Eli Lilly Elanco US Inc. (Elanco) initiated a legal action May 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin against international dairy conglomerate Arla Foods demanding that Arla immediately cease its false advertising campaign and unfair business practices against recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), a proven and safe dairy technology approved by the Food & Drug Administration in 1993. Elanco sells and markets the supplement rbST under the brand name Posilac.
According to Elanco, Arla's “Live Unprocessed” campaign, which launched across the U.S. in late April, is built on a child’s interpretation of what rbST is and brings that perception to life as an animated, six-eyed monster with “razor-sharp horns” and electrified fur.
In its complaint, Elanco states that it believes the campaign deceives consumers with false notions about the safety of rbST. “For more than 20 years, rbST has been used to help cows increase milk production without changing the safety and quality of the dairy products we consume. As one of the most researched animal products ever to be approved by the FDA, rbST and dairy products made with milk from rbST-treated cows have been deemed safe by scientific authorities and regulators in more than 50 countries across the globe, including the World Health Organization,” the company noted.
“We believe these ads intentionally frighten and mislead consumers in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage,” Eric Graves, president of Elanco North America, added. “In fact, the FDA has concluded rbST poses no human health risk and requires companies to disclose that there is no significant difference between milk produced from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows if they include the ‘rbST-free’ claim on their packaging. This Arla campaign blatantly disregards the proven safety of rbST as well as the real consequences of removing this type of innovation from our U.S. dairy industry.”
Elanco said removing rbST from the dairy industry's toolbox would have a direct impact on the sustainability and economic viability of dairy farms.
“Research shows that rbST helps cows produce more milk — about a gallon more per cow per day — which means farmers can produce the same amount of milk with six cows instead of seven,” the company explained, adding that the use of rbST also reduces the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk by 9%.
The collective impact of this increased productivity each year in the U.S. alone saves 95.6 billion gal. of water, reduces the amount of land needed for dairy farms by 1,023 square miles and eliminates 2.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses, Elanco noted.
“Products like rbST greatly improve farmers' impact on the environment without changing the composition, quality or nutrition of the milk their cows produce,” said Mike Hutjens, University of Illinois professor emeritus in animal science. “We should not ignore science and technology that have been proven safe and effective for the sake of marketing claims that confuse consumers.”
Graves concluded, “This is a campaign against science and innovation. We will fight to protect this important technology for future generations of dairy farmers.”