Leaders from two national farm associations held a teleconference this morning to unveil plans for a “Straight Talk” campaign to engage the food industry in a dialogue on sustainable agriculture production, the marketing practices used to reach consumers, and the intersection of both trends.
The call, hosted by the United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), follows last week’s decision by six leading national farm organizations to send a letter to Dannon challenging its misleading assertions on the sustainability of the food industry.
“There comes a time when the industry has to step up and challenge when food companies directly misinform consumers about the practices occurring on farms and what those practices mean to the environment,” USFRA CEO Randy Krotz said on the call. “We’ve heard so much about the Right to Know over the past few years, but we really believe the right to know needs to be a wholly accurate conversation.”
The conference hosts included two farmers: Randy Mooney, a dairy farmer from Missouri and chairman of NMPF, and Nancy Kavazanjian, USFRA chairwoman and a crop farmer from Wisconsin. Both expressed frustration with Dannon’s decision to market non-GMO products as sustainable.
“This move away from biotechnology is the exact opposite from the sustainability they claim to be seeking,” said Mooney. “Plain and simple, biotechnology is an advancement in farming technology that has dramatically improved the sustainability of American agriculture for over twenty years.”
Kavazanjian has utilized GMO technology on her operation, seeing it as a valuable tool, and feels that misleading marketing techniques threaten her ability to use the technology in the future.
“This isn’t about advocating for one production method over another, but we need every tool in the toolbox to help us meet the increasing demands from consumers and be more sustainable,” said Kavazanjian. “GMOs have given us tools to use less land, to produce more crops per acre, to use fewer inputs in the name of fertilizer and chemical inputs to produce better crops more sustainably and cut our soil loss.”
Another speaker on the call, Dr. Marty Matlock, University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability Executive Director, offered insight into the comprehensive strategies the industry has implemented in order to utilize technologies like GMO crops to improve the sustainability of production agriculture.
“US agriculture producers have been collaborating for the past decade to create a system-wide process for continuous improvement, and we have this coalescence around this concept that sustainability is about continuous improvement, that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. We don’t say we are sustainable, we say we are becoming more sustainable.” said Matlock.
Listen to comments from Kavazanjian, Matlock, Mooney and Krotz here: Ag Groups Defend GMO Sustainability
Dialogue with reporters: USFRA/NMPF #AgTechTalk