Dannon made a pledge in April that it would commit to non-GMO agricultural practices over the next three years including the use of non-GMO animal feed for dairy cows for three of its brands: Dannon, Danimals, and Oikos. The company said that it wants to provide its customers with healthier and more sustainable dairy products.
However, Dannon's pledge will force farmers to take a "step backward in truly sustainable food production," groups including the National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and American Sugarbeet Growers Association said in the letter.
Farmers said that use of genetically-engineered crops reduces their need for inputs including pesticides and water, making it a more sustainable agriculture practice.
"This is just marketing puffery, not any true innovation that improves the actual product offered to consumers," said Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation, and a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri, of Dannon's pledge.
Sustainable agriculture not limited to GMO practices
Dannon responded calling the letter “divisive and misinformed” in a press statement.
“Regarding GMO crops, we believe the currently approved GMOs are safe,” Dannon said.
“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.”
Dannon said it works with all of its farmer partners to reach better soil health, water quality and quantity, an increase in biodiversity, and decrease in carbon emissions and energy use.
“We believe the changes in sustainable agricultural practices we are seeking can lead to a reduction of the usage (quantity and quality) of herbicides and pesticides. Careful management of the use of pesticides and herbicides has a major role to play to achieve our goal,” the company continued.