Let's table for the moment the question of cow's milk as an environmentally defensible product, or of whether cow's milk is something schoolchildren need to be drinking. One thing almost everybody in the sustainable sector can agree on is that schoolchildren don't need to be drinking milk with extra growth hormones added to it.
The sole purpose of adding rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) to milk is to increase total milk output - yet even now Pennsylvania farms are prematurely sending dairy cows to slaughter because there's too much supply for the milk demand. And one of the places extra milk winds up (some use the phrase "is dumped") is in our schools.
Susan Hildebrand, a Field Organizer with Food and Water Watch, spoke yesterday at the meeting of the School Reform Commission, urging them to pass a resolution taking a more wide-ranging stance against rBGH in the milk that goes to our region's schools. Currently the District serves rBGH-free milk, and Hildebrand asks them to extend that leadership on a statewide level. You can read her comments after the jump.
This is tied in with a national campaign to raise awareness of the issue and influence legislators to do something about it. And now is the time to do it - more specifically, about an hour from when this post appears. Food and Water Watch and its coalition partners, concerned parents and community members are having a demonstration, including leaflets and people in cow costumes, at Mariposa Co-op, 4726 Baltimore Ave, and urging Philadelphia residents to call Senator Bob Casey between noon and 2:00 p.m. to ask him to take a stand against rBGH in milk going to school districts across Pennsylvania. Even if you're nowhere near West Philly you can call. The number is (202) 224-6324, or you can get more info at the Food and Water Watch Web site.
Comments to SRC, March 11, 2009:
My name is Susan Hildebrand. I’m a Field Organizer with Food and Water Watch here in Philadelphia, and I am here today to talk to you about the School Milk Campaign. Today, I represent a group that includes over 500 local supporters, and a growing coalition of local and state-wide businesses and organizations. We have been in contact with the School Reform Commission Community Group, as well as local Home and School Associations and have received great support from parents concerned with the welfare of their children.
Right now, many school lunch programs across America are serving milk that has been produced with an artificial growth hormone, rBGH. First off, I want to congratulate the School District of Philadelphia for serving rBGH-free milk and ask for you support in making this option more widely available. The Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or “rBGH” is a genetically engineered hormone injected into cows to increase their milk production.
This artificial hormone has been banned in most of the industrialized world, including Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand—because of the human health risks associated with its use, especially its link to increased rates of colon, breast, and prostate cancer in humans. This controversial product has been in use in the United States since 1994, and even though strong concerns have been raised about the associated human health impacts and animal welfare issues, milk produced with rBGH continues to be served to our children.
The reality is that consumer demand for milk produced without artificial growth hormones has increased to the point that major retailers like Safeway, Kroger, and Walmart have all switched to rBGH-free fluid milk. As consumer preference has shifted to rBGH-free milk, however, school milk programs have become the final dumping ground for this risky milk.
To put an end to this cycle we need to make sure all public schools have easy access to
rBGH-free milk. Again, congratulations for serving rBGH-free milk already. It is wonderful that you are providing your students with this milk. Right now, we have an opportunity to make artificial hormone-free milk more widely available to public schools across the country and ensure that school districts like Philadelphia can continue providing rBGH-free milk. As the School District of Philadelphia is a leader in the field already, we would like to work with you in helping to make this a national priority.
This issue will be brought up in the upcoming Congressional session, in the Child Nutrition Act. This act is reauthorized every 5 years, and this session is our opportunity to make a big difference. We need to act now to make sure that Senator Casey knows that we want him to be a champion, end the use of rBGH, and stop endangering our children.
We’ll be urging our Senator Casey to champion this issue by generating media attention through press conferences, letters to the editor, holding a “Know Your Milk Day of Action,” generating 1000 postcards, and organizing district meetings. All of these actions will show our Senator that we in Philadelphia are serious about getting rBGH out of schools, and he should be too.
The best thing the School Reform Commission can do to make sure our nation’s children are no longer at risk, and have access to healthy milk, is to pass a district resolution as an addition to the Wellness Policy already in place, stating that milk served in Philadelphia Schools will be rBGH-free. We would like to help you celebrate the fact that you already serve rBGH-free milk, advertise this fact to concerned parents, and ensure that Philadelphia students can enjoy rBGH-free milk in the future.