WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration has toldMonsanto Agricultural Co. that the company must live with a"less-than-level" playing field in its battle with critics overbovine somatotropin (BST).

The FDA in January ordered Monsanto to halt promotions of itsBST as a safe and effective product for increasing milkproduction in cows, citing regulations prohibiting a companyfrom making safety or efficacy claims about a product stillunder the agency's review.

Monsanto responded by saying the company "cannot andshould not abandon our right to participate in the debate" overBST.

Replying in a letter to the company last week, the FDA said thatin the interests of "an orderly animal drug review process ...(Monsanto) must accept a less-than-level playing field"regarding the freedom of BST critics to voice their opinions.

Critics claim that increases in milk production using BST willdrive small dairy farms out of existence. They also charge thatthe drug is unhealthy for the animals.

According to the letter, Monsanto may present scientificinformation at formal public debates and at scientific forumsnot controlled by the company, and respond to unsolicitedrequests for scientific literature.

The company will continue to use scientific information tocounter misleading criticism, Monsanto spokeswoman DeborahDeGraff said Friday. But Monsanto will not be sponsoringseminars on BST for veterinarians and diary farmers, she said.

-- Rachel Nowak Washington Bureau Chief

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