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(The following is a letter prepared by some EFAO members outlining their stand on BST. The directors of the EFAO were supportive, and thought other members should see this as well.)
Mr. John Core, chairperson Ecological Farmers
OMMB Association of Ontario
Box 127 Wroxeter, Ont
Dear Mr. Core,
I am writing on behalf of the EFAO's 500 members and particularly representing those who have an interest in the future of the dairy industry in Ontario. While we do not have hard figures, our best information is that about 100 are licensed milk producers in Ontario. Our membership is overwhelmingly united in the belief that the licensing of rBGH (BST) in Canada is not in the best interests of farmers, consumers, or the industry as a whole. Furthermore, we believe that the OMMB's present posture could seriously undermine its own credibility and its ability to proceed with controlled marketing in the future.
From the beginning of the BST controversy, the Board has opted not to establish a public profile or position on the issue. This strategy of "wait and see" we suspect was based on the assumption that the product would eventually be licensed and the Board would still be responsible for marketing all milk in Ontario. Statements raising doubts about the efficacy, safety or general advisability of injecting hormones to raise production might come back to haunt those who, later on, would be charged with the task of pacifying consumers and assuring them that all is well. The Board pursued this strategy, in effect conceding the inevitability of rBGH for use, even though the majority of its own producers opposed the product and believed the industry would be better off without it.
The controversy over the safety of rBGH for cows and humans refuses to subside. We are asking you to reconsider your approach in light of the following information:
1) Despite detailed research there is growing doubt over the claims that rBGH is harmless. Recently programs such as CBC Radio's "Quirks and Quarks" and "The Fifth Estate" have presented compelling evidence that Monsanto has tried to conceal data that may have weakened its position.
2) Almost all the data relating to production increases and health side effects comes from trials of less than one lactation. The measurable negative effects which became apparent in these short-term studies (feet problems, mastitis, infertility etc.) are mentioned in the label warning on "Posilac". These problems would undoubtedly be multiplied as the duration of the hormone use increases.
3) If rBGH is licensed there will be tremendous pressure from farmers, processors and consumers who oppose it to allow labelling of products from animals "not treated with BST". This conflict, besides damaging the image of milk in general, will put added stress on the controlled marketing system.
4) rBGH promises no positive benefit to society in general to offset its many risks.
The debate over rBGH will have significant consequences, no matter how it is decided. We believe that the OMMB should be acting as a leader on this issue, guiding the industry, not sitting back and responding to what is imposed upon us. A firmly stated policy opposing its introduction on the grounds that it will be ultimately harmful to the industry is what we advocate. At the very least we ask you to study the issue critically and consult with county milk committees to gauge the degree of opposition to BST.
EFAO Board of Directors
Contact: Hubert Earl
(Note: Industry Canada commissioned a study to assess consumer reaction to BST. The results were extremely discouraging for those pushing the hormone. Anyone interested in this discussion can obtain a copy of "The Optima Study Findings: Understanding the Consumer Interest in the New Biotech Industry" by writing to:
Industry Canada. Distribution Service of the Communications Branch. Room 208D, East Tower, 235 Queen St., Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0H5, or Tel# 613-947-7466, Fax# 613-954-6436.)
Copyright © 1995 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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