For nearly 20 years, glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans have been planted by farmers and fed to livestock without too much ruckus. And rightly so, as there is no way to determine if a cow or any other animal has eaten feed from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because all the feed’s DNA gets broken down via digestion. That makes it even more puzzling that the French-owned Dannon company would begin sourcing milk from cows fed non-GMO feeds.
It appears that stiff competition in the climb to the “natural ingredient” mountain top, along with mandates to comply with Vermont’s GMO-food-labeling standards, likely created the latest marketing gimmick. We can envision this scenario around the Dannon brand promotion and marketing table: “If we have to change labels to comply with Vermont food standards, let’s declare that our entire product line is free of GMOs. That would further differentiate our product in the competitive yogurt category.”
While the GMO-free push has parallels to BST product labeling, there is one big difference: It took nearly 20 years after glyphosate-resistant corn and soybean entered the market place for this non-GMO idea to come to the forefront.
In the meantime, there has been over 2 trillion meals consumed by humans containing GMO ingredients in the past 16 years with no documented side effects. Additionally, 180 billion food animals have eaten GMO feeds in the U.S. and throughout the European Union and not one peer-reviewed published article has noted any issues. As stated earlier for dairy products, even if cows eat GMO-based feed, recombinant DNA cannot be found in milk because digestion breaks down all the building blocks.
Given these resounding facts, we disagree with Dannon’s GMO labeling plan.
As for farmers who might supply milk to Dannon’s yogurt line, we hope there is a significant premium for the extra effort. Sourcing feed will come with hefty costs. In 2015, an estimated 94 percent of soybeans and 92 percent of corn planted in the U.S. were GMO varieties. Models indicate yield falls by 5 percent for non-GMO soybeans and 11 percent for non-GMO corn. That doesn’t even factor in additional herbicides, pesticides, and tillage needed to grow conventional hybrids and varieties.
Unfortunately, Dannon’s marketing and promotion staff won out over scientific reason. We can only hope this is an isolated incident, but we fear the floodgates have been opened and more “GMO-free feed” marketing campaigns could be coming down the marketing river.