The move is notable in light of recent food litigation (click HERE), which highlights the challenges surrounding GMO labeling and dairy ingredients.
Under the Vermont GMO labeling law, for example, dairy companies can legally market their wares as 'non-GMO' if they contain no ingredients from genetically engineered crops. However, these products would not qualify for the Non-GMO Project Verified stamp if they contain milk from animals that may consume feed derived from genetically engineered crops (eg. soy).
By gradually transitioning to non-GMO feed, Dannon is adhering to the strictest definition of non-GMO.
Asked how difficult it would be for Dannnon to transition to sourcing milk from cows fed non-GM feed, Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations, told Foodnavigator-USA: "We have very bold ambitions and how we get there is still being worked out, but in order to do this in the timescale our farmer partners and their feed suppliers need to start planting [non-GMO seed] this year."
Asked what this would mean from a cost perspective, and whether the additional costs would be passed onto consumers in the form of higher retail pricing, he said: "We believe that these changes will create incremental value for our brands and the company overall and we believe that continued growth in sales will minimise and ultimately offset any difference, but it is a journey, so we will see."
You can get the full details HERE, but here are the highlights of the pledge issued by the New York based company this morning:
- INGREDIENTS: From July 2016, Dannon will “move to more natural ingredients which do not contain genetically modified ingredients for its flagship brands Oikos, Danimals and Dannon.”
- ANIMAL FEED: “Dannon also commits that for these brands the feed of its farmers’ cows will be non-GMO, within a transition period of three years [these brands represent 50% of the company’s current volumes]. The ambition is to evolve the remaining brands over time… a first for a leading non-organic yogurt maker.”
- GMO LABELING: Dannon will roll out GMO labeling nationwide by December 2017: “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. Looking further into the future, Dannon’s ambition is to also evolve the other brands in its portfolio, beyond Dannon, Oikos and Danimals [to non-GMO ingredients] over time.”
- SUSTAINABILITY: Dannon will work with dairy farmer partners and their suppliers “to progressively implement the use of sustainable agriculture practices and technology that leads to better soil health, better water management, an increase in biodiversity, and a decrease in carbon emissions.”
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It and organic dairy brand Stonyfield Farm (owned by Dannon's parent company Group Danone), welcomed the move, adding:
“Just Label It applauds Dannon for their leadership and we urge Congress to act quickly to require a national, mandatory GMO label that will allow consumers to know what’s in their food at a glance."