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Friday, July 25, 2003 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Robert Fisk: "The Publication of the Uday and...
2003-07-25

Monsanto Sues Milk Producer For Advertising It Sells Hormone-Free Milk

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Monsanto claims the advertisements give the public the impression artificial growth hormones are not safe. But there have long been concerns of the effect on the hormones on both the cows and humans.

Biotech giant Monsanto recently filed a suit against a small milk producer in Maine, Oakhurst, that advertises its milk contains no artificial growth hormones.

Monsanto claims the advertisements give the public the impression artificial growth hormones are not safe. And Monsanto claims that by doing this Oakhurst is directly disparaging Monsanto’s product Posilac, the only artificial growth hormone on the market.

Monsanto boasts the hormones help cows produce up to 15 percent milk. But there have long been concerns of the effect on the hormones on both the cows and humans.

Today we are joined by investigative reporter Jane Akre who was among the first to uncover the possible dangers of Monsanto’s milk hormones. But both Fox News and the Monsanto went to great lengths silencing their reports.

In 1997 she and Steve Wilson were working for a Fox owned TV station WTVT Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida where they were hired to do hard-hitting investigative reports. They discovered that the milk in Florida and throughout the U.S. was being affected by Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). The Fox station was promoting the story aggressively until the night before it was scheduled to air when the Monsanto Corporation threatened Fox. Fox then demanded that Akre and Wilson change their story. They put them through 83 re-writes and eventually fired them just before Christmas 1997.

Akre and Wilson sued Fox charging the station deliberately ordered them to distort news reports.

A jury first ruled in favor of Akre and Wilson. But Fox appealed the ruling and it was overturned. Earlier this year a court ruled that Akre and Wilson must pay the legal costs and fees that Fox incurred during the trial.

  • Ben Cohen, president of TrueMajority.org and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s
  • Jane Akre, investigative reporter who examined the dangers behind Monsanto’s artificial growth hormones. She sued Fox charging the station deliberately ordered them to distort news reports.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now! as we move now into our last segment. There’s a multinational corporation at home, biotech giant Monsanto recently filed a lawsuit against a small milk producer in Maine — in Vermont — Oakhurst, that advertises its milk contains no artificial growth hormones. Monsanto claims the advertisements give the public the impression artificial growth hormones are not safe.
Monsanto claims that by doing this, Oakhurst is directly disparaging Monsanto’s product Posilac, the only growth hormone on the market. Monsanto boasts the hormone helps cows produce up to 15% milk but there have long been concerns of the effect of the hormones on both cows and humans.

We’re joined now by investigative reporter Jane Akre who sued FOX as well as Monsanto, when she and her husband tried to broadcast reports that they had done on Monsanto but were prevented from doing that, and by Ben Cohen. He is the President of the True Majority, which is calling for an investigation into the allegations around weapons of mass destruction, but he also founded Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and has had to deal with Monsanto in the same way that the Maine dairy Oakhurst has. Ben Cohen, let’s first get your comment.

BEN COHEN: Well, throughout the history of trying to foist R.G.B.H. on the population and the world, Monsanto has used incredibly high handed tactics to silence opposition. Here in Vermont, in order to get R.B.G.H. approved at the state level, they launched the biggest lobbying campaign that Vermont has ever witnessed. You know, suing farmers has been something that this multinational has been doing throughout the attempts to get R.B.G.H. accepted. You know, Ben & Jerry’s wanted to print on its labels that we don’t use our R.B.G.H. and Monsanto had pressured various state legislators to pass legislation that prevented us from saying that on our labels, and we eventually had to go to court along with Stonyfield farms and a few others. And eventually there was an out of court settlement and we were able to print a statement that says we oppose the use of R.G.B.H, our farmers pledge not to use it. And then we were required by the F.D.A. to include a statement that no difference has been found between milk with R.B.G.H. and without R.B.G.H. Of course —-—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ben Cohen, I would like to bring in Jane Akre, the investigative reporter who also examined the dangers behind Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone. Welcome to Democracy Now! Jane.
Your reaction to this latest incident of Goliath suing David?

JANE AKRE: You know this is Monsanto’s M.O. This is what they do? This is how they bring their products forth. If they’re proud of their products, why do they have to use these sort of tactics. This is just one in a series, as Ben mentioned, of farmers that they have sued and continue to sue right now to get their products out there. I noticed a statement that Monsanto’s spokesman said that Monsanto has not filed similar lawsuits, but this is precisely what they did when the product was approved by the F.D.A in 1993, and farmers started labeling that they don’t use Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone. In 1994, they filed two similar lawsuits, one in Waco, Texas, and one in Davenport, Iowa, that said stop labeling, and these two small dairies —- they picked very small dairies—-didn’t have a leg to stand on. They stopped labeling. And then Monsanto hired a Washington, D.C. law firm and sent letters out to other dairies around the country and said who’s next?- You label—we will sue you too. The end result is that the consumer will not have a choice at the grocery store shelf and that’s exactly what Monsanto wants to accomplish.

AMY GOODMAN: Well on that note, I want to thank you both for being on with us for this brief time.

Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, now President of the truemajority.org. And Jane Akre who sued FOX and Monsanto for preventing her from issuing news reports. She won in a lower court, overturned in a higher court.

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