Farm organizations urging Dannon to drop deceitful marketing

WASHINGTON—The American Farm Bureau Federation has joined with other farm organizations to urge food companies to recognize that farmers’ sustainability goals can’t be achieved without the use of modern agricultural practices.

That action is in response to Dannon’s recent pledge to eliminate the use of genetically-modified feed for the dairy cows that supply milk for its yogurt products. Dannon is one of several prominent food manufacturers and retailers that in recent years have taken steps to eliminate GM ingredients from its supply, claiming the change will improve the sustainability of its products.

The farm groups say that is a deceptive marketing claim. Dannon’s strategy to eliminate GMOs “is the exact opposite of the sustainable agriculture that you claim to be seeking,” said the groups’ letter to Dannon. “Your pledge would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture.”

In addition to AFBF, the letter was cosigned by leaders of the American Soybean Association, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Collectively, the six organizations represent hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers and food producers.

The groups say biotechnology plays an important role in reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture, and they challenged the assertion that sustainability is enhanced by stopping the use of GMOs.

“GMOs and other technology enable us to farm more sustainably by allowing us to grow more crops on less acres with fewer inputs,” said Leigh Pemberton, a Hanover County dairyman and chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Dairy Advisory Committee. “This means we are using less land and are reducing soil erosion and runoff into waterways; you don’t get more sustainable than that.”

Farmers and ranchers have grown GMO crops over the past 20 years “precisely because biotechnology helps farmers preserve resources for the future,” said USFRA Chairman Nancy Kavazanjian. “When food companies are making sourcing decisions, farm groups encourage them to recognize that modern, conventional agriculture is sustainable.” Taking away that technology is akin to turning back the clock and using outdated 20th-century technology to run a business.

Numerous studies over the past 20 years have asserted the safety of GMO foods and the environmental benefits of growing GM crops. Most recently, 109 Nobel laureates announced their support of GMO technology, citing a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine saying “the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.”

Media: Contact Pemberton at 804-347-2284 or Paul Spooner, USFRA, at 515-975-6584.

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