Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones.''

The red label on a jug of Oakhurst milk constitutes a ``deceptive'' business practice by trying to convince consumers that milk without bovine growth hormone is better, the St. Louis chemical corporation that launched BGH in 1994 charged.

Oakhurst Dairy, the biggest milk producer in northern New England , boosted sales by banning BGH and paying dairy farmers a bonus not to use it, the company's promotional materials state.

Supporters of BGH claim farmers' pledges are meaningless because there is no way to test for the substance. The FDA approved BGH use, but Canada and the European Union have banned it.

Opponents, including the Organic Consumers Union and Greenpeace, contend BGH is linked to breast and prostate cancer, as well as early puberty in kids.

``The scientific facts are there is no difference in milk from cows supplemented with (BGH) and milk from other cows, and there is no analytical test that can distinguish milk from cows supplemented with (BGH),'' Monsanto attorneys said.

In court papers filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston , Monsanto included a lengthy affidavit from a Babson College marketing professor who concluded Oakhurst's labels are leading Massachusetts buyers to choose its milk over the competition. ``Oakhurst Dairy's label is causing consumers to believe that its milk is different from, superior to, and safer and more healthful than milk that does not bear that label,'' said professor Dhruv Grewal.

Such competitors as HP Hood have pledged not to buy from dairy farmers who use the synthetic hormone. But Hood does not label its products as hormone-free.

Illinois , Nevada and Oklahoma have banned use of the labels.

An Oakhurst spokeswoman said the dairy's president was not available for comment yesterday.