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‘America’s Dairyland’ Moves to Ban Synthetic Hormone for Cows

March 23, 1990

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ The companies that produce a synthetic, milk-producing hormone for dairy cattle may take Wisconsin to court to overturn a temporary ban on use of the substance, a lobbyist said Friday.

The Legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Tommy Thompson legislation enacting the moratorium, which would be a setback for the four chemical companies that make genetically engineered BGH, or bovine growth hormone.

The Republican governor refused to say whether he would sign the measure.

Sen. Russell Feingold, the bill’s sponsor, said if Thompson signs the bill, Wisconsin will become the first state to ban the hormone that is injected into cows to make them give more milk.

Researchers say BGH boosts milk production by up to 20 percent.

The temporary ban approved by the Senate on a 21-12 vote forbids farmers from using BGH until July 1, 1991, or six months after it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever comes first.

Animal Health Institute lobbyist Jeffrey Remsik called the Senate vote a ″real victory for food terrorists who scare people and the Legislature into thinking there is something wrong with biotechnology.″

Remsik, adding pressure on Thompson to veto the bill, said companies that produce the hormone may sue the state. ″It is highly likely we will file suit as a violation of the interstate commerce law,″ Remsik said.

The companies that produce the hormone are Monsanto Agriculture Co., Eli Lilly Co., Upjohn Co. and American Cyanamid. The Animal Health Institute represented those companies in lobbying against the moratorium in Wisconsin.

Moratorium supporters said the ban would allow more research on the product, to determine whether it could have harmful health effects, before milk containing the hormone is sold to consumers.

Critics of the ban said the hormone is safe and banning it will put dairy farmers in Wisconsin, by far the nation’s biggest milk producer, at a competitive disadvantage.

Legislatures in other dairy states, including Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, are considering similar bans on BGH. The Food and Drug Administration maintains BGH is harmless in milk.

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