Hormone-Free Milk in Demand A growing number of Americans are looking to buy milk that is free of artificial growth hormones. Synthetic hormones have been used in the U.S. for the last 13 years to boost milk production. The government says the hormones are not harmful to humans.
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Hormone-Free Milk in Demand

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Hormone-Free Milk in Demand

Hormone-Free Milk in Demand

Hormone-Free Milk in Demand

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A growing number of Americans are looking to buy milk that is free of artificial growth hormones. Synthetic hormones have been used in the U.S. for the last 13 years to boost milk production. The government says the hormones are not harmful to humans.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Jennifer Szweda Jordan has this story.

JENNFER SZWEDA JORDAN: Pennsylvania dairy farmer Rob Wydell(ph) is unusually busy. He's overseeing construction of a brand-new milking parlor for his 440 cows.

ROB WYDELL: I just wanted to know where (unintelligible) that was. I don't know whether top care was it took it to the basement, you have to see...

SZWEDA JORDAN: There's shiny, green and white tile on the walls, cute windows to let in the sun, rubber mats to make the animals more comfortable. It's the biggest expansion Wydell's ever made on the farmland his parents bought 31 years ago near Erie, Pennsylvania. His face brightens when he talks about the moment he'll usher his cows into the new building.

WYDELL: So it will be better for the cows, better for our boys too.

SZWEDA JORDAN: Wydell nervously tugs at his jacket zipper as he reads the pledge he's been asked to sign.

WYDELL: I agree to cease on December 31st using RBST or any milk cows on my herd or under the management and control.

SZWEDA JORDAN: But the cooperative can't guarantee how much farmers will earn when they switch. Wydell is afraid if he doesn't sign, the coop would pay the less for the milk he's producing now.

WYDELL: If I did that, I'd be out of business. I couldn't do that. So they're going to force you into signing these affidavits.

SZWEDA JORDAN: Monsanto's Mike Lormor(ph) denies that.

MIKE LORMOR: We did not directly approach the Pennsylvania Department of Ag about the labels that would appear that the department became aware of the issue on their own, and we are supportive of their initiative.

SZWEDA JORDAN: RBST is banned in Japan, Canada and the European Union. Here in the U.S., the vast majority of customers are comfortable drinking milk with the hormone. Milk (unintelligible) RBST-free now makes up about 4 percent of the milk market. At a Pittsburgh Whole Foods grocery, Troy Jones(ph) is picking up some organic Half and Half for his coffee. Jones isn't sure whether hormones are safe, but he'd still rather not take the chance.

TREY JONES: I say we're all grown-ups mostly, and we can decide for ourselves, you know, what's safe or not, and full disclosures better than any other compromise that leaves the information off.

SZWEDA JORDAN: For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Szweda Jordan.

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