The controversy over genetically modified food has resulted in large-scale market and consumer backlash, which together pose material risks for investors of companies using GMOs.
Abbott Laboratories Shareholders Call for Action on Genetically Modified Ingredients
Shareholders Representing Over $2.2 Billion Vote for Voluntary GMO Labeling
Shareholders at Abbott Laboratories’ annual meeting sent a message to management and the Board of Directors that they are concerned about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the company’s Similac infant formula. The second-year resolution, filed by As You Sow, was supported by 6.2% of shareholders, representing over $2.2 billion in shares.
Response to New York Times Op-Ed
On Feb 2, 2014, the New York Times published an opinion article titled “We Need GMO Wheat”. As You Sow has published an open letter to the editor responding to the article’s misguided premise and factual inaccuracies.
The assertion that the U.S. needs GMO wheat (“We Need GMO Wheat”, Opinion, 2/2/14) could not be further from the truth. GMO crops covering a majority of America’s heartland have created a food security crisis, increased toxic herbicide use, and have contaminated our food system leading to long-term negative health impacts. Recognizing the long-term environmental and financial risks, 64 countries now require labeling of GMOs.
GMO monocrops are susceptible to blights like “Goss’s wilt”, a “tidal wave washing across the Corn Belt” (“A Disease Cuts Corn Yields”, 9/30/13). A 2013 MIT peer-reviewed study demonstrated that the herbicide Roundup, which GMO crops are engineered to tolerate, is “linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers.” This toxic chemical is being aerially sprayed on millions of acres of “Roundup Ready” GMO crops and farm-adjacent communities. Micro-doses of this endocrine-disruptor are found in our food supply, including infant formula and children’s cereals.
GMO crops have not delivered on their promise of ending world hunger. They have created record profits for a handful of seed/chemical companies and left the rest of us exposed to toxic chemicals and vulnerable to food shortages. We do not need GMO wheat, what we need is a policy that supports sustainable agricultural for generations to come.
Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Associate
Andrew Behar, CEO
As You Sow
Cheerios Go GMO-Free
General Mills has announced that it has stopped sourcing genetically modified organisms for its original Cheerios breakfast cereal
As You Sow engaged with General Mills in April 2013, requesting that it reformulate its iconic Cheerios product, which contained GMOs. The decision to transition this flagship brand is heartening, but it’s just the first step for shareholders. The company says that only Original Cheerios will be GMO-free, while the other 12 Cheerio flavors and other cereal brands will not – despite the fact that they produce GMO-free versions for sale in the 64 countries that label or ban genetically engineered food.
As You Sow has long warned investors that a lack of transparency in food labeling is a material risk to brand reputation. The first General Mills shareholder resolution on GMOs was filed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2000, and a recent consumer campaign by Green America added even more pressure.
With polls showing public support for GMO labeling at 93%, many companies are failing to recognize consumer preferences in the marketplace. As You Sow has filed another shareholder resolution with General Mills, urging the company to continue the trend of reformulation. Shareholders will vote in the proposal in September 2014.
The genetic modification or engineering of plants and animals has become a significant economic and environmental issue. As investor advocates, we are concerned that many companies are exposed to material financial risk from the environmental, food security, and public health issues associated with GMOs.
Currently, 85% of corn, 93% of soybeans, and 82% of cotton in the U.S. is genetically engineered. It is estimated that 75% of processed foods in supermarkets contain GMOs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency do not conduct or require long-term safety studies on the environmental or health impacts of GMOs. Independent researchers, however, have documented the increasing environmental impacts and negligible benefits of genetically modified crops, and the significant and growing consumer preference to avoid them.
As You Sow has helped monitor economic risk in three reports:
- Monsanto and Genetic Engineering: Risk for Investors
- Risky Business: Financial Risks that Genetically Engineered Foods Pose to Kraft Inc and Shareholders
- Genetically Engineered Food and Financial Risks
In the wake of the defeat of Washington state’s ballot measure to require GMO labeling, As You Sow filed resolutions asking the top corporate donors to the opposition of the California GMO labeling ballot initiative to refrain from using corporate funds to influence political elections. Investors note that many of the companies that contributed to defeat California’s Prop 37 and other GMO-labeling measures experienced significant consumer backlash and were the subject of consumer boycotts. As You Sow filed resolutions at E.l DuPont de Nemours and Dow Chemical Company, who combined to spend over $11.2 million to defeat the California and Washington GMO labeling initiatives.
In 2013, As You Sow filed a shareholder resolution with Abbott Laboratories asking for removal of GMO ingredients from the company’s infant formulas. A similar resolution was co-filed with DuPont, a company that As You Sow has been engaging for more than a decade on this issue.
Additionally, Whole Foods‘ commitment to require mandatory GMO labeling for products sold in its stores marks a second victory in As You Sow’s decade-long engagement with the company. Read more about our work with Whole Foods and other companies below.
Read our FAQs about GMOs to learn more about possible risks and pertinent scientific studies.