(NaturalNews) The Indiana House of Representatives is considering a bill that would prohibit dairy products from being labeled as free of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
RBGH, also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), is an artificially synthesized version of the growth hormone that normally occurs in cows. When injected into dairy cows, rBGH vastly increases their milk production. But consumer concerns over the potential health effects of dairy products produced with rBGH have led an increasing number of brands and retailers to advertise their products as "rBGH-free."
The synthetic hormone's use is not permitted in the European Union.
Indiana HB 1300 is meant to prevent the mislabeling of dairy products, according to its author, Rep. Bill Friend. If passed, HB 1300 would prohibit making any claims on dairy labels that cannot be supported by laboratory analysis.
Current Indiana rules, along with FDA rules and the rules of all other U.S. states, allow labels to specify that products were produced from cows not treated with rBGH. But if HB 1300 becomes law, makers of rBGH-free milk would have to prove in laboratory tests that their product is different from milk produced with the hormones.
RBGH manufacturer Monsanto has repeatedly claimed that "rBGH-free" claims unfairly make consumers believe that milk produced with hormones is different than milk produced without it.
Critics of the bill argue that consumers have overwhelmingly demonstrated that they want hormone-free milk. Major dairy brands Tillamook cheese and Ben & Jerry's ice cream now use rBGH-free milk in their products, as does the U.S. store Starbucks Coffee.
"[HB 1300] would be a serious infringement on the free speech rights of farmers who want to inform the public about their agricultural practices," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. "Indiana's consumers, like consumers nationally, are rejecting milk made with rBGH and have to be given the basic right to choose the characteristics of the food they buy."