Activist group GMO Inside has turned its attention towards Starbucks in the latest phase of its campaign to persuade big brands to move away from GMOs.
The campaign group, which wrote an open letter to Chobani founder Hamdi Ullukaya last summer urging him to “be a leader and announce a phase-out of GMO animal feed for your cows” is now calling on coffee chain Starbucks to do the same.
GMO Inside, which has also targeted dairy giant Dean Foods over its sourcing policies recently , called on Starbucks to serve only organic milk sourced from cows not fed genetically engineered animal feed.
Launching a new campaign website and Facebook page , GMO Inside said Pret a Manger had already made a commitment to serving organic milk in its stores and still sells coffee at competitive prices: “The reality is that the process Starbucks put in place to remove rBGH from its milk source can be used to source organic milk.”
Starbucks did not immediately respond to requests for a comment on the campaign.
Ben & Jerry's: The fresh Vermont milk and cream that our family farmers supply to us is not organic
However, even companies such as Ben & Jerry's, which has made a commitment to using only non-GMO ingredients in its products by this summer, say it will take much longer to switch to sourcing milk from cows that are not fed GMOs given the ubiquity of GM corn and soy in US animal feed.
Explaining its position on its website, the firm says: "The fresh Vermont milk and cream that our family farmers supply to us is not organic. This means that it is almost certain that some portion of the cows’ feed contains GMO ingredients, such as corn. With almost 90% of corn grown in the US being genetically modified, it’s hard for conventional farmers to find non-GMO feed.
"We want to create the conditions for farmers who want to begin the transition back to conventional, non-GMO corn, soy, canola and other commodities. We believe that as that happens the family farmers of the St. Albans Coop will have access to competitively priced non-GMO feed for their cows."
Our strategy is to go after brands that are seen as leaders and trusted by consumers
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA last month, campaigns director for GMO Inside/Green America Elizabeth O'Connell said: “Our strategy is to go after brands that are seen as leaders and trusted by consumers.”
Asked whether the ultimate objective is transparency in labeling (what the Just Label It campaign is calling for) or the elimination of GMOs, she said: “Our objective is to eliminate GMOs [from the US food supply] but we also see [mandatory] GMO labeling as a useful tool in the meantime because we know that transitioning to a non-GMO supply chain will take time.”
A polarizing debate
While supporters of GM technology argue that there is no evidence that going non-GMO will make the food supply any safer or more sustainable - and that there are indisputable economic and environmental benefits to growing GM crops (lower production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced pesticide use, better yields), she added: “GM crops haven’t delivered the benefits that have been promised.
“Weeds developing resistance to [the herbicide] glyphosate is a big problem, yields are not higher, and GM crops have meant more pesticides. We also don’t know about the long-term effects on health.”
Click here to read about Boulder Brands' decision to eliminate GMOs from its Smart Balance brand.
Click here to read about all the latest developments in the GM debate.