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Ohio Drops Milk Labeling Rule

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Organic advocates consider the Halloween announcement that came from Ohio officials a definite treat. The state announced it is abandoning its effort to ban milk processors from stating whether their organic milk is free of antibiotics growth hormones like r-BGH.

milk_glass.jpgThe Organic Trade Association, which hailed the announcement as a victory for free speech, had been battling the regulation since it was imposed in 2008. At that time, Gov. Ted Strickland issued an emergency rule that flew in the face of transparency. All fluid dairy products making hormone-free claims must be labeled "from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.”

Fair enough. But then comes a required disclaimer: There is "no significant difference between milk from rBGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows."

Supporters of the rule said that the hormone-free claim intimated that all other milk was not as safe or healthful. Organic proponents like the OTA said that rule was “restricting OTA members’ rights to inform consumers of accurate information regarding federally regulated organic production practices.”

The courts initially supported the state’s argument. Then, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case and in 2010 ruled that the regulation was unconstitutional. State officials were thought to be weighing how to work around the court’s decision, when the announcement came today that the matter would not be pursued.

“This is significant for all of us who support what the organic foods are about, and for consumers who carefully read food labels to find out what’s in their food and how it’s produced,” said Christine Bushway, the OTA’s CEO and executive director.

Interestingly, the news comes on the final day of Non-GMO Month, which includes a campaign against dairy products that contain growth hormones. Organic defenders hope this kind of victory will inspire consumers to sign petitions for a federal rule that would mandate the labeling of GMOs and the food products that contain them as part of the Just Label It: We Have a Right to Know initiative that launched earlier this month.

[Photo credit: TMAB2003]

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