Farm Bureau and other major farm groups last week called out yogurt-maker Dannon, saying the company’s campaign against ag biotech amounted to marketing "flimflam" that would force farmer/suppliers to abandon practices that have proven to be better for the environment.

The ag groups sharply criticized Dannon’s sustainability pledge, which requires farmers feed no biotech crops to cows producing milk supplied to the company. That pledge "would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture," the ag group said.

The action by Dannon and other food marketers to avoid biotech crops, also called GMOs, actually reduces sustainability rather than enhances it, the ag groups said. Biotechnology has allowed farmers to use less pesticides, fossil fuels and water and has significantly reduced soil erosion, they said.

"This is just marketing puffery, not any true innovation that improves the actual product of­­fered to consumers," said Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation and a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Missouri. "What’s worse is that removing GMOs from the equation is harmful to the environment — the opposite of what these companies claim to be attempting to achieve."

The ag groups noted that num­erous, conclusive studies over the last 20 years prove the safety of foods made with biotech crops. Most recently, 109 Nobel laureates an­­nounced their support of GMO technology, citing a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

"Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the safety of GMO crops and their benefits to the environment, marketers of some major food brands, such as Dannon, have aligned themselves against biotechnology," said Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers.

Other co-signers of the letter were the American Soybean Association, American Sugar­beet Growers Association and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.