MINNEAPOLIS -- A national consumer activist group has introduced a radio ad campaign as part of its efforts to halt Land O'Lakes' sales of dairy products produced with milk from cows injected with synthetic growth hormones.
Executives at the dairy cooperative based here, however, say they have no plans to tell suppliers not to use the drug and have noticed no effect on sales from the radio campaign.
Food & Water Inc., Marshfield, Vt., planned to air its radio ad, complete with a catchy jingle, on 68 radio stations in Minnesota for three weeks, according to Michael Colby, executive director of the consumer group. The ad campaign was launched Feb. 22.
The jingle says, "Stop, look and listen, something in your milk should be missin'," and gives testimonials from a mother and a dairy farmer who are concerned about the use of supplemental growth hormones in dairy cows. Food & Water launched its campaign with a news conference and a rally outside the Minneapolis Convention Center during the opening of Land O'Lakes' annual meeting there. Food & Water will carry the radio campaign to major metropolitan markets across the United States if there has been no capitulation by Land O'Lakes by the end of this month, said Colby. "We are prepared to take the ad nationwide. We will do whatever it takes," said Colby.
Land O'Lakes feels no pressure to give in to the group's demands, according to Terry Nagle, director of communications. Although Nagle said Land O'Lakes has received calls and postcards since Food & Water started its opposition some nine months ago, 1994 was the best year in the co-op's history, with $2.9 billion in sales. "That seems to say that consumers have faith in the purity of our dairy products," he said. The Food and Drug Administration gave final approval for the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, in 1994 after extensive studies, Nagle said.
"FDA says this is a product that they have studied more thoroughly and longer than any other product," Nagle said.
Indeed, so convinced is FDA that there is no significant difference in milk from treated and nontreated cows that it has warned dairy producers and retailers against using "hormone-free" labels on milk from cows not injected with rBGH. "All milk has BST [bovine somatotropin, the scientific term for rBGH] in it. Cows produce it naturally," Nagle said. "There is no scientific method to test milk and tell if there is supplemental BST in it."
Land O'Lakes is not the only dairy distributing products from hormone-injected cows, but Colby says Food & Water had several reasons for singling the company out. "They are a farmer-owned cooperative, so they have a direct relationship with their farmers," explained Colby. "The image they try to foster is one of purity . . . so they should try to live up to that image. And they are one of the biggest [dairy distributors] in the country."
According to Colby, "significant research" shows a link between rBGH and increases in insulin-like growth factor 1 molecules, which have been associated with cancer, in milk from treated cows.