By Geoffrey Mohan –
Clover Sonoma dairy has long cultivated a dual image of folksy kitsch and foodie trend-spotting.
While its cartoon mascot, Clo the Cow, cracked tortured puns on billboards along U.S. 101, the Bay Area’s top milk supplier touted its small-scale farms in the dwindling grasslands of California’s northern coast.
Clover Stornetta, as the Petaluma-based processor was known until this year, was among the first dairies to ban growth hormones — now virtually absent from the national dairy herd. It also was a West Coast leader in adopting organic feeds nearly 20 years ago.
So, as Clo might say, it behooved the newly rebranded Clover Sonoma to jump into the accelerating trend of labeling products as free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which some consumers fear could cause health and environmental damage, despite firm rebuttals from the country’s top scientific and medical organizations.
In April, the first half-gallons of milk from cows that ate no GMO feed rolled off Clover Sonoma’s production lines and right onto a metaphoric shelf shared with GMO-free kitty litter, salt and condoms.
The move did not go unnoticed by the industry or agricultural scientists.
The National Milk Producers Federation launched a “peel back the label” campaign this summer, aimed squarely at a growing list of dairy products like Clover’s GMO-free milk.
“It’s really trying to market a distinction without a difference,” said Jim Mulhern, president of the federation, whose members produce half the nation’s milk.
“It’s like unicorn-free milk,” said Alison L. Van Eenennaam, a UC Davis animal genomics scientist. “There aren’t any GMOs in milk anyway.”