The Milk-Free Zone: Federal and Local Interests in Regulating Recombinant bST

91 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2015

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 1997


Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) is a genetically engineered version of a bovine growth hormone, which can be administered to dairy herds to stimulate milk production. The use of rBST has been contentious, due to fears that administration of the recombinant product might adversely affect food safety. Because there is little or no scientific evidence indicating that rBST is use is harmful to humans or to cows, the Food and Drug Administration has approved its use. Critics nonetheless contend that consumers have a “right to know” if rBST was used in milk production, and some state legislatures have considered mandatory labeling statutes. This article explores the federalism issues related to such statutes, including preemption, equal protection, and dormant commerce problems. Because of such constitutional impediments, and because the market appears to provide sufficient incentives for voluntary labeling, the article concludes that mandatory labeling is neither desirable nor feasible.

Keywords: rBST, biotechnology, federalism, preemption, Supremacy Clause, equal protection, FDA, food safety, dormant commerce, bovine somatotropin, diary, cows, milk, farm production, interstate commerce, agricultural policy, scientific evidence, food labeling, FDCA, Food and Drug Administration, agribusiness

JEL Classification: Q13, Q18, Q16, L65, L66, O31, O32, O33, K23, K32, H77, H73, I18

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., The Milk-Free Zone: Federal and Local Interests in Regulating Recombinant bST (January 1, 1997). Columbia Journal of Environmental Law Vol. 22, 1997. Available at SSRN:

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

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