Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A well-diversified company

Many readers may already know this, but I had no idea until today: In addition to its thriving biotech-seed business line, Monsanto is the largest--and only!--producer of recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH for short. This Mother Jones article documents a Maine dairy farmer's fight to label his milk rBGH-free.

"We state what we are trying to do, simply and honestly," the farmer, Portland-based Stan Bennett, tells Mother Jones. "It's my right--and obligation--to inform [customers] of the facts."

Not so, according to Monsanto. In a gesture well-known to many vegetable farmers (147, according to the Center for Food Safety), Monsanto is suing Bennet. The charge: "deceptive" and "misleading" advertsing.

One of these days, Bitter Greens Journal is going to tell the story of what a disaster rBGH has been for small dairy farmers since its introduction a decade or so ago. It's led to a glut of milk on the market, pressuring raw milk prices and providing a windfall for large-scale milk processors. And jacked-up production is making cows' milk-production capacities burn out faster than new milk cows can replace them, leading to a cow shortage. I got that critique of growth hormones from an excellent food conference I attended in New York a couple of years ago, in a seminar hosted by master cheese maker Jonathon White of Bobolink Dairy.

Just as biotech crops are being sold as a panecea for vegetable farmers world-wide, rBGH was pitched as the savior of the small dairy farm. Things didn't work out that way.

Amazingly, Monsanto was also among the main companies involved in the creation and marketing of Agent Orange, the herbicide the US military used in the Vietnam War to defoliate jungles, to devesating effect on Vietnamese civilians and U.S. soldiers alike.

11 Comments:

Blogger MheadDem said...

Have you seen the blog http://www.milkismilk.com/blog.htm yet?

Just wondering what you thought about people like Alex Avery, Norman Borlaug and others who defend rbGH use as being good for the environment and agriculture?

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