October 23, 2019

General Mills Investors Reject Proposal Demanding Company Remove GM Ingredients from Products

Press Release from National Center for Public Policy Research:

Famous Food Brand Urged to Promote Benefits and Promises of GMOs

National Center Marks Third Major Victory Against Anti-GMO Movement in 2014

Washington, DC/Minneapolis MN – At today’s annual meeting of General Mills shareholders, the company’s investors heeded the National Center for Public Policy Research’s advice in rejecting a resolution that would have forced the food giant to remove genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) from its products.

Yesterday, the National Center issued a press release highlighting the high costs and pseudoscience of the proposal and urged investors to reject it.

“The public policy debate over GMOs is riddled with misinformation and highly-sensationalized arguments,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Today’s meeting shows that fact-based scientific consensus can trump emotional appeals that are not tethered to science or reason. Anti-GMO leaders have done a good job of scaring many Americans into thinking GMOs are harmful just by saying so. But the overwhelming body of scientific evidence proves them wrong.”

At the meeting, Danhof spoke out against Proposal 5 that was submitted by Harriett Crosby of Cabin John, Maryland – a descendant of one of General Mills founders. The resolution called for the company to “adopt a policy of removing genetically engineered crops, organisms, or ingredients from products sold or manufactured by the company,” and supported that request by claiming that “genetic engineering involves significant risks to the environment, food security, and public health.”

In delivering her proposal, the proponent claimed that “we are killing ourselves” with GMOs. Danhof replied, in part:

Anti-GMO activists, such as Proposal Five’s proponent, are part of a wide-scale, anti-scientific effort to scare Americans away from perfectly healthy foods and life-saving technological agricultural advancements…

The anti-GMO attacks come from Americans and western Europeans who have likely never missed a meal in their lives. Their campaigns against GMOs are unscientific, fear-based and inhumane.

GMO foods are a great gift to mankind. They lower food costs, allow farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way, and, as Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have pointed out, show great promise for ending world hunger and malnutrition.

A tally of the preliminary vote at the meeting showed that more than 97 percent of General Mills shareholders voted against the proposal.

“These would-be food police wield a powerful weapon – fear. However, General Mills investors proved that facts and sound science can overcome irrational emotion,” said Danhof. “By removing GM ingredients from original Cheerios back in January, the company perhaps put a target on its back for GMO opponents to exploit, but today these activists were soundly rejected.

In response to Danhof’s comments, General Mills CEO Ken Powell said the company stands by the overwhelming research and studies that show GMOs are safe, and also touted the environmental and humanitarian benefits which they hold. And, in response to yet another anti-GMO activist in the meeting, Powell affirmed that the company would keep GM ingredients in its remaining Cheerios cereals.

“By declaring publicly that General Mills will keep GM ingredients in its remaining Cheerios line, this signals to me that the company realizes that removing GM ingredients from original Cheerios was perhaps a mistake,” said Danhof. “Powell also pointed out that consumers who wish to avoid GMOs have the choice to buy organic – and consumer choice is what will drive company decisions – not irrational food police.

Today’s meeting marks the third occasion this year in which company investors have sided with the National Center concerning a GMO proposal.

In January, the National Center urged Monsanto investors to reject a shareholder proposal from well-known anti-GMO groups that would have forced the company to work directly with the FDA towards mandatory GMO-labeling. At Monsanto’s annual shareholder meeting, the proposal was defeated with more than 95 percent of the company’s shareholders voting against it.

Then, at July’s annual meeting of Safeway investors, the National Center spoke out against a proposal that called for the grocery giant to label its foods containing GMOs. That proposal was defeated with approximately 90 percent of the shareholders voting it down.

In addition to countering pseudoscience, anti-GMO resolutions, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is also urging food companies to do much more to defend their products and the promise of GMOs.

At today’s meeting, General Mills CEO Powell said that the company stands behinds it products and the promise of GMOs and that the company does a good job of relaying this information. But he also said that he would support a consistent federal labeling notation for non-GMO foods, so consumers who want those specific items can easily identify them.

Other food company CEOs have also signaled their intention to increase awareness of the benefits of GMOs.

Notably, after Danhof urged Monsanto executives to have the company’s scientists engage the public and explain the safety and benefits of GM foods, the Wall Street Journal noted that Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant agreed with Danhof, saying that “it’s a really good idea” and that the company “need[s] to do more to more” to win the GMO debate.

In May, Danhof also attended the Kraft Foods and Pepsi shareholder meetings to urge those major name-brand companies to do more to combat the fear-mongering and deceptive narratives of anti-GMO special interests.

At Kraft’s meeting in Glenview, Illinois, Danhof asked Kraft’s CEO to “[e]xplain how much GMO labeling laws would increase food prices, explain the environmental benefits of GMOs and explain the potential life-saving benefits they hold for third-world consumers … we firmly believe it would be strongly in the company’s best interest – and the public’s best interest – if Kraft stepped up its efforts to educate the American public about them.”

Danhof noted following the meeting that Kraft executives agreed that the company must do more to engage and win this public policy debate. “[Kraft CEO Tony Vernon] noted that GMOs are in so much of what everyone in the meeting has been eating for the past 25 years, and are perfectly safe. He pledged that in the coming months, the industry and Kraft would be much more vocal and aggressive in speaking about the many benefits of GMOs,” said Danhof

Similarly, following the Pepsi meeting, Danhof reported Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi saying the company planned “to use its resources to work with the Food and Drug Administration to get the word out about high-yield crops. She believes the FDA has a responsibility and a duty to educate the American people about food ingredients and safety. She also recognized the powerful role the National Center can play in public education through our broad outreach efforts and engagement with other food and beverage corporations.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market corporate activist group. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many other important public policy issues. Tomorrow’s meeting will mark the 52nd shareholder meeting of 2014 for the National Center.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Stand Up for the Promise of GMOs, Free-Market Group Says at Monsanto Shareholder Meeting

Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research today will speak at the annual shareholder meeting of Monsanto to counteract the message of radical activists who for the last year have planned a rally at the meeting to promote their anti-GMO agenda.

Holding the proxy for National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour, a Monsanto shareholder, National Center Free Enterprise Director Justin Danhof will urge Monsanto shareholders to vote against Shareholder Proposal One . The proposal is intended to force Monsanto to work toward mandatory labeling of genetically-modified foods, commonly referred to as GMOs.

The meeting begins at 1:30 pm Central time in St. Louis.

Danhof will remind shareholders that “GMO foods are a great gift to mankind. They lower food costs, allow farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way, and, as Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have pointed out, show great promise for ending world hunger and malnutrition.”

Danhof will add: “Some people fear GMO foods because they can’t tell the difference between them and the more traditionally-grown foods, but fear isn’t always rational. When it isn’t, we shouldn’t let it make our decisions for us.”

“It’s easy for relatively well-fed Americans to overlook the tremendous promise of GMOs as a tool to combat malnutrition and hunger worldwide,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of National Center for Public Policy Research and Monsanto shareholder. “Yet the demonization of genetically-modified foods could have a tragic result if it stops or slows the use of seeds that improve agricultural yields and nutrition in the Third World. GMOs are even more environment-friendly than traditional farming. As GMOs are safe, why surrender the benefits?”

“Consumers already have a right to buy foods labeled ‘GMO free,'” said Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division. “A mandatory labeling requirement would not only impose unnecessary costs on industry and consumers, but it would send the message that all sorts of healthy foods are dangerous, when in fact they are not. Activists should be subject to ‘truth in labeling’ requirements — the mandatory GMO labeling campaign is not about some amorphous ‘right to know’ but about a larger, more sinister effort to demonize Monsanto and other companies that use technology in agriculture.”

“Organic food companies, or any company for that matter, are welcome to label their products as ‘GMO free,’ and many do,” Stier continued. “But mandatory labeling of safe products represents a classic case of rent-seeking. This is an effort to assert political influence at the expense of consumers and responsible farmers for the sole benefit of those seeking the labels.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Monsanto is not a donor.
Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Free-Market Activists Confront Junk Science Anti-GMO Radicals at Monsanto

National Center for Public Policy Research Counters Liberal Shareholder Proposal to Require Mandatory GMO Labeling – as Liberal Activists Derisively Call the National Center’s Scientific Position the “Fox News” View of GMOs

World’s Largest Seed Company Urged to Do More to Combat Radicals With Scientific Experts as Unruly Crowd Outside Seeks to “Occupy Monsanto”

St. Louis, MO / Washington DC – As liberal radicals protested GMOs outside of Monsanto’s headquarters, inside the building, a free-market activist with the National Center for Public Policy Research confronted junk science leaders who demonize GMOs at today’s annual meeting of Monsanto shareholders in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Despite the best efforts of anti-GMO activists, Monsanto’s shareholders unequivocally agreed with our position that mandatory GMO labeling is anti-free market, anti-common sense and, more importantly, anti-science,” said the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s Monsanto shareholder meeting.

Danhof spoke out against a shareholder proposal submitted by anti-GMO activist Adam Eidinger, (according to media reports, the former co-owner of two Washington, D.C. hemp stores that were forced to close in 2012 after federal officials raided the stores leading to multiple arrests) which would have required Monsanto to work with the FDA to develop and require mandatory GMO labeling guidelines.

An audio recording of the proposal’s presentation and rebuttal is available here.

Danhof countered this fear-based proposal, by saying, in part:

This proposal is unnecessary for Monsanto’s corporate purposes and unnecessary for health purposes. GMOs are mainstream agriculture. GMOs feed people more efficiently. GMO crops are more environment-friendly than conventional crops. Numerous scientific bodies have determined that GMO foods are safe, including:

• The National Academy of Sciences
• The American Association for the Advancement of Science
• The American Medical Association
• The Royal Society of Medicine
• The World Health Organization

Literally hundreds of studies have confirmed that GMOs are safe… GMO foods are a great gift to mankind. They lower food costs, allow farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way, and, as Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have pointed out, show great promise for ending world hunger and malnutrition.

The proposal can be found on pages 76-77 of Monsanto’s proxy statement.

Danhof’s full statement against the proposal, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The proposal failed, with more than 95 percent of company shareholders voting against it.

Prior to the meeting, the National Center issued a press release urging shareholder to reject the anti-GMO proposal.

“If progressive activists really think GMOs are causing the spreading of massive diseases and widespread health concerns, why are folks such as Mr. Eidenger only asking that these products be labeled? If GMOs pose grave risks to human health, shouldn’t they be banned altogether? If the science backed their scary claims, I would lead the charge to ban GMOs,” said Danhof. “To bad for the agitators, GMOs are perfectly safe.”

“One possible explanation for the disconnect between the anti-GMO claims and the science that unequivocally states GMOs are healthy for human consumption, is, money. The organic food lobby has been spending large sums to support GMO labeling efforts,” said Danhof. “While some of the anti-GMO crowd may be true-believers who have been swindled by hack scientists, it is likely much of the opposition to GMOs comes from the organic food industry which seeks to improve its sales and profits.”

In response to Danhof’s comments, the shareholder who presented Mr. Eidinger’s proposal complained that the organic food lobby wasn’t donating enough to his cause.

Also in response to Danhof’s comments, Lisa Lindsley of Sumofus.org attacked the National Center’s position as the “Fox News” position on GMOs.

“It is news to me if Fox News has a position one way or the other on mandatory GMO labeling. I have never been a guest on the Fox News Channel, I’ve never worked for Fox News, nor do I have any affiliation whatsoever with that news organization,” said Danhof. “But what Ms. Lindsley did was show the immaturity of the anti-GMO activists who make ad hominem attacks when confronted with stubborn facts that counter their pre-ordained positions.”

“At today’s meeting, anti-GMO activists also failed to confront the stubborn fact that GMO crops often use less land and natural resources than traditional farming methods, while producing a greater yield. Since liberal elites claim to be the champion of the poor and the environment, it makes very little sense why they seek to quell GMOs,” said Danhof.

At today’s meeting, Danhof urged Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant to take a more aggressive stance against the anti-GMO messaging machine.

“GMOs may be the key to ending world hunger, and every serious scientific body in the world to study the issue has concluded that they are perfectly safe for human consumption, yet the anti-GMO, junk-science campaigns have been winning the public policy debate. Despite running a morally bankrupt platform, the anti-GMO factions have scored profound victories in the public relations battlefield specifically because companies such as Monsanto are often unwilling to take on the rabble and stand up for its products,” noted Danhof.

In fact, one ABC News poll found that a whopping 93 percent of Americans think the federal government should require GMO labeling.

Danhof asked Grant, in part:

My question: Would you consider asking Monsanto scientists – not all of them, just the ones with an interest who would be good at it – to go on talk radio shows, across the country, not just in places with labeling debates, explain the issues and take questions from the public?

Your critics want transparency. What could be more transparent than actual Monsanto scientists interacting with the public?

Danhof’s full question on Monsanto’s public relations, as prepared for delivery, can be read here, viewed on YouTube here and a transcript can be read here.

Grant replied that he liked the idea, saying “coaching accepted.” He noted for a long time the company didn’t see that it was Monsanto’s place to be involved in public policy debates regarding GMOs and this is a reason it lags in many opinion polls. But, that going forward, the company will aggressively engage stakeholders and the public and to confront anti-science activists.

“I was very impressed by Mr. Grant’s admission of past public relations failures and dedication to fixing those errors. I understand that the prevailing mantra of the corporate business world is to remain as risk averse as possible, but Monsanto has nothing left to lose on this issue. The public is so ill-informed on the science and benefits of GMOs, that nine in ten Americans have been lured into the opposition’s camp. By sending scientists with facts to the airwaves, the company can counter the irrationality of the fear mongers, and get back to work trying to help cure world hunger,” said Danhof. “Monsanto is the market leader in GMO seeds, and, as such, it must steel its spine against the anti-science crowd and win back the public’s support for its important work in our growing world with ever more mouths to feed.”

In response to Danhof’s comments about Monsanto’s public relations, the individual who presented the mandatory GMO labeling proposal called Danhof’s comments “rich” and claimed – in full tin hat conspiracy theory mode – that Monsanto has been in full control of the media for decades.

“Today’s meeting made one thing abundantly clear to me: when confronted with fact-based arguments, anti-GMO activists have absolutely no coherent response,” said Danhof. “Their default position is to attack the other side personally, and avoid the issues. I guess that’s what one is left with when they are defending a morally and scientifically bankrupt position.”

Despite the proposal’s failure today, the anti-GMO movement has effectively scared many Americans into believing that GMOs are a true evil to society and danger to human health.

Earlier in January, Jeff Stier, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Risk Analysis Division responded to a petition by lawmakers and hundreds of anti-GMO organizations that urged President Obama to require labeling for GMO foods. Stier remarked:

Genetically modified foods, already consumed widely by American consumers, haven’t made anyone sick. Further, requiring labels would add all sorts of expenses that will make healthy foods more expensive.

Organic food companies, or any company, for that matter, are welcome to label their products as ‘GM free,’ and many do. But mandatory labeling of safe products represents a classic case of rent-seeking; this is an effort to assert political influence at the expense of consumers and responsible farmers for the sole benefit of those seeking the labels.

Danhof attended today’s meeting as proxy for National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour, a Monsanto shareholder.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Monsanto is not a donor.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Liberal Groups Demand Obama Raise Food Prices

Liberal Groups, Democratic Members of Congress and Organic Food Industry Present President Obama with Demands for New Food Industry Labeling Regulations

New Regulations, If Adopted, Would Raise Prices on Healthy Food, Think-Tank Says

“Mandatory labeling of GM foods fails every justification for requiring them: scientific, economic, legal, and most of all, common sense,” says risk expert Jeff Stier. “[This is] for the sole benefit of those seeking the labels.”

New York, NY – Four U.S. lawmakers and 200 organizations, many with a financial stake in the outcome, today delivered a letter to President Obama demanding new federal labeling regulations on food products with genetically-modified ingredients.

To follow is a statement in response by New York City-based Jeff Stier, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Risk Analysis Division:

Similar measures have been defeated directly by voters in crunchy states like California and Washington for good reason.

Mandatory labeling of GM foods fails every justification for requiring them: scientific, economic, legal, and most of all, common sense.

Genetically modified foods, already consumed widely by American consumers, haven’t made anyone sick. Further, requiring labels would add all sorts of expenses that will make healthy foods more expensive.

Organic food companies, or any company, for that matter, are welcome to label their products as “GM free,” and many do. But mandatory labeling of safe products represents a classic case of rent-seeking; this is an effort to assert political influence at the expense of consumers and responsible farmers for the sole benefit of those seeking the labels.

If consumers wish to purchase GM-free foods, they can buy products labeled as such. Consumers already do have a right to know.

Numerous liberal organizations signed the letter, including Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and the Environmental Working Group. Free-market and middle-of-the road groups do not appear to be represented.

Participating companies included Ben and Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, Amy’s Kitchen, Eden Foods, Odin Brewing and others.

Members of Congress participating in the demand for new regulations were U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

A copy of the letter and signers can be found here.

A Reuters article about the group’s demands can be found here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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