Don't hold your breath, Secretary Vilsack

I was struck by this passage in a Sunday Des Moines Register feature on Iowans in key posts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

[USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administrator Michael] Michener declined to discuss the department’s strategy for promoting international acceptance of biotechnology, saying it’s still in the works. But he argues that the Obama administration can be more effective than the Bush administration, which went to the World Trade Organization to unsuccessfully break European resistance to the genetically engineered crops.

Vilsack is taking a lighter approach, Michener said, recounting a discussion the secretary had with his German counterpart.

Vilsack “made this very creative argument on how during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Europeans would lecture us on how we had to bring our citizens along and educate them on the science of climate change. He turned that around and said, ‘You know, you’ve got a similar responsibility on biotech’” Michener said.

That certainly is a “creative” analogy. Getting Americans on board with serious policies on climate change may be our only hope for avoiding a catastrophic global warming scenario. Gaining European acceptance for genetically-modified crops has no comparable global benefit (no, these crops won’t magically end world hunger).

But a more important point is after the jump.

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Another major yogurt-maker goes hormone-free (changed headline)

Note from desmoinesdem: I changed the headline after Midwest Mom pointed out in the comments that Anderson-Erickson already uses milk from cows not treated with synthetic hormones. Thanks to Midwest Mom for the comment–apparently the company made the change in 2008.

I saw this news at La Vida Locavore:

General Mills announced today that it has made the commitment to eliminate by August 2009 milk sourced from cows treated with rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), a synthetic hormone also referred to as rBGH, in the production of its category-leading Yoplait® yogurts.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institutes of Health remain fully confident in the safety of products made from milk sourced from cows treated with rBST in accordance with current guidelines, Yoplait is taking the initiative to change its dairy sourcing strategy to provide consumers with the option to choose a category-leading yogurt with milk produced by cows not treated with rBST.

As Jill Richardson notes at La Vida Locavore, this is big news because Yoplait is by far the largest brand of yogurt to go rBGH-free.

Beginning this summer, Iowans will see hormone-free yogurt in their grocery store’s regular dairy case and not just in special organic sections or health food stores. (Smaller companies like Stonyfield Farms, Brown Cow and Nancy’s have avoided milk produced by hormone-treated cows for years.)

CORRECTION: As noted above, Des Moines-based Anderson-Erickson, a hugely popular source of yogurt and other dairy products in Iowa, went rGBH-free in 2008.

The company prides itself on the quality of its products:

Future expansion of AE’s market share will rely heavily on brand equity. “We believe very strongly in our brand,” says [president and chief operating officer Miriam Erickson] Brown. “The AE name stands for quality dairy products and service. We never skimp on ingredients. AE yogurts contain 5 percent more fruit; we are famous for double-sealing all of our packaging and our unique cottage cheese recipe. We get ‘love letters’ from customers thanking us for making a favorite dairy product. Our goal is to continue to be ‘dairy experts.’ We can do that through continued standards of excellence as well as innovative new products and sales expansion.”

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Will Iowans stick with AE yogurt no matter what, or will Yoplait be able to increase its market share by promoting its decision to forgo milk from cows treated with synthetic hormones?

CORRECTION: AE was ahead of Yoplait on this issue, so I don’t think Yoplait’s move will affect AE’s market share.

Feel free to discuss your favorite AE product in this thread as well. My brother always wants the old fashioned cottage cheese when he is back for a visit. Before he had to watch his weight, he loved potato chips with AE French onion party dip.

I don’t buy any AE products on a regular basis anymore, because we stick to organic milk, yogurt and cottage cheese.  

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