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Wisconsin Dairy Producers Worry About Non-GMO Movement

Agriculture Groups Voice Concerns After Dannon Pledges To Use Milk From Non-GMO Sources

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Dannon yogurt on grocery shelf
daniel julià lundgren (CC-BY-SA)

Wisconsin dairy producers are speaking out against a national yogurt company’s decision to only use milk from cows that aren’t fed genetically engineered grains.

Earlier this year, Dannon announced the company’s move away from genetically modified organisms by the end of 2018.

Now several agricultural groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Milk Producers Federation are coming together to voice their concerns about the company’s impact on the dairy industry.

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Dannon’s decision probably won’t have an impact on Wisconsin producers in the short term, John Holevoet, director of government affairs at the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, said.

“Long term, the fear is that other consumer products companies and other food processors will make a similar choice and that could have a pretty significant impact,” Holevoet said.

It’s hard for farmers to stop using GMOs, Holevoet said, because they make production easier, and most farmers don’t feel there is good evidence GMOs are harmful.

“We’ve been using GMOs in certain areas of our food supply for quite a while, again, with no ill effect,” Holevoet said. “But now, because it’s become a marketing buzzword, we’re going to have some food companies trying to grab a portion of the market they think exists instead of trying to join with agriculture to do a better job of educating people about what it actually means to use this technology.”

And Holevoet said milk from GMO-fed cattle is not genetically modified.

“There’s no reason whatsoever to view the milk that comes from those cattle as a GMO. Those cows aren’t GMOs, so really this is taking what was already probably a misguided argument one step further,” Holevoet said.

The company is hoping the change will provide more support for sustainable agriculture practices and improve transparency for customers, according to a press release about the change from Dannon, the United States subsidiary of French food company Danone. The company will label any GMO ingredients in their products by the end of 2017, according to Dannon.

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