Dannon reaching non-GMO milestones to achieve company pledge

Leading U.S. yogurt maker Dannon is moving according to plan on its pledge to source non-GMO ingredients for its products and to use milk from non-GMO fed cows. The company reached a significant milestone recently, achieving Non-GMO Project verification of several Dannon yogurt and “Danimals” smoothie products.

Ken Roseboro, Organic and Non-GMO Market News, July 26 2017

Non-GMO feed challenge

In 2016, Dannon announced its ambitious “Dannon Pledge,” which included commitments to use natural, non-GMO ingredients in its yogurt products, source non-GMO feed for its dairy cows, provide GMO transparency to consumers, and use more sustainable agriculture practices in its milk supply.

One of the biggest challenges was said to be sourcing enough non-GMO feed to meet the needs of Dannon’s dairy producers. An estimated 90 percent of feed produced in the U.S. is derived from genetically modified crops such as corn, soy, and alfalfa. There were doubts that enough non-GMO feed was available. Dannon CEO Mariano Lozano had described the feed initiative as a “massive undertaking,” involving the conversion of an estimated 80,000 acres to non-GMO feed crops.

“It seemed at the time it would be a challenge because we hadn’t done it before,” says Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s senior director of external communication. “We had to use creativity, insights, and resources to find solutions.”

Dannon used a combination of approaches including purchasing non-GMO feed on the open market, using feed supplies of their own farmers, and finding farmers who grow non-GMO feed grains.

One of Dannon’s largest milk suppliers, Kansas-based McCarty Family Farms, successfully worked with its farm partners and had other farmers offer to sell them non-GMO feed.

“Thus far the challenges associated with sourcing non-GMO feed have been few and far between,” said Ken McCarty, co-owner and manager of McCarty Family Farms, a few months ago.

But Dannon will face another challenge next year when it moves its Oikos Greek yogurt products to non-GMO production because Greek yogurt uses three times as much milk as traditional yogurt.

Still, Neuwirth is confident. “We now have the benefit of figuring out the feed issue for Danimals and Dannon. We are more experienced.”

Sourcing milk from non-GMO fed cows separates Dannon from its biggest competitor, Chobani, which uses non-GMO ingredients but not non-GMO feed. Chobani announced a commitment to source non-GMO feed in 2014 but has not achieved that goal.

Non-GMO Project verification

Using non-GMO feed is one of the requirements for Non-GMO Project verification, which Dannon recently achieved for several products. These include Dannon Whole Milk Fruit Yogurt in eight flavors, Dannon Whole Milk Plain Yogurt in quart containers, and Danimals Smoothies in six flavors.

Vincent Crasnier, Dannon Pledge lead, says the Non-GMO Project verification has gone smoothly.

“We’ve been learning the process as we’ve progressed. We have a sophisticated process but we have been pleased with the process. Segregation was the most important thing, from the seed to the cup.”

Dannon had to install stainless steel storage tanks to keep non-GMO milk segregated from other milk supplies. The company also replaced GMO-risk beet sugar with cane sugar and substituted some preservatives such as potassium sorbate and malic acid with lemon juice concentrate to simplify the ingredients for a “cleaner” label.

Dannon is well on its way to achieving its Pledge goals. By the end of this year, all Dannon brand products will contain only non-GMO ingredients and will be made with milk from cows fed non-GMO feed. Products from the Oikos and Danimals brands will follow by the end of 2018. These three brands represent about half of Dannon’s U.S. sales volume. According to Neuwirth, Dannon’s market share has increased since the company announced the Pledge last year.

Another aspect of Dannon’s Pledge is GMO transparency. Since the end of 2016, Dannon has started labeling all of its products containing GMO ingredients. These products contain the label statement “Partially produced with genetic engineering.”

Last year, several major agriculture groups, including the National Milk Producers Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, and others sent a letter to Dannon criticizing the company’s pledge about their non-GMO commitment.

Dannon defended its stance. “We value open discussions and strive to be transparent with consumers about what matters to them,” Neuwirth says. “We’ve been clear about our belief that the currently approved GMOs are safe. We also believe we can promote advanced sustainable practices with non-GMO crops as well.”

Further, Neuwirth says the Dannon Pledge is “about doing right by our consumers and farmers and also our business. It’s helping us provide more options to shoppers, and they recognize and appreciate that and are responding to it. It’s been a great journey for us.”

NZMP Launches its First Ingredients in North America to Meet the Non-GMO Project Standard

NZMP, Fonterra’s global dairy ingredients brand, has launched a range of dairy ingredients to help North American food and beverage manufacturers address consumer demand for food without genetically modified ingredients and information about where their food comes from.

Non-GMO Project, April 6 2017

The new NZMP ingredient range meets the Non-GMO Project Standard, North America’s most trusted and recognized seal in non-GMO products. Manufacturers can use a range of NZMP ingredients for their own Non-GMO Project Standard Verified products [1].

Joe Coote, Regional President of Ingredients Americas, said, “New Zealand is well recognized for its unique pasture-raised farming practices and regulatory control of GMOs. This new NZMP product range
allows food and beverage manufacturers to leverage both the Non-GMO Project claim and the New Zealand grass-fed advantage in a way that’s highly relevant to US consumers.”

Mr. Coote says US consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it was made.

“Research shows that over half of US protein consumers and more than a third of US dairy product consumers are ‘very interested’ in a non-GMO claim. Forty percent of consumers are also willing to pay a premium for dairy products with a non-GMO claim [2].”

NZMP worked with the Non-GMO Project because it is widely recognised by consumers and provides robust standards.

The Non-GMO Project Verified seal is the fastest growing label in the natural products industry, representing $19.2 billion in annual sales. It already appears on 43,000 verified products and is among the most trusted non-GMO labels for consumers [3].

NZMP’s Non-GMO Project Verified range is independently verified by Where Food Comes From, Inc., an independent, third-party food verification company.

“North American food and beverage manufacturers have been using NZMP ingredients for decades and value our deep dairy expertise. This expertise, coupled with a widely recognized non-GMO product claim, is a powerful offering for manufacturers, helping them to differentiate from competitors, and help to increase market share and margins,” says Mr. Coote.

About the Non-GMO Project
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices.

Non-GMO Project requirements and NZMP:
The Standard requires compliance with ingredients, additives, and inputs; and that they do not contain, are not derived from, and are not produced with the help of GMOs.

The Non-GMO Project has required limits on feed which may come from genetically modified sources (less than 5%).

To ensure the cows receive adequate nutrition throughout the year, non-New Zealand supplementary feed, which may be classified as GM risk, is sometimes used. This usage is strictly monitored to ensure it meets Non-GMO Project Standards and the range is sourced exclusively from selected New Zealand farms to ensure that verification can be applied to a specific product line. These supplementary feeds make up less than 2% of the total ration that our cows in New Zealand consume on average.
Our Non-GMO Project Verification is independently verified and confirmed by Where Food Comes From, Inc. For further information on the Non-GMO Project go to www.nongmoproject.org.

About NZMP
NZMP is the business to business dairy ingredients brand of Fonterra. Trusted globally, NZMP ingredients are sold in more than 100 countries and can be found at the heart of some of the world’s most famous food and nutrition brands. NZMP has one of the broadest ranges of ingredients
in the dairy industry, providing hundreds of solutions to meet the needs of customers every day.

Backed by Fonterra’s New Zealand grass-fed farming heritage and expertise, world-class processing and leading quality standards, NZMP ingredients deliver real market advantage, trusted for their high
performance and exceptional quality.


About Fonterra
Fonterra is a global leader in dairy nutrition – the preferred supplier of dairy ingredients to many of the world’s leading food companies. Fonterra is a farmer-owned co-operative and the largest processor of
milk in the world. It is one of the world’s largest investors in dairy research and innovation, drawing on generations of dairy expertise to produce more than two million tonnes of dairy ingredients, value added
dairy ingredients, specialty ingredients, and consumer products globally.


[1] NZMP Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients meet the Non-GMO Project Standard. In order for food and beverage manufacturers to claim Non-GMO Project Verification on their products, they will need to undertake the process of gaining certification according to the Non-GMO Project Standard.

[2] Based on nationally representative samples of 318 consumers of dairy and dairy based products, and who purchase/consume dairy/dairy-based products and 311 consumers that regularly consume at least one type of protein enriched products (protein beverages/shakes, protein powders, bars, etc.). Source: NZMP Consumer Research conducted by ABN Impact (2016 October, among USA consumers)

[3] https://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/verification-faqs/

Farmers rise to GE-free cheese demand

A group of farmer shareholders in the European co-op FrieslandCampina will start producing milk without using genetically engineered animal feed.

Sudesh Kissun. Dairy News, 9 May 2017

The few hundred farmers living near two FrieslandCampina cheese plants in Germany will participate in the pilot project. They will get a premium price for the GE-free milk, to be made into cheese for the German market.

The products will conform to the VLOG standard set by a German association responsible for certifying products and issuing the Ohne Gentechnik label. The VLOG association was founded in 2010 and is recognised by the German government.

A number of FrieslandCampina dairy farmers in Germany are already producing milk bearing the Ohne Gentechnik label for Landliebe products.

FrieslandCampina says the move will capitalise on the growing demand from German supermarkets for foodstuffs produced without any genetic engineering in the production chain.

A few hundred member dairy farmers in the vicinity of the cheese plants in Born and Workum have the opportunity to participate in the pilot. These may give their cows only feed that meets the VLOG criteria.

“It is of major importance that no use is made of feed produced with or from genetically modified organisms, like much soy meal coming from the US,” the co-op says.

“Locally grown roughage, such as grass and maize, which is by far the most important feed for cows, does meet the VLOG criteria. Before the milk may be used in products featuring the VLOG label, the cows must have been fed in conformity with the VLOG criteria for three months.”

As a result of the higher feed costs at the farms, and higher logistic and production costs, cheese with the VLOG label costs more than regular cheese. Participating dairy farmers will receive an extra $1.59/100 kgMS on top of the

FrieslandCampina guaranteed price for farm milk to compensate for the higher feed costs.

FrieslandCampina says its cheese plants in Born and Workum (the Netherlands) will be prepared for separate processing of the different milk flows.

On genetic modification, the co-op says it remains open to “research, innovation, basic materials and products in which, in a responsible way, use is made of genetic modification proven safe and approved as such by the responsible authorities”.

China: Crushing blow to soy processors as Chinese grow wary on GMO

A Chinese consumer backlash against genetically modified (GMO) crops is beginning to dent demand for soy oil, the nation’s main cooking oil, and could spell crisis for the multi-billion-dollar crushing industry, which depends on GMO soybeans from the United States and elsewhere.

Dominique Patton: Reuters, 28 April 2017

Soyoil sales account for about 36 percent of cooking oils used in Chinese kitchens, more than three times the next highest, and most of it is made from imported soybeans, which are nearly all genetically modified.

The Chinese government says GM foods are as safe as conventional foods, but wealthier urban consumers are replacing soyoil with sunflower, peanut or sesame, all free of biotech raw materials.

A Nielsen survey last year showed about 70 percent of consumers in China limited or avoided at least some foods or ingredients, compared with a global average of 64 percent, with 57 percent naming GMOs as undesirable.

“Everyone says soyoil has GMOs,” said Mr Liu, a 70-year-old Beijinger, shopping with his wife in Walmart. “Better not eat too much. Apparently they’re not safe. It’s like those hormones. I’m just as afraid of eating GMOs as hormones.”

That sentiment is already hurting retail sales. Supermarket sales of soy oil fell 1 percent last year to 35.7 billion yuan ($5.19 billion), data from Euromonitor shows, versus growth of between 2 and 6 percent for alternatives.

“Non-GMO oil is gradually replacing (soy oil),” said Johnny An, supply chain director at food-service firm Aramark, which serves meals in banks, government offices and schools in more than 60 Chinese cities.

A few years ago, 10-20 percent of Aramark’s customers asked for GMO-free oil, he said. Now it’s more than half.

The mood is causing headaches for crushers, said Paul Burke, Asia director at the U.S. Soybean Export Council, forcing them to find new markets for their soyoil, though it had not yet had a noticeable impact on bean imports, as demand for soymeal used for animal feed, the larger byproduct of soybean crush, is still robust as China expands its livestock industry.


The Nielsen survey found that more than four in five Chinese shoppers would be prepared to pay more for GMO-free products, and a 5-litre bottle of GM-free soy oil already sells at a 20 percent premium to GMO oil, but that isn’t translating into a boon for the nation’s soybean crushers.

China is the world’s top soyoil consumer – it will use 16 million tonnes this year – but the crushers rely on the United States and Brazil, which grow GM-soybeans, for 86 percent of China’s 84 million tonnes of soybean imports.

In China, which does not permit planting of GMO soybeans, labor costs are high and productivity low on small farms, making non-GMO beans costly to grow. They sell for a third more than non-GMO beans planted elsewhere.

Processors such as China Agri Industries, a unit of food and grains trader COFCO and one of the country’s top crushers, told Reuters it needs to improve its sourcing of non-GMO materials, to meet “escalating market demand”.

In the meantime, processors are losing money as increased competition with other edible oils and a ballooning glut has pushed soyoil futures in China down 18 percent so far this year to multi-year lows.

Some crushers are taking radical steps to find more GMO-free beans.

Henan Sunshine Oils and Fats wants to buy as much as 15,000 hectares of land in Ukraine to grow and process crops such as non-GMO soybeans, rapeseed and sunflowers, said Yang Renyi, group vice-president and general manager of the international affairs department.

That would be a very large plot; in the United States, the largest farms average around 1,052 hectares.

Yang’s team made two trips to Ukraine last year to look into the feasibility of producing, storing and processing oilseeds there.

“If we managed to get a large area of land to grow oilseeds, we possibly will spend at least 200-300 million yuan there,” said Yang.

Non-GMO oils – mainly rapeseed and sesame – already account for a fifth of the firm’s sales since it started marketing the new offering late last year, he added.


The shift in attitude against GMOs in China has been fueled by social media and campaigning by high-profile personalities.

The agriculture ministry has sought to assuage consumers’ fears, launching education campaigns and banning advertising that promotes non-GMO products as healthier.

But years of food scares have shaken consumers’ faith in Beijing’s ability to guarantee the safety of the nation’s food supply.

Cooking oil is a particularly sensitive topic after a scandal over the use of recycled oil known as gutter oil, a few years ago, so shoppers are wary.

“Before everyone said soybean oil has GMOs, now the advertising is all about non-GMO soyoil. But we still don’t buy it,” said Maxine Li, a 28-year old bank worker, shopping at the same Walmart. “We think peanut oil is a bit healthier.”

For a graphic on retail sales of edible oils in China, click here.

For a graphic on China edible oil production, consumption, imports and stocks, click here.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton. Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; editing by Josephine Mason and Will Waterman)

Progress for GM Free Regions

Media Release:  Hawke’s Bay exporters, growers and farmers who have worked hard to protect the region’s GM free status welcome the environment minister’s back down from controversial amendments to the RMA he wants to take away the regions’ right to make their own decisions on GMOs.

Hawke’s Bay’s ability to establish a GM Free food producing zone under local plans has been shielded following last minute changes to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill.

An amendment negotiated by the Maori Party exempts GM crops from the scope of new ministerial powers overriding local decision-making.

A further clause – introduced by the Government after public consultation on the Bill – that would give the minister a second route to impose GM releases on the regions has been deleted.

Pure Hawke’s Bay, lobby group representing Hawke’s Bay growers, exporters and farmers was fighting to have s360D deleted altogether.

Pure Hawke’s Bay President, Bruno Chambers says the best outcome for the regions would have been the deletion of 360D.

“While the exemption is not as wide as what Pure Hawke’s Bay has called for, the exemption provides some protection against Wellington imposing GMOs on our region. “

The exemption agreed to by the Maori Party and the Government covers the growing of GM crops.

Marama Fox, who sponsored the amendment, told Parliament that:

“The Maori Party supports these amendments on the understanding that, as negotiated with the Government, they preserve the regions’ ability under local plans to regulate all types of GM crops in their territories including forestry and grasses and any activities involving the growing of GM crops whether for commercial or other purposes

It will mean that the Government cannot override the rules prohibiting outoor activities involving GM crops on Hawke’s Bay and other regions using those powers.

One of New Zealand’s largest growers, John Bostock says this is a victory for the GM Free’s campaign.

“We are working hard to protect Hawke’s Bays GM Free status because it is such a huge economic opportunity for our high value agricultural economy.”

We acknowledge the Maori Party’s efforts to secure some protection, against a minister who is determined to override our local decisionmaking, despite the clear market advantages that GM free status offers.

Pure Hawke’s Bay also appreciates the support of all other political parties – Labour, United Future, New Zealand First, the Greens and Act – who have been vocal in their defense of local democracy and GM Free zones in particular.

This has been a long and unnecessary battle with Wellington, says Chambers. But Parliament has made clear to the current minister – and put future ones on notice – how undemocractic these powers are and that the regions should be able to make their own calls on issues that have significant impacts on local economies and environments – such as GM agriculture.

Although the exemption does not extend to GM livestock, the new ministerial powers do not per se curtail the region’s ability to prohibit livestock farming of GM animals.

The minister of the day would still have to introduce rules that prevent councils from regulating GM livestock farming under their local plans.

“That is a political fight any government would be foolhardy to pick, given the huge backing from the Hawke’s Bay food export economy and the wider community”, says Pure Hawke’s Bay chairman, Bruno Chambers

“Hastings District Council can be confident that the plan rules that protect the district’s GM Free food producer status are safe from interference by the environment minister and s360D,” says Chambers.



  1. The full text of the exemption is set out in SOP 281, available at: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2015/0101/latest/versions.aspx
  1. The proposed exemption does not affect what rules councils can introduce on GMO. It limits what the minister of the day could rule on, were he/she to use the powers.