Dannon has released a press statement responding to farmer criticism of its April pledge to adhere to non-GMO agricultural practices. In the statement, Dannon called the criticism of this pledge “divisive and misinformed.”
"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," Mariano Lozano, CEO of The Dannon Company, said in the statement.
In their October 17th letter to Lozano, farmers from the National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and American Sugarbeet Growers Association, amongst other groups, indicated that Dannon’s pledge represents a “major step backward in truly sustainable food production,” calling it “marketing flimflam, pure and simple.”
Dannon responded by outlining that while the company believes that "sustainable agricultural practices can be achieved with or without the use of GMOs,” it made the decision to commit to GMO labeling and an evolution toward non-GMO products based on "growing consumer preference for non-GMO ingredients and food in the US."
"We want to use the strong relationships we have with our farmer partners to provide products that address this consumer demand," the statement read.
The letter from the farmers alleged that the use of genetically engineered crops reduces their need for pesticides and water, thereby making GMO agriculture the more sustainable option. Dannon responded that “the changes in sustainable agricultural practices we are seeking can lead to a reduction of the usage (quantity and quality) of herbicides and pesticides.”
Dannon’s response also indicated that the changes outlined in the April pledge were happening “ahead of schedule” and that GMO ingredients in three of the company's brands -- Dannon, Danimals, and Oikos -- would be labeled starting at the end of the year.
White Plains, New York-based Dannon, owned by Danone SA, first announced the “Dannon Pledge” in April, promising to label genetically modified ingredients by December 2018 and to slowly phase these ingredients out of its products as part of an evolution towards “more sustainable agriculture.” The company released its first non-GMO yogurts in July.
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