from the Houston Chronicle

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A coalition of consumer groups and organic dairy producers is mobilizing against a proposed state rule that wouldn’t allow milk labels to say whether the cows were given synthetic hormones.

A rule proposed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture would prevent labels from making the hormone distinction unless they also contain the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s findings that there is no significant difference between milk produced with or without the recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rbST, hormone.

The debate over labeling in many cases is pitting dairy producers who don’t use the hormone against dairy farmers who use the hormone to boost milk production and help their profits. The artificial hormone duplicates a naturally occurring hormone found in cows.

It has been allowed since 1994 by the FDA, while Canada and the European Union, as well as others, have banned its use.

A growing number of consumers have begun to demand milk free of the hormone, providing marketing opportunities to dairy producers and sellers that advertise their milk as being produced without it. An emergency executive order signed by Gov. Ted Strickland in February prohibited the use of labels that make the hormone distinction unless it also contained a disclaimer about the FDA’s findings. The order says a label without the disclaimer might mislead consumers because it makes milk produced with the hormone appear inferior when no such finding has been made.

The rule proposed by the agriculture department mirrors the executive order, and would take effect before the order expires in May. A public hearing was scheduled in Columbus on Wednesday, and the rule could be enacted as soon as April 24.

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