November 4, 2016

Dannon's Contrasting GMO Message Fails to Convince USFRA

 |  By: Ashley Davenport

In April, Dannon announced it will remove GMOs from its products. According to its pledge, the first non-GMO products were available in July. The Dannon brand family will remove all GMO ingredients and milk from cows fed a non-GMO diet by the end of 2017, and Oikos and Danimal brands will follow suit by the end of 2018.

However, Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations with Dannon, had another message to share. On AgriTalk Thursday, he told host Mike Adams and Randy Krotz, CEO of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, half of the company’s products will be non-GMO, which contradicts the pledge.

“We’re not suggesting abandoning [GMOs],” said Neuwirth. “By the end of 2018, it is our ambition to move half of our products [to not have] GMO ingredients.”

Krotz raised the concern that Dannon’s path to removing GMO ingredients and cows fed with non-GMO corn “wrong” and it’s “misleading consumers.” He said farmers couldn’t meet sustainability goals if they were feeding GMO seed, saying there are 150 to 160 million acres of GMO crops farmed in the U.S.

“We’ve moved in a direction of sustainability that’s dramatic,” said Krotz. “Whether it’s around more efficient land use, reduction in soil erosion, energy, use, water efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Neuwirth said there’s a misunderstanding of how Dannon uses technology and GMOs.

“We fundamentally believe that sustainable agricultural practices can be achieved with or without the use of GMOs,” said Neuwirth. “Our belief that the currently approved GMOs are safe.”

In October, leaders from the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance signed a letter to Dannon, saying the company can’t claim it’s improving sustainability practices by turning to non-GMO ingredients.

Sustainable agriculture depends on many different factors for Dannon, according to Neuwirth, including farming practices, environmental conditions, and animal welfare.

Krotz recognizes farmers want to change the food story consumers are given and believes food companies should share that responsibility as well. He wants a more productive approach to help consumers understand biotechnology such as GMOs, because it is “critical it is to save the planet for better use of resources.”

“I think we in agriculture and the six organizations that signed that letter really question why you’re doing this if you really want to be sustainable,” said Krotz. “Come to our farms. Come out and learn more about what makes us sustainable, and using GMOs really does help that path.”

“Farmers understand food companies have to create a market share,” said Krotz. “We support consumer choice. We also support farmer choice.”

Listen to Krotz and Neuwirth’s complete discussion on GMOs on AgriTalk above.