Leading farm organizations are calling out yogurt-giant Dannon in its pledge to move to GMO-free feed in its milk-supply chain, calling the pledge “marketing flimflam” and a step backward in truly sustainable food production.

The criticism revolves around a corporate commitment by Dannon in April to work with dairy farmers to implement sustainable practices and technology, to use nonsynthetic and non-GMO ingredients, and label the presence of GMO ingredients in its products.

The ag groups contend that pledge is the exact opposite of the sustainable agriculture Dannon seems to be seeking and will force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the past 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture.

American Farm Bureau, National Milk Producers Federation, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance sent a letter stating their dismay and concern to Dannon CEO Mariano Lozano on Oct. 17.

Crops improved with biotechnology are more sustainable than the crops farmers use to grow and a return to conventional crops would lead to more pesticide use, increased water and fossil fuel use, increased erosion and a need for more cropland to make up for yield losses, according to the ag organizations.

They stated Dannon’s pledge “appears to be an attempt to gain lost sales from your competitors by using fear-based marketing and trendy buzzwords, not through an actual improvement of your product.”

“Such disingenuous tactics and marketing puffery are certainly not becoming of a company as well known and respected as Dannon,” the groups stated.

They question whether Dannon would return to 1990s computer technology to run its business or revert to 20-year-old transportation, processing or packaging tools.

“Why then … would you require farmers to go back to old, inefficient and less effective cropping practices?” they asked.

In response to a request for comment, Dannon sent Capital Press a written response, saying it was surprised to receive a divisive and misinformed letter about its efforts to continue to grow America’s enjoyment of dairy products.

It also stated Dannon believes currently approved GMOs are safe and sustainable ag practices can be achieved with or without the use of GMOs.

“However, we believe there is a growing preference for non-GMO ingredients and food in the U.S. and we want to use the strong relationships we have with our farmer partners to provide products that address this consumer demand.”

Dannon’s changes will enable consumers to make everyday choices consistent with their wish for more natural and sustainable options, choosing which agricultural an environmental model they favor, the company stated.

Dannon CEO Lozano stated the range of choice that Dannon provides — from organic and non-GMO ingredients to conventional dairy — “is a reason to celebrate rather than criticize.”

The farm groups have requested Dannon revise its pledge to recognize the sustainability, safety and environmental benefit of food biotechnology.

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