A multi-year deadline was established in part because there is not yet enough dairy cattle feed in the US comprised of non-genetically modified (GM) ingredients, said Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for the Dannon Company.
“A big component of the pledge is the development of that supply – today there is not enough non-GM feed for cows that would support the demand for milk we have,” he told FeedNavigator. “We are in the process of working with partners including farmers and their feed suppliers to further develop that.”
The effort is part of an ongoing attempt to provide more choices for consumers, he said. “This is to provide a greater choice for conventional dairy product shoppers,” he added.
An additional part of the project will be to develop and use labeling that delineates products that contain or do not include GMO ingredients, he said. “We don’t believe that there is any safety or health related issues with the gm ingredients or the gmo [crops] that are currently approved for use,” he added.
For specific brands of yogurt, Dannon, Oikos and Danimals, the company is set to use only GM-free ingredients, said Neuwirth. “We will be transitioning to non-GM feed for the cows, and that will be implemented over the next two or so years,” he added.
“Some of the farmer partners we work with grow their own feed or some of their feed,” he said. “They may grow the corn, but not the sorghum or flax [so] there are lots of different paths to the solution.”
Eventually, the products and components used are set to be assessed by the Non-GMO Project, he said. The company also announced in July that will be working with GM free campaigners, Green America, to help develop the non-GMO feed.
About 85% of the US corn crop in 2013 was herbicide-tolerant and 76% was insect-resistant biotech or GM corn reports the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Similarly, in 2013 about 93% of the soybean crop planted was biotech, the agency said. Although it is not one of the main three biotech crops, there also is an approved GM strain of alfalfa.
The company will be looking to source the non-GM feed from growers and feed manufacturers in the US as part of its larger focus on sustainability, said Neuwirth.
“Our ambition would be that it would be within the US supply chain,” he said. “The reason for that is this falls under the pledge that we have made to sustainable agriculture, natural [products] and transparency and developing that supply in the US is an important component for us.”
Dannon did reach out to the approximate 15 dairy farmers and small dairy farming co-ops with whom it will be working for the project prior to the public announcement of the non-GM move, he said. “Their support has been unanimous,” he added.
The company also is working with its supplier dairy farmers to have all farms meet Validus Certification animal welfare standards, said Neuwirth.
The New York-headquartered company is a subsidiary of Danone.
In March 2014, leading US greek yougurt maker, Chobani, said it was teaming up with Green America in an effort to improve cattle feed in the US including options for non GM modified and organic grains.