Six of the nation’s top agricultural organizations, including dairy farmers, lashed out at Dannon this week because the yogurt maker is turning away from the use of genetically modified organisms.
In a letter to Dannon’s CEO Mariano Lozano, the farmers wrote: “In our view your pledge amounts to marketing flimflam, pure and simple.”
In the letter, released on Monday, the farmers state that Dannon’s strategy to eliminate GMOs “is the exact opposite of the sustainable agriculture that you claim to be seeking. Your pledge would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture.”
The letter, which reads like a defense of the use of GMOs, was co-signed by representatives of theNational Milk Producers Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
Dannon to farmers: You are ‘misinformed’
Dannon replied in its own press release, calling the remarks “divisive and misinformed.”
It explained to the farmers that it believes currently approved GMOs are safe. “Furthermore, we believe that sustainable agricultural practices can be achieved with or without the use of GMOs. However, we believe there is growing consumer preference for non-GMO ingredients and food in the US and we want to use the strong relationships we have with our farmer partners to provide products that address this consumer demand.”
The company stated: “Unlike any other large dairy processors, we have built direct and transparent relationships with our independent American dairy farmer partners. Together with them we are beginning to implement the Dannon Pledge.”
3 Dannon brands to be GMO-free
That pledge, announced six months ago, commits Dannon to evolving three brands to be made with non-GMO ingredients, as well as non-GMO feed for the dairy cows producing the milk. The three brands (Dannon, Danimals and Oikos) represent about half of Dannon’s portfolio of products, it said.
“Additionally, the Dannon Pledge commits to be transparent with American shoppers about which products include GMO ingredients and which don't,” Dannon write in its press release. “We are ahead of schedule and will label on-pack the presence of GMO ingredients by the end of 2016.”
Dannon also stated that “for our entire portfolio, to help improve sustainable agricultural practices and protect biodiversity, we are working with our farmer partners to reach for better soil health, water quality and quantity, an increase in biodiversity, and decrease in carbon emission and energy use. We are co-creating innovative solutions to fulfill this pledge with our business partners, similar to what we have already started with our direct milk suppliers.”
"We believe strongly that the unparalleled range of choice that Danone's US affiliates provide, from organic, to non-GMO ingredients, and to conventional dairy is a reason to celebrate rather than criticize," said Dannon’s Lozano.
Related: Jim Carper's Dairy Case blog, "Dairy farmers and their kin attack dairy processors."