Sergio Fuster, president of DanoneWave Yogurt Business, said the company continues to make progress on The Dannon Pledge, which was announced in 2016 and committed the company to a range of progressive practices focused on sustainable agriculture, transparency and "naturality" that are believed will enable the company to offer consumers more of what they want in terms of yogurt choices.
Fuster said all Dannon brand whole-milk yogurt and plain quarts and Danimals Smoothies, as of late July, have secured Non-GMO Project verification – the recognized third-party verification system for non-genetically modified organism (GMO) foods.
The products will now begin to feature the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, which signifies that the products are in compliance with the Non-GMO Project standard and are made with milk from cows fed GMO-free feed, he said.
Fuster added that the company also achieved less visible -- but equally as important -- progress during the past year by sourcing, via Validus, more than 90% of the milk used in its products from farms that achieved certification for their animal welfare standards and practices.
“We recognize that more and more consumers want to know what’s in the products they buy and how they’re made,” Fuster said. “Continuing to fulfill the ambitions stated in the Dannon Pledge, we’re making changes to our business to answer that demand. One key step is Non-GMO Project verification of select Dannon products. By working closely with organizations like the Non-GMO Project, we’re offering consumers more food choices that match their preferences for natural and sustainable eating options.”
When it initially was announced, several agriculture industry groups called out the company for its pledge.
Jim Mulhern, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in a statement, “It is disappointing that Dannon is trying to differentiate itself with consumers by adopting an anti-science position on genetically modified (GM) animal feed. The evidence is clear that not only are GM crops safe; they also provide broad environmental benefits by reducing soil loss, as well as reducing farmers' use of water, pesticides and fuel. Farmers have overwhelmingly adopted GM crop technology precisely because it increases productivity and improves agricultural sustainability.”
Mulhern added that all of the milk federation’s member cooperatives are working to meet evolving consumer expectations for additional transparency and sustainability in the food supply.
“We are thankful for those companies that are working collaboratively with our co-ops and the dairy community to address consumer questions about modern farming with factual information," he said. "Fortunately, most of the dairy supply chain recognizes the great work and commitment of America’s dairy farmers to sustainability and animal care.”
U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) leaders attempted to converse with Dannon following the announcement, but USFRA chief executive officer Randy Krotz said the dialogue did not go in a direction that was “reasonable and accurate” and the company was “unwilling to listen” on the safety of food science.