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‘Dannon Pledge’ includes sourcing milk from cows fed non-GMO

Progressive Dairyman Editor Dave Natzke Published on 29 April 2016

U.S. yogurt maker Dannon’s announcement it will move to eliminate milk produced by cows fed with genetically modified (GMO) crops in its flagship brands over the next three years isn’t sitting well with the organization representing a large share of U.S. dairy farmers.

As part of the “Dannon Pledge,” the company said it will commit to bring products from its Dannon, Oikos and Danimals brands towards the use of fewer and more natural ingredients starting July 2016. The company said it will transition to using only milk sourced from herds fed non-GMO feed in those products in 2017, with a goal of completing the transformation by the end of 2018. The brands represent 50 percent of the company’s current volume.

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Finally, Dannon also said it will target December 2017 as the date for nationwide labeling of any of its products containing GMO ingredients, instead of attempting to comply with individual state labeling requirements.

Mariano Lozano, Dannon president and chief executive officer, said the pledge was inspired by its organic sister companies, Stonyfield and Happy Family. He said the changes will enable consumers to make everyday choices for themselves, their family and children consistent with their wish for natural and sustainable eating options, choosing which agricultural and environmental model they favor.

“Our ambition is to produce healthy food that is affordable, creates economic and social value and nurtures natural ecosystems through sustainable agriculture,” he said.

NMPF disappointed

The head of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), an organization representing dairy farmers who produce a majority of the U.S. milk supply, expressed dismay.

“It is disappointing that Dannon is trying to differentiate itself with consumers by adopting an anti-science position on genetically modified animal feed,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and chief executive officer.

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“The evidence is clear that not only are GM crops safe, they also provide broad environmental benefits by reducing soil loss, as well as reducing farmers’ use of water, pesticides and fuel,” he said. “Farmers have overwhelmingly adopted GM crop technology precisely because it increases productivity and improves agricultural sustainability.

“All our member cooperatives are working to meet evolving consumer expectations for additional transparency and sustainability in the food supply,” Mulhern continued. “We are thankful for those companies that are working collaboratively with our co-ops and the dairy community to address consumer questions about modern farming with factual information. Fortunately, most of the dairy supply chain recognizes the great work and commitment of America’s dairy farmers to sustainability and animal care.”

Dannon’s press release included comments from a leading agronomist and one of its supplier farmers.

“Dannon's pledge to use more sustainable agricultural practices with their producer-partners will drive innovation and improvements and represents a bold and important step toward greater transparency,” said Dr. Molly Jahn, agronomy professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former USDA deputy under secretary of research, education and economics. “Dannon's leadership in sustainability sets an ambitious benchmark for other dairy companies.”

Ken McCarty of Kansas-based McCarty Family Farms, which has been a farmer partner to Dannon since 2011, added, “We’re proud of the partnership we have with Dannon. It’s uncommon in the dairy industry to have such a close working relationship with a milk buyer. Not only does it give us reliability in the market, it gives us reliability for our families and our community. And it encourages all of Dannon’s farmer partners to convert to practices that better serve our natural resources and environment.”

A subsidiary of global yogurt manufacturer Danone, Danone is headquartered in White Plains, New York. It has manufacturing plants in Ohio, Texas, Utah and Oregon.

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The company is inviting others to join them in support of the pledge.  PD

Dave Natzke
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