Last week Dannon, the nation’s leading yogurt maker, announced it was joining the growing ranks of major food companies to adopt a new policy of openness with regard to any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their products.
Specifically, the company pledged to begin selling yogurt made with “more natural and non-GMO ingredients” and, in the interim, to start clearly labeling any yogurts that do contain GMOs on the packaging. Dannon’s move comes just as Congress passed a controversial new GMO-labeling bill last week, though the company noted it was adopting the new policy “independent of actions taken (or not) by the federal government,” according to a press release.
By now you’re probably asking yourself: Wait, yogurt has GMOs in it? We’re talking about the same thing, right? Fermented milk. What sort of mad-scientist-level tomfoolery is going on here?
We reached out to Dannon spokesman Michael Neuwirth to explain.
The milk in itself isn’t really the issue, Neuwirth says. Neither is the company’s trademark “fruit on the bottom.” It’s the other stuff that gets added in.
“We’re really talking about two things: sugar and starches,” says Neuwirth. For instance, many existing yogurts are made with beet sugar, “which is generally GMO-derived,” he notes. The company is now switching to a non-GMO sweetener: evaporated cane juice.
Additionally, Neuwirth says, the company is taking the extra step of switching to milk from cows eating exclusively non-GMO feed — an ambitious plan, expected to be completed by 2018, that would help the company earn the coveted butterfly-logo verification label from the nonprofit Non-GMO Project.