Monsanto claims that milk advertising is misleading
Monsanto Corp. today asked two federal regulatory agencies to investigate what it claims are the false and misleading advertising claims of many of the nation's dairies, including some of the biggest here in New England.
Many dairies, including H.P. Hood in Chelsea and Garelick Farms in Franklin, now say their milk comes from cows not treated with the artificial growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin, which is manufactured by St. Louis-based Monsanto. Hood and Garelick made the shift last year to better compete against organic milk, which has seen its sales rise sharply.
Monsanto, in letters to the US Federal Trade Commission and the US Food and Drug Administration, said the advertising of some dairies falsely suggests that there are health and safety risks associated with milk from cows treated with the artificial growth hormones. The FDA approved the use of the synthetic hormone in 1993.
"Consumers, many of whom are misled by the deceptive advertising, pay higher prices for milk and get nothing in return," said the letters from Monsanto, which were cosigned by hundreds of dairy farmers.
Monsanto said even seemingly factual statements like those on Hood and Garelick milk bottles are misleading. Hood and Garelick milk bottles carry labels saying their farmers pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. Monsanto, in supporting documentation for its letters, said the labels suggest that the milk is safer or higher quality than milk coming from cows treated with the synthetic hormones.
According to Monsanto, a lab analysis it conducted of 95 different brands of milk purchased in 48 states found all of the milk contained the same level of growth hormone, whether the cows were treated with the synthetic hormone or not. The synthetic hormone boosts a typical cow's milk production by about 10 pounds per day.
Marguerite Copel, a spokeswoman for Dean Foods in Dallas, which owns Garelick, said there is no difference between conventional milk and milk produced from cows treated with the synthetic hormone. She said only about 17 of Dean's 100 dairies rely on milk from cows not treated with the synthetic hormone.
"When a consumer asks for it, we provide it as a service," she said. "This is a small niche product."
(By Bruce Mohl, Globe staff)