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Dannon and GMO-Free - How Did it Take so Long to Reach Our Ears?


DannonA press release from Dannon Food Company in April 2016 reads: “ Dannon commits to bring all products from three flagship brands (Dannon®, Oikos® and Danimals®) towards the use of fewer and more natural ingredients that are not synthetic and non-GMO. Importantly, Dannon also commits that for these brands the feed of its farmer’s cows will be non-GMO, within a transition period of 3 years. The ambition is to evolve the remaining brands over time.”

“The first impact of these changes will be visible starting July 2016, when the company will move to more natural ingredients which do not contain genetically modified ingredients for its flagship brands Oikos, Danimals and Dannon. These brands represent 50 percent of the company’s current volume. For the company’s foundation ingredient – milk – Dannon is going one big step further. Starting in 2017 and completing the transformation by the end of 2018, Dannon will work with its farmer partners to ensure that the cows that supply Dannon’s milk for these flagship products will be fed non-GMO feed, a first for a leading non-organic yogurt maker. To further improve transparency, by December 2017, Dannon’s labels will note the presence of GMO ingredients in all products in which such ingredients remain.”[1]

On their website, in the ingredients page, they repeat that pledge, and describe the non-GMO quality of the yogurts.[2]

By October of 2016, Dannon was responding to criticism from a coalition of farmers who had decided that non-GMO does not promote “sustainable farming practices”, calling the Dannon pledge “marketing puffery”.[3]

We finally see this battle reported in the mainstream press – Reuters – “The farmers' letter represents one of the broadest and most coordinated moves yet by farmers to fight a wave of food companies including Hershey Co and General Mills Inc that have shunned GMO ingredients in some of their products.”[4]

And by November 2017 there was already a lawsuit against Dannon for using the words “natural” to describe its products, even if the milk came from cows that were fed with GMO crops. The case involved is Polly Podpeskar v Dannon Company Inc, 7:16-cv-08478 filed in the southern district of New York on October 31, 2016. It is reported in an article on the Food navigator-usa website, with the title: Dairy from cows fed GM feed is not ‘all-natural’, alleges lawsuit vs Dannon – but will it fly?. This article also discussed the claim of “natural” by food manufacturers.[5]

A group called GMWatch published an article on October 28, 2016 entitled “Monsanto-funded groups object to Dannon’s move to non-GMO feed”.[6]

The US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance is reported funded by Monsanto. The article goes on to report that “According to the New York Times, USFRA's $11 million annual budget comes partly from mandatory marketing fees that the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) helps collect from farmers; and partly from corporations like GM seed firm Monsanto and pesticide giant DuPont. Each company had committed to an annual contribution of $500,000, as of September 2011.”

Other companies which also signed the letter of objection include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association – all of which crops are largely genetically modified (unless specifically denoted “organic” on the product in the market).

The power of the wallet is real.

Let us all send messages of encouragement to Dannon. They see which way the wind is blowing. Let us hope that they are able to withstand the storms of criticism from industry, and continue to go the non-chemical and non-GMO route. The longest journey starts with the first step.