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‘America’s Dairyland’ Moves To Ban Synthetic Milk Hormone

March 23, 1990

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ The nation’s leading dairy state will temporarily ban the use of a synthetic, milk-producing hormone in cattle if Gov. Tommy G. Thompson approves a bill passed by the Legislature.

Sen. Russell Feingold, the bill’s sponsor, said if Thompson signs the bill, Wisconsin will become the first state to enact a ban on the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, or BGH, that is injected in cows to make them give more milk.

″This has been a long, hard battle,″ said Feingold, a Democrat from Middleton. ″We won. We are sending a loud and clear message to the governor that we don’t want unlabeled BGH out there.″

The governor said after the Legislature adjourned its session Thursday that ″I am not ready to say what I am going to veto or sign.″

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

The bill, which was amended and passed by the Assembly on Wednesday, would allow use of the synthetic hormone for research.

The Food and Drug Administration has allowed private companies to run limited on-farm tests of BGH and the milk has been reaching consumers, industry officials say. Supporters said the ban would allow for more research on the product, answering questions of whether it could have harmful health effects.

Industry officials also were concerned that by increasing milk production and milk supply, the hormone could put some small farmers out of business.

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.

The final passage in the Senate was delayed when Republican Sen. Timothy Weeden staged a two-hour filibuster against the ban, insisting the measure could someday change the state license plate motto of ″America’s Dairyland″ to read: ″Wisconsin, the nation’s former dairyland.″

Jeffrey Remsik, a lobbyist for a group called the Animal Health Institute that favors use of the hormone, 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 said the four companies that produce the hormone are likely to sue the state, adding pressure on Thompson to veto the bill.

BGH is an experimental hormone that is designed to boost cows’ production by as much as one-third.

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