ear of corn in field

Farm groups take issue with Dannon’s anti-GMO stand

“Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the safety GMO crops and their benefits to the environment, marketers of some major food brands, such as Dannon, have aligned themselves against biotechnology,” said Wesley Spurlock, President of the National Corn Growers Association.

Farmers have watched in dismay as one major food company after another jumped on the anti-GMO bandwagon and proclaimed their products would henceforth and forever more be GMO-free.

It didn’t matter if the products never contained any GMO ingredients in the true sense of the word; the important thing was the company was seen as being responsive to the latest propaganda ploy by activist groups.

Farm organizations have decided they can’t allow such marketing schemes to go unchallenged any longer so they sent a letter urging Dannon, the yogurt maker, and other food companies that have taken the anti-GMO pledge to recognize they are rejecting scientifically proven farming practices needed to feed the world’s population.

In a letter to Mariano Lozano, head of Dannon’s U.S. operations, the farm groups said the company’s strategy to eliminate GMOs “is the exact opposite of the sustainable agriculture that you claim to be seeking. Your pledge would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years. The "Dannon Pledge."

The groups include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, American Sugarbeet Growers Association and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Marketing puffery

“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, Mo. “What’s worse is that removing GMOs from the equation is harmful to the environment – the opposite of what these companies claim to be attempting to achieve.”

The groups’ leaders say biotechnology can play an important role in reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture, and challenged as disingenuous the assertion that sustainability is enhanced by stopping the use of GMO processes.

“During the last 20 years, advancements in agricultural technology have allowed farmers to use less pesticides and herbicides, fossil fuels and water and prevent the loss of soil to erosion,” they said. “Taking away this technology is akin to turning back the clock and using outdated 20th century technology to run a business.

“Farming organizations are standing up for the technology that supports continuous improvement in farm sustainability.” said Nancy Kavazanjian, chairwoman of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), and a corn, soybean and wheat farmer in Beaver Dam, Wis. “When food companies are making sourcing decisions, farm groups encourage them to recognize that modern, conventional agriculture is sustainable.”

Numerous, conclusive studies have come out over the last 20 years proving the safety of GMO food and the environmental benefits of growing GM crops.

Nobel laureates support

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, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.”

“Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the safety GMO crops and their benefits to the environment, marketers of some major food brands, such as Dannon, have aligned themselves against biotechnology,” said Wesley Spurlock, President of the National Corn Growers Association. “Farming organizations believe in open and honest communication with consumers, and allowing people to make informed choices in the market. But we cannot sit by while certain food companies spread misinformation under the guise of a marketing campaign.”

“When food companies directly mislead consumers, as has been done in this example with Dannon, individual farmers as well as farm organizations will continue to assertively defend our critical technologies,” said U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance CEO Randy Krotz.

For more information on sustainability in agriculture visit www.fooddialogues.com.  

To read the letter to Dannon, visit http://www.fooddialogues.com/sustainableag

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