The Monsanto Corporation, producer of an artificial hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production, recently sued a small Maine dairy that places their pledge never to use the hormone on every carton, jug, and bottle they produce. Monsanto is alleging in the lawsuit that the warning, which reads “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones” misleads customers by implying milk without the hormone, known as rBST, is healthier than milk without it. Although rBST has been approved by the U.S. FDA, Canada and the European Union have banned it citing health concerns and inconclusive science.
After the lawsuit was announced, the CEO of Oakhurst Dairy, (son of the man who began the dairy in 1921) told the media that the company had received more than 100 e-mails, more than 50 phone calls and dozens of faxes and letters in the first 48 hours after the lawsuit was announced – all in support of Oakhurst. The local newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, has run a staff editorial and dozens of letters in support of Oakhurst, including one from a doctor who alleged her son suffered from a rare enlargement of one breast until she switched from generic to Oakhurst milk.
Monsanto had requested the state of Maine discontinue a state program called the “Quality Trademark Seal” that marks containers of milk without the hormone earlier in the year, but the Maine Attorney General turned down their request. If Monsanto expected a different response, they must not know much about Mainers, who value locally produced foods and distrust giant corporations from out of state. Many communities shoulder significant tax burdens to keep working farms viable, and local supermarkets heavily market locally produced milk, fruit, bread, and – of course – seafood.
This sort of practical preference for the welfare and well being of Maine residents over the bottom lines of multinational corporations isn’t new. Maine recently showed a similar lack of deference towards enormous, extremely profitable corporations when they announced a plan where the state would negotiate lower prescription drug prices directly with drug companies to save both the government and state residents money. The protestations of drug companies were cut short when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program last month.
While these pragmatic approaches to reign in multinational corporations may be foreign to much of the rest of the nation, for Mainers the matter is clear-cut: a local milk company that provides consumers the assurance they can avoid a controversial hormone banned in many countries will always win out over one of the world’s most profitable, and controversial agribusinesses.
> NYTimes: “Monsanto sues dairy in Maine over label’s remarks on hormones”
> Press Herald: “Oakhurst Lawsuit: David vs. Goliath”