From the fruit on the bottom to the granola on top, we’re committing to offering Non-GMO Project Verified options among our flagship brands. We’re also working with our farmer partners to remove GMOs from their cows’ feed. It’ll all happen over time, and the work continues. Dannon products that are Non-GMO Project Verified are now available. Danimals Smoothies, comprising a vast majority of the Danimals brand family, and most of the Dannon brand family are Non-GMO Project Verified, which means the products will be made with milk from cows fed non-GMO feed. The rest of the products from the Dannon brand family and our Oikos Triple Zero products will follow by the end of 2018. We continue to advance projects to transition additional products.
Whatever your stance may be on GMOs, we think you have the right to know if they’re in your food. We believe in being more transparent so you can make better informed choices. We label all of our products as “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” if they may contain more than 0.9% of GMO ingredients.
For some of our flagship products, we’re starting to use ingredients, such as sugars and starches that are non-artificial. The new ingredients are now in the cup for most Dannon branded products, with the other products within the Dannon brand family to follow. Our Oikos Triple Zero products will be made with the new recipes by the end of 2018. We continue to advance projects to transition additional products.
When we get our milk straight from our farmer partners, we can know exactly how they operate. We know that as certified responsible producers they treat their cows well and we know what they’re feeding them. And we can work together with them on environmental issues like soil health, water usage, biodiversity and carbon.
I enjoy problem solving. Every day offers different problems, whether it's a piece of equipment that breaks or an improvement that we need to make, to make something more efficient. I just enjoy working through those problems and coming up with good solutions. That's where I find my satisfaction.
And of course, with the public getting more and more involved in farming operations, I guess I've got to expect to please them a little bit too! The market's demanding non-GMO products and so we're complying to what the market. There’s also more and more demand for transparency with the dairies and I think that they're eventually all going to get some type of outside certification to prove that they're treating their animals right and everything. Knowing that seems to be more important to the general public. To me, it's fascinating how interested the public is getting in our realm.
So under the Dannon Pledge, we’re certified by Validus which shows we treat our cows well. It's not like just recently we started treating our animals differently. We're fourth generation dairy farmers and we've treated our animals well the whole time. Now though, we have outside verification to prove it. I think that's how you survive four generations. You have to have good practices to start with.
And as part of the Pledge, we’ve gone through the necessary steps for non-GMO Project verification for cow feed. We already had mostly non-GMO feed in our rations and now we just have to make sure all the seeds that we get in, and all the alfalfa, all the corn that we grow out here, that it's non-GMO. I'm excited to be a part of it. It's where the industry is going, so we like to be on the leading edge of what everybody wants to do.
Indiana farmer, Rick Clark, grows Non-GMO Project Verified feed for a dairy farm that provides Dannon milk for select yogurt and smoothie products. In the following essay, Rick discusses his commitment to maintaining sustainable agricultural practices.
My name is Rick Clark, and I am a fourth generation farmer based in Warren county Indiana. My great grandparents homesteaded in Warren county and I have continued to build upon the foundation they started for the Clark family. I think they would be proud to see what their legacies have done with the precious soil they started farming so many years ago.
The soil is no different than you or I. It is a living, growing thing. There are living organisms, like bacteria and fungi, in the ground just like we have beneficial bacteria in our gut. If the bacteria inside us get out of balance, we may get sick. In the same way, if the bacteria and fungi in our soil get out of balance, the field may get sick and you can’t raise as good of yields on your cash crop. When we steward the soil well, we have better yields and we help mother nature.
The older I've gotten, the more I've been concerned about being a good steward of the land. I believe using cover crop and no-till farming are two of the best ways to preserve the ecosystem and the soil we have. Those are all important things for me and the future generation.
Using cover crop means planting a crop in a field after the cash crop – the one you sell as your primary business - is taken off. The cover crop is used for many reasons and helps with wind erosion, water erosion, compaction, weed control, and building soil health. No-till farming means we don’t disturb the soil through tillage, increasing soil biological fertility and reducing erosion. We rotate our crops, which is an important part of maintaining good soil health and naturally controlling pests or predators. We also made the decision to transition to non-GMO crops because it made sense as a part of our existing program of cover crops, no-till farming and crop rotation, and there is a growing market for our cash crop. I love the challenge of succeeding at something different.
Overall, we're using less inputs, less fuel, less machinery, less everything and our yields are better than they were five years ago. We’re looking at it as a net return per acre. You invest money, what's my net return? The ground is my investment and I am making more net return per acre than I was before.
There is so much more to learn, but it's being gathered every day and we are at the tip of the iceberg. That’s what it is about – getting creative, coming up with techniques and programs that accomplish multiple things like building soil health, reducing compaction, reducing weed pressure, etc.
I am impressed that a company like Dannon would make a stand as they have with the Dannon Pledge. They are listening to the consumer. They are hearing what they're saying and they are deciding to make more yogurts made with non-gmo ingredients available.
When I walk down the grocery store, I see a yogurt on the shelf. I feel like I'm part of that. I did something to put that yogurt in that cup and that's very rewarding.