Abbott: Request for Report on Genetically Engineered Ingredients
WHEREAS: Abbott Laboratories uses genetically modified (GMO) ingredients (from modified corn and soy) in some products in its nutritional lines, including its Similac Soy Isomil infant formula products.
The environmental and social impacts of GMOs and associated farming practices make them highly controversial. Accordingly, we believe our Company’s use of GMOs is a risk, to both our Company’s brand reputation and to the long-term security of our supply chain.
GMO labeling is gaining support among the American public across partisan lines, as citizens seek transparency about the ingredients in food. Vermont has passed a comprehensive GMO labeling law, and two Oregon counties and a Hawaii county approved cultivation bans; labeling laws in approved by Connecticut and Maine legislatures will trigger when other states follow suit. 64 countries, representing over half of the world’s population, have enacted GMO labeling laws or bans, including the European Union, China, Japan, Russia, and India. Abbott has removed GMOs from the infant formula it sells in the European Union.
According to a Reuters poll, 93% of consumers support GMO labeling, and the marketplace is responding. Whole Foods will label all GMOs in its stores by 2018, and several national brands have committed to removing GMOs.
Genetically engineered crops are contributing to several environmental concerns in the United States. The vast majority of GMOs in the US are designed to (1) survive toxic herbicides or (2) contain embedded insecticide. The use of these crops led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the US between 1996 and 2011, which has contributed to an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds, and increased the amount of herbicide found on produce (Benbrook 2012). To combat herbicide-resistance, new GMOs have been engineered for use with more toxic herbicides, such 2,4-D and dicamba.
Research has implicated GMOs in the rise of insecticide-resistance pests (Gassmann 2014), demonstrated the growing socio-economic impacts of GMO contamination (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2014), and suggested that pesticides used with GMOs may be contributing to the dramatic decline in monarch butterfly populations by killing milkweeds (Hartzler 2009; Pleasants 2012).
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors publish within six months, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, a report on genetically engineered ingredients contained in nutritional products sold by Abbott. This report should list Abbott product categories that contain GMOs and estimated portion of products in each category that contain GMOs, and discuss any actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate GMOs from its products, until and unless long-term studies show that the genetically engineered crops and associated farming practices are not harmful to the environment, the agriculture industry, or human or animal health.
SUPPORTING STATEMENT: This public issue is growing, as GMOs in Vermont will be labeled beginning in 2016, more legislation is proposed, and more toxic pesticides will be used with a new generation of GMOs. Abbott has not provided shareholders with sufficient information on this issue.