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The Political Economy of rBST Adoption in America's Dairyland
ATFFI Publications No. 2 technical report, May 1995
by Bradford Barham, Fred Buttel, Douglas Jackson-Smith, Jason McNichol, and Spencer Wood

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Wisconsin-"America's Dairyland"-produces about one-sixth of the nation's milk and about a third of all US natural cheese. Nonetheless, it appears increasingly likely that Wisconsin dairy farmers will be at the lower end of the national spectrum when it comes to rates of adoption of rBST, a synthetic growth hormone that stimulates increased milk production in cows. Using survey data gathered from large random samples of Wisconsin dairy farmers, before and after the February 1994 commercial introduction of rBST, this study explores both the farm-level and the broader market and regulatory reasons for the relatively low current and anticipated levels of rBST use in Wisconsin. One broader conclusion of the work is that, although rBST may be the extreme case for emerging agricultural biotechnologies because of the symbolic association of milk with purity, ex ante assessments of adoption outcomes will be poorly specified if they fail to incorporate the potential effects of the politicization of new technologies, particularly as this politicization process plays through consumer attitudes, regulatory responses, and the behavior of food manufacturers and retailers.

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