A biotechnology critic on Wednesday announced that five large supermarket chains have said they will not sell milk from cows treated with a genetically engineered growth hormone.
But two of the chains, Vons and Safeway, say their position on the experimental bovine growth hormone, or BGH, is nothing new. "It's not really an issue for us," said Vickie Sanders, spokeswoman for the El Monte-based Vons chain. "We buy milk from one source and the source doesn't use it."
Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling said the Oakland-based chain told its suppliers three years ago that it would not accept milk with BGH. "It was simply a business decision, and nobody asked us about it. We didn't see any reason to make it public. At the time it was not an issue."
Vons, Safeway and three other supermarket chains said they responded to inquiries by Jeremy Rifkin, head of the Washington-based Foundation on Economic Trends. Rifkin has opposed testing of BGH, which is designed to boost a cow's milk production by one-third, since trials were approved by the Food and Drug Administration about three years ago.
The FDA says the BGH milk is safe for consumption, although the agency has not given the hormone final approval for full-scale commercial use.
"I don't think it's a large amount," he said in a telephone interview. "But if it is being sold over and over again in a small test area to the same consumers, it could have an impact."
Exact locations of the tests, milk processors, the number of cows and amounts of milk involved have not been disclosed, he said.
12 Firms Contacted
Rifkin said the foundation was joined by more than 40 other public officials and national farm, consumer, animal welfare and environmental groups in a petition asking the FDA to immediately halt sales of milk and dairy products from cows treated with the hormone.
Rifkin contacted a dozen of the largest supermarket chains about their BGH policy. The five that responded--Kroger, Supermarkets General, Stop & Shop, Safeway and Vons--said they do not sell milk treated with the hormone.