Making School Milk Hormone-Free

Milk: it does a body good, or so we've been told. According to milk spokespeople, drinking milk can help build better bones, promote healthy skin, teeth, and eyes, and provide nutrients and electrolytes as part of a healthy diet. Some ads even suggest it can help you lose weight.

Unfortunately, some milk also contains rBGH, a synthetic growth hormone injected into cows to increase milk production. Approved in the early 90's, rBGH has since been banned in Canada, the EU, and Japan, among others, and use here in the US has declined from around half to 15-20% of the milk supply.

Though producing more milk is not bad in itself, the effects of rBGH on cows, humans, and the environment are. Cows injected with rBGH have higher rates of mastitis, a painful infection of the udders that is generally treated with large amounts of antibiotics. They are also more likely to experience joint failure, leaving them unable to stand or walk. The antibiotics to treat mastitis, often used on all the cows rather than just the ill ones, end up polluting our soil and water and building up our resistance to them. Not only that, but links have also been found between rBGH and increased rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Luckily for American consumers, many large stores, like Wal-Mart, no longer carry milk from cows treated with rBGH, and dairies like Smith's and Dairymen's no longer produce it. Unfortunately, producers who do still use rBGH have some places left to sell it: schools. Under the Child Nutrition Act, the National School Lunch Program requires schools to purchase milk based on price alone. This means that when rBGH-free milk is the cheapest, as it is here, schools can purchase it, but if it is more expensive, even by pennies, schools end up with rBGH milk.

The Child Wellness Act is up for re-evaluation this September, and the folks at Food & Water Watch are hoping to get schools the right to choose rBGH-free and/or organic milk. Also part of their School Milk Campaign: getting schools to pass Wellness Acts of their own explaining why rBGH-free milk is important to them. Currently, Lakewood uses Dairymen's, which is rBGH-free, but prices may not always stay as they are.

With this in mind, Food & Water Watch are targeting members of the Agriculture Commitee, including our own Senator Sherrod Brown, and are hoping that Lakewood's Board of Education will pass a Wellness Act. A Call-In Day to Senator Brown is planned for March 11th, headquartered at Phoenix Coffee in Lakewood from 9am to 6pm, with a press conference at 11am.

For further information about the campaign, to sign the petition to Congress, or to participate in the Call-In Day to Senator Brown, contact Ryan Rastegar at or (216) 539-9733. Or visit the campaign on the web at:

Read More on Conservation Corner
Volume 5, Issue 5, Posted 6:24 AM, 02.28.2009