In a press release issued as Green America’s GMO Inside campaign urged Starbucks to “ditch conventional milk from cows fed GMOs in favor of organic milk”, Chobani (which was targeted in a similar campaign last year) said it would ”collaborate with Green America to help facilitate meaningful dialogue”.
Neither party said what this might mean in practice, although Green America's food campaigns director Nicole McCann talked about “concrete steps” and Chobani said it would “reach out to farmers to discuss potential strategies toward increasing non-GMO feed options”.
We believe that meaningful solutions require that we all get together around the table
While Chobani does not use any ingredients from genetically engineered crops in its yogurts, it was targeted in a campaign by Green America/GMO Inside last summer urging it to “cease marketing its products as real and natural” until it “switches to verified non-GMO milk sources”.
But securing large volumes of milk from cows that have not eaten GM feed is easier said than done, said Chobani, adding, “We believe that meaningful solutions require that we all get together around the table – farmers, suppliers, manufacturers and consumers – to discuss realistic and viable options.”
While Chobani is planning to unveil an organic range next year (the launch has been delayed owing to difficulties in securing adequate supplies of organic milk), the partnership with Green America is focused specifically on non-GM animal feed, said a spokesman.
Asked why Chobani felt securing non-GM animal feed was important, given that many crop scientists argue that switching back to conventional crops (and herbicides/pesticides) would not be better for the environment, he said the company was listening to consumers.
But he added: “We don’t believe there is a safety issue [with GM crops].”
We’re being open and honest about the challenges we face around animal feed
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA in March, Chobani chief marketing and brand officer Peter McGuinness said: “The starting point is that we’re the best in class in the category, rBST-free, and we’re not loaded with chemicals and preservatives and thickeners.
“As market leader, we’re being open and honest about the challenges we face around animal feed. We want to shape the evolution of the nation’s milk supply. But change will not happen overnight. This is a food industry issue, not a Chobani issue.”
Ben & Jerry’s: It’s hard for conventional farmers to find non-GMO feed
Ben & Jerry’s also talked about animal feed in a recent blog post, adding: “To be clear, 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.”
However, given that more than 90% of the corn grown in the US is genetically engineered, it is “hard for conventional farmers to find non-GMO feed”, said the company.
“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. We’re working hard to make that happen.”
Green America did not respond to questions from FoodNavigator-USA about whether consumers would be prepared to pay more for dairy products from animals fed non-GM feed or what concrete steps it wanted Chobani and others to make to improve the availability of competitively priced non-GMO animal feed.
Read more about Green America HERE.