Our Use of Corn
Why not organic corn?
GMOs-Not Supporting Genetically Modified Corn
We’ve been working for over 20 years to lower the environmental impact of our packaging, so we know there are no simple solutions. Using plastic made from corn was not a decision we made lightly.
PLA can be made from a variety of sugar sources including beets, sugar cane, and tapioca. In the US, the only maker of PLA uses corn as the sugar source. We wanted to ensure that this non-food use of corn would not contribute to higher food prices. Because the NatureWorks facility can use only a tiny fraction of the national corn supply, the corn used for our packaging will not have any effect on corn prices. Moreover, the use of corn for plastics is a temporary measure. Sometime in the next few years, it will be economically possible to convert non-food plants, such as switchgrass, into plastic, and we will move on from corn at that time.
We also had concerns about the way corn is grown in the U.S.—in particular the use of genetically modified (GM) seed and the widespread use of chemicals. We didn’t want to contribute to these types of farming practices. That’s why we worked with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and their Working Landscapes Certificate (WLC) program. The goal of Working Landscapes is to reduce the environmental impact of corn and other crops grown for industrial purposes, such as plastic and ethanol production.
Our arrangement with Working Landscapes does two things. First, it pays farmers who agree to grow the corn we need according to very strict sustainable production standards. Second, it ensures that non-GMO corn (corn not genetically modified) is used. It’s a win-win situation for farmers and the environment, and we hope other companies follow our lead.
This is an “offset” program. This means that the amount of corn produced using sustainable corn production practices (through the WLC program) will be equivalent to the amount used for Stonyfield’s packaging needs, although the corn itself may or may not be in the final Stonyfield packaging. Why?
If we were to wait until the day when PLA can be made from non-corn inputs, we would postpone, for years, our using packaging with almost half the climate impact and greatly reduced human toxicity for years. We chose not to wait for the perfect day but instead to take a big step forward on our sustainable packaging journey.