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'Hormone-free' milk spurs labeling debate

Some say chemical company is behind efforts to sink 'rBGH-free' milk choice.

Labels: Garelick Farms, a New England dairy, no longer uses artificial growth hormones in its milk-production process, despite the fact that it could increase yields from its cows.

Joanne Ciccarello – staff

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What used to be a decision between whole, low fat, and skim is now a choice between whole, low fat, skim, lactose-free, flavored, organic, conventional, soy, and milk made without artificial hormones.

The dairy aisle has grown increasingly cluttered with options – and state lawmakers are now wrestling over labeling one of those options: Milk made without recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH).

The synthetic hormone – linked by some to health problems in humans when ingested – artificially reproduces a naturally occurring hormone found in dairy cows. It's produced by Monsanto Corp. and sold under the name Posilac. Dairy farmers administer Posilac to lactating cows to increase yields. Its use is banned in Europe and Canada, but the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the artificial hormone in 1993.

In tandem with the rise in organic milk sales, more dairies, supermarket chains, and retailers are offering milk from untreated cows. Because there are no commercially available tests for the artificial hormone, dairy farmers sign affidavits stating they do not use Posilac. Along with dairy processors, this year Starbucks, Kraft, and Wal-Mart rolled out rBGH-free milk products.

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