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January 26, 2008 - Science battles Greed

A few days ago I received an e-mail from an angry, frustrated dairy farmer in Illinois. After reading the e-mail, I quickly shared his anger and frustration. Let me quote part of it. “Dear Orion, We had a real bad news day today. Our field man called to say Dean Foods at our local processing plant will no long buy milk from cows supplemented with BST as of February 1st. Walmart contacted Dean Foods to say they would no longer buy rBST milk and if Dean’s wouldn’t go along, they would buy their milk elsewhere. Dean’s pleaded that they needed more time for their producers to use up their current supply of BST, and Walmart’s response... ‘That’s not our problem’.” End of quote.

Here is another prime example of emotion or maybe financial greed over-riding sound science. First of all, there is no difference in the milk from a cow that produces BST naturally or another cow that has been supplemented with additional BST to increase milk production. There is no scientific equipment that can detect any difference. This is not sound science and certainly not sound reasoning.

For whatever reasons, among them perhaps financial, dairy processors and dairy marketers at the retail level label their milk hormone-free, and then raise the price. If you check the price of milk that is labeled “free of rBST” you will find the price is considerably higher than regular milk. In the second quarter of 2007, the Farm Bureau Market Basket Survey showed the price of a half-gallon of whole milk to be $2.22, the price of a half-gallon of milk labeled rBST-free was $3.01, a 36% premium for milk that is no different. I doubt if any of that 79-cent premium reached the producers who signed the “no rBST affadavit to satisfy the demands of the processor.

Golly, I share this frustration. My bet is people who make these decisions at Wal-Mart have never milked a cow; have never been involved in food production and give little thought to what stopping the use of technology in food production will do to hungry people around the world. It will literally take food out of their mouths.

This is a wrong decision by the dairy processing industry, because if you can’t test it, how can you label it? Agriculture must come together on this one, and spend time every day educating people, both in the industry, as well as consumers that science, not emotion or financial gain must be the benchmark when evaluating the use of technology in food production.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.