Earlier this week, GMO Inside launched a campaign website to pressure Starbucks to rely exclusively on organic, non-GMO milk. Starbucks didn't respond to requests for comment on the campaign.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

March 6, 2014

3 Min Read
Starbucks Asked to Source Only Organic Non-GMO Milk

WASHINGTON—A campaign is calling on Starbucks Corp., one of the world's largest coffee chains, to exclusively serve organic milk fed from cows that are not fed genetically-modified (GMO) crops.

The organization behind the movement, GMO Inside, said its social media campaign prompted General Mills' plans to drop genetically-modified ingredients from basic Cheerios.

Earlier this week, GMO Inside launched a campaign website to pressure Starbucks to rely exclusively on organic, non-GMO milk. Starbucks, which boasts more than 20,000 stores in 62 countries, didn't respond to requests for comment on the campaign. GMO Inside has asked consumers to sign a petition that is directed to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

"GMOs have yet to be proven safe for humans, animal, or the planet by independent long-term studies," declared GMO Inside, which also noted GMOs tolerated to withstand weedkillers have led to the emergence of "super weeds," requiring the application of more rather than fewer herbicides to crops.

A representative for the dairy industry disagreed with the implication that GMOs are unsafe to eat.

"All the scientific evidence that has been put forth indicates there are no human health concerns or environmental concerns that are explicit or exclusive to the growing of genetically-modified crops or vegetables," said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents dairy producers.

Greg Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), cited international consensus that GMO crops are safe to eat. A number of organizations have reached such a conclusion, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and National Academy of Sciences among others.

Organic Milk Supply

Galen pointed out a practical problem with the Starbucks campaign: that the coffee giant would be unable to serve only non-GMO organic milk even it wanted to.

He said organic milk production represents roughly 3% of all milk production in the United States. According to the Organic Trade Association, the organic dairy category comprises 6% of the total dairy market.

"It's a niche product at the production level. It's a niche product at the consumption level," Galen said of organic milk. "The bottom line: I don't think they [Starbucks] would be able to fulfill that commitment anytime in the near future … because the organic milk supply is not there."

Galen also said organic production is more expensive, with less yields on crops and less-productive cows.

"It's a less-productive system of making food or in this case milk than in what we see in other forms of dairy production," he said.

In a 2013 survey, the Organic Trade Association said the category is growing slowly, indicating that rising feed costs are a potential barrier to conventional farmers growing organic crops. But increasing consumer interest in non-GMO foods could prompt more retailers to embrace organic ingredients in spite of potentially higher costs.

According to GMO Inside, Pret a Manger, a quick-service food and coffee chain with locations in the United States, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and France, has made a commitment to serve only organic milk in its stores. GMO Inside said Pre a Manger only serves organic dairy and soy. The company did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The Starbucks campaign was unveiled on the heels of General Mills' announcement earlier this year that its original Cheerios will no longer be made using GMOs. The company has no plans to remove GMO ingredients from other U.S. cereal products, including other Cheerios varieties.

"For our other cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy or beet sugar would make reliability moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible," General Mills said.

Over the years, U.S. farmers have become increasingly reliant on certain GMO crops such as corn. Gaffe said American farmers grow eight distinct GMO crops: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybean, squash and sugar beets. According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85% of corn is genetically modified, while the percentages are even greater for soybeans (91%) and cotton (88%).

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like