| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 17 A coalition of farmers slammed
Danone SA's U.S. subsidiary on Monday for marketing
new products made without genetically-modified ingredients, or
GMOs, as supporting sustainable agriculture.
Groups representing ranchers, beet sugar, corn, soybean and
dairy farmers said the marketing misleads consumers about GMOs
and may harm sustainable farming rather than promote it, in a
letter to Mariano Lozano, head of Dannon, as Danone's U.S. unit
Dannon said in April it would use non-GMO ingredients and
transition all of the feed for its farmers' cows to non-GMO
within three years for three of its brands. The yogurt maker
also said it would work with dairy farmers and their suppliers
to use sustainable agriculture practices and technology.
Major U.S. crops like corn and soybeans have been
genetically engineered to introduce traits like resistance to
insects and pesticides. Debate over GMOs heated up this year as
lawmakers moved to make labeling of the ingredients mandatory,
pressed by consumer advocates.
Dannon's pledge will force farmers to take a "step backward
in truly sustainable food production," groups including the
National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers
Federation and American Sugarbeet Growers Association said in
Farmers say that use of genetically-engineered crops reduces
their need for inputs including pesticides and water.
"This is just marketing puffery, not any true innovation
that improves the actual product offered to consumers," said
Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers
Federation, and a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri, of
A spokesman for Dannon did not respond immediately to
request for comment. Dannon said in April the company wants to
enable consumers to have more choices to eat healthier and more
The farmers' letter represents one of the broadest and most
coordinated moves yet by farmers to fight a wave of food
companies including Hershey Co and General Mills Inc
that have shunned GMO ingredients in some of their
Farmers previously pushed back on Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc
for advertising of its non-GMO ingredients and fought
hard against efforts by states including Vermont to introduce
mandatory labels, saying it stigmatizes the ingredients.
Big food companies and farm groups spent millions lobbying
to prevent the labeling.
(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Additional reporting by Tom
Polansek and Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Andrew Hay)