Tillamook Board Votes to Go rBGH-Free! Monsanto Fighting Decision, Please Take Action

Tillamook Creamery Board Votes to Go rBGH-Free!

Monsanto Fighting Decision, Meeting Ahead

In a stunning decision, Tillamook Creamery Association's Board voted unanimously to require all 147 member dairy farmers to go rBGH-free (genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone).

According to a story broken by KGW reporter Vince Patton last night, "A barrage of consumer questions and complaints has convinced the Tillamook Creamery Association to force all of its dairies to abandon the use of genetically engineered growth hormones in its cows."

That's us, folks! We started contacting Tillamook a year ago about rBGH and began a full-scale postcard, phone call and e-mail campaign about six months ago. Combined with other people independently asking questions, Jim McMullen, Tillamook President, concluded that "When eight percent of your customers are talking about that issue, that's substantial and we need to listen."

According to Patton, the Three Mile Canyon dairy in Boardman, Oregon that supplies a large amount of milk to Tillamook has also signed an agreement to go rBGH-free. The dairy is not formally part of Tillamook's co-op. At this point, the precise date of going completely rBGH-free isn't known, but it may be in the next few months.

But don't start celebrating yet - this isn't a done deal. Monsanto has been doing everything possible to derail this decision and reportedly sent one of its lawyers to Oregon to organize dissident Tillamook farmers who want to continue using the drug. He has succeeded in getting 10% of the membership to request a general meeting of all 147 members to vote on overturning the board's decision. This battle is still raging and we won't know the outcome for sure until this meeting is held, probably by the end of this month.

According to the latest ratings, KGW's 6:00 p.m. news program is viewed by over 95,000 households. It will air the second segment of the rBGH story tonight at 6:00 p.m., and will most likely concentrate on the Monsanto angle. Vince Patton told me this morning that he has NEVER had a story in Portland reviewed so thoroughly by station lawyers - no surprise there!

Tillamook sells cheese nationwide, butter throughout the western U.S. and ice cream, yogurt and sour cream in most stores in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the oldest, largest dairies in the country.

The story is on KGW's website, www.kgw.com

KGW News Story:

Monsanto's Hidden Hand Encourages Protest

06:24 PM PST on Friday, February 18, 2005

TILLAMOOK, Ore. -- A group of angry farmers says the Tillamook creamery has gone too far while a national consumer group says it isn't doing enough.

As KGW reported Thursday (Feb. 17th 2005), the Tillamook co-op is banning artificial growth hormones from cows that supply it milk.

The Tillamook creamery wanted to keep the change quiet. It did not want to call attention to its ban on artificial growth hormones in its dairy cows.

And it certainly did not want to draw the ire of the hormone's maker, Monsanto.
But it did.

KGW has learned that behind the scenes, the $4.7 billion per year Monsanto Company is helping to fuel a bitter fight over Tillamook's new no-growth-hormone policy.

KGW's Vince Patton reports
Monsanto is the only company in the world that produces the artificial growth hormone, and as Banc One Securities estimates, Monsanto earns $270 million every year on this one product.

The biotech giant lobbied Tillamook farmers last November with a letter that says, "I want you to know that Monsanto is deeply concerned about this situation and the potential impact it will have on your dairy, the creamery and Monsanto… Monsanto will work to ensure that you have a choice about how to run your dairy." It is signed by Consuelo Madere, President, Monsanto Dairy Business.

Related story

Tillamook Creamery bans use of artificial growth hormones
"I don't think they (Monsanto) want to have their fingerprints on this," says Tillamook Creamery President Jim McMullen, "but they certainly have been sending letters and representatives here inviting them (the farmers) to actively protest the policy."
McMullen was handed a petition this month signed by 16 dairy farmers. It forces a Co-Op-wide meeting to try to overrule the no-hormone policy.

Health questions
Twenty-two consumer groups including the Physicians for Social Responsibility have endorsed a ban on artificial growth hormones in dairy cows. They cite studies that indicate treated cows produce milk with an increased second hormone, IGF-1, a hormone which some studies have associated with cancer in humans.

Rick North, director of Oregon's safe food campaign for Physicians for Social Responsibility says, "We don't have 100% proof. But there is a lot of scientific data that gives us great cause for concern."

The Food & Drug Administration has reviewed those studies as recently as the year 2000 and says there is no health impact from the milk of treated cows and that milk is the same from artificial hormone-treated cows and un-treated cows.

Tillamook's rebellion
Monsanto Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Garrett "Monsanto is not involved in instigating a petition. We are disappointed in the Tillamook decision. The farmers should have a choice."

But a few of those angry farmers say they got plenty of help on that petition from Monsanto. Two of its representatives came to Tillamook County accompanied by lawyer James Miller from Monsanto's law firm, King & Spalding in Washington DC.
Neither Monsanto nor the farmers say they paid the lawyer. Miller did not return calls for comment.

The farmers say Miller drafted and then hand delivered the petition for them to Tillamook.

Tillamook President Jim McMullen says, "With any controversial policy there's a debate. It just doesn't help when there's interference".

The petition goes farther than simply reversing the ban on artificial growth hormone. It forces a vote of all of Tillamook's member dairies to forever prohibit the Tillamook Creamery board from ever regulating any FDA approved pharmaceutical.

While Tillamook says it is banning the artificial hormones because consumers want it, it has no plans to actively tell consumers about the change.

It could boast of the move on its labels, but decided not to.
"We didn't want this to be a public issue" says McMullen, "and we didn't want this to become a national issue and we didn't want to be the target of the labeling issue".
When McMullen uses the word "target". it means Tillamook did not want to be sued by Monsanto.

Two years ago Monsanto sued Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine when it added a bold logo to its milk: Our Farmers Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones Used.

At the time Oakhurst President Stan Bennett said, "All we're doing is what we think we have the right to do and that is let our consumers know what's in their milk and what's not in their milk. We have a right to do that. We have an obligation."

Monsanto's lawsuit called Oakhurst's label misleading. It said the label implied that milk from cows not injected with artificial hormones is safer.

The dairy settled the suit by agreeing to add some fine print saying, "FDA has found no significant difference between milk derived from rBST treated and non rBST treated cows." rBST is the scientific acronym for the artificial growth hormone.

Consumer groups are glad Tillamook is dropping the synthetic hormones.
"We think congratulations are in order" says Rick North, with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

But he's disappointed Tillamook's labels will not reflect the change.
North says, "We think the public has a right to know".
Only consumers who contact Tillamook directly and ask will be told about the creamery's new policy. McMullen says, "We'll tell them the change. We just didn't want to add to the confusion that's out there about this issue".

Meanwhile the farmers fighting back do not consider the new policy a done deal. Some do not even use the artificial hormones but want to preserve the choice to use them.
The vote of all member dairies will come in the next few weeks.

Online at: www.kgw.com/news-local/stories/kgw_021805_news_milk_hormones_part_two.bfc9272c.htm

Monsanto (NYSE: MON) is Fighting Back - Act Now to Keep Tillamook rBGH-Free
Please Thank Tillamook and ask them to Uphold Their Decision

Please contact Tillamook NOW as the Monsanto created petition to revote on the board's decision will happen within the next two weeks! Thank them for their decision to stop using genetically engineered growth hormones in their cows. Tell them you will let all your friends know about their decision.

Email Tillamook:
DIRECT E-MAIL: info@tillamookcheese.com
PHONE: 503-842-4481 FAX: 503-842-6039

or write them:

Tillamook County Creamery Association
4175 Highway 101 North
Box 313
Tillamook, OR. 97141


Sample Letter to Tillamook Creamery and Response - Please Write them TODAY!

Comments: I applaud the board on their vote to stop the use of genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone. Please do not bend under the pressure from Monsanto and keep your decision intact. I'll be telling everyone about your decision and be switching back to using your products now that they won't contain rBGH!
Thank You


Dear Mr.:

Thank you for your support of our decision to require our suppliers to forgo the use of rBST, an artificial growth hormone, in the
production of their milk. Your concerns, and comments from other loyal customers, convinced us that using milk produced without
rBST supplementation better meets our customers' expectations about our brand -- a brand they associate with premium cheeses made in
the century-old tradition of our founders.

Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) does not intend to label its products rBST-free. Such labeling might cause consumer confusion because the FDA has determined that milk from rBST-supplemented cows is completely safe and there is virtually no difference in milk from treated and untreated cows. TCCA will, however, inform its consumers and customers who ask about rBST that it is TCCA's policy to require suppliers to certify that the milk they produce comes from cows that are not supplemented with rBST.

As an Oregon company producing consistently high quality cheeses for nearly a century, TCCA prefers the traditional way of doing things.

Tillamook County Creamery Association
Customer Service