Kansas rBGH-Free Labeling Preserved
The four-month battle to preserve Kansas’s rBGH-free labeling without restrictions ended 2:30 a.m. Saturday (May 9, 2009) when the state legislature adjourned without an over-ride attempt of Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of HB 2121.
The bill would have required the FDA-recommended disclaimer that there is no significant difference between rBGH and non-rBGH milk. This disclaimer is false and Oregon PSR coordinated a coalition of local, state and national organizations and individuals in opposing the bill.
Although organizations like the Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Sierra Club and Kansas City Food Circle opposed the bill, it passed both the House and Senate. The powerful Kansas Farm Bureau favored it.
As we’ve said on numerous occasions, the only way we were able to stop this bill is by working closely with groups like the Kansas organizations cited above and national organizations like Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, National Family Farm Coalition, Health Care Without Harm and many others.
In addition, we worked closely with the International Dairy Foods Association (which doesn’t oppose the use of rBGH like us), but fought the bill on the grounds that dairy processors should have freedom of labeling. Progressive rBGH-free dairies like Ben & Jerry’s and Stonyfield also threw their resources into the fray. Finally, thousands of individuals took the time to call or send e-mails or letters to legislators and the governor to express their views. Gov. Sebelius wasn’t kidding when she cited the “overwhelming opposition” to this bill.
Finally, we worked directly with two key state legislators, Sen. Marci Francisco and Rep. Josh Svaty, who were instrumental in leading the opposition inside the capitol. Our thanks go out to both for all their hard work that was such a crucial component of this victory.
This was the third attempt in Kansas to ban or restrict rBGH-free labeling. The saga started in February 2008 with a bill, backed by Monsanto, that would have banned any kind of labeling telling consumers about the rBGH status of the milk. It was pure, unadulterated censorship. Our national coalition immediately connected with Kansas organizations and within a week mounted a massive opposition in the state legislature to stop the bill in its tracks.
Then, last fall, the Kansas Dept. of Agriculture tried to implement rules that, while not banning all labeling, would have made it much more difficult and still specifically banned “rBGH-free” labels. In other words, they would have made it illegal to tell the truth. After another all-out opposition campaign to KDA and Governor Sebelius, they announced they would not implement the rules. That’s when pro-rBGH legislators adopted the KDA rules almost verbatim and made them into a bill last January.
Oregon PSR will always defend freedom of speech and the consumers’ right to know. We’re keeping a constant watch out for any other anti-labeling bills or rules that may pop up.
And now that Kansas has been settled, we’ll have more time to take the offensive once again. Finally, we’ll be getting more news to you on the overall anti-GMO effort beyond the rBGH world. Stay tuned –
Rick North, Project Director – Campaign For Safe Food
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility