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Consumers Win Right to Know What’s in Their Milk

Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) reached an agreement on Oct. 31 with plaintiffs, including the Organic Trade Association, to withdraw a controversial dairy labeling rule. In 2008, the State of Ohio issued an emergency regulation to prohibit labeling dairy products as produced without the use of the artificial growth hormone, recombinant bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH).

"This agreement is a victory for consumer choice and transparency. Now, farmers and processors in Ohio will be able to accurately label their milk rbGH-free, and consumers will be able to use this information when they purchase dairy products," said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland. “We applaud the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s commitment to end pursuit of regulations that restrict a consumers’ right to know and a farmers’ right to inform consumers about their production practices.”

The agreement follows a Sept. 30, 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit decision striking down significant parts of the pending rule created by the ODA to prohibited labeling dairy products as "rbGH-free."

Critical to the decision was the Court’s reliance on an amicus brief filed by The Center for Food Safety, OEFFA, and other organizations to rule that milk produced with synthetic hormones is different than milk produced without it. Significantly, the Appeals Court recognized the compositional differences in conventional milk compared to rbGH-free milk. They acknowledged that milk from cows treated with rbGH has elevated levels of IGF-1, higher somatic cell (dispersed pus) counts, and lower quality of milk during certain phases of the lactation cycle.

rbGH, a synthetic hormone injected into cows to boost milk production, has been linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in humans and increases the incidence of clinical mastitis and lameness in treated cows. Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia do not allow the hormone to be used in dairy production, and organizations such as the American Public Health Association have called for its ban in the U.S.

Yet, under the ODA’s 2008 rule, Ohio’s dairy producers could not label their milk “rbGH-free" or “artificial hormone free,” and could not make a statement about rbGH on their packaging without also adding: “The FDA has found no significant difference between milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone and those that have not been treated.”

For more information about the history of Ohio’s dairy labeling rule, click here.

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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, click here.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

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The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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