September 20, 2020

Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives

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Coca Cola Accepts Challenge to Commit to GMO Education

National Center for Public Policy Research Urges Coca-Cola to Conduct Public Education Campaign About Safety of GMOs

As Celebrities Such as Dr. Oz and Self-Appointed Food Police Such as the “Food Babe” Sow Discord over GMOs, Science Shows GMOs are Safe

Big Business Has Moral Obligation to Take Truth to the Public

Coca-Cola CEO Recognizes and Applauds National Center’s Work to Bring Sound Science to GMO Debate

Washington, DC – At last week’s annual meeting of Coca-Cola shareholders in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Center for Public Policy Research urged the beverage giant’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, to do far more to promote the safety and benefit of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as the food industry is under near-constant assault from ant-science activists who seek to demonize these ingredients.

A video of the exchange is here.

“The food and beverage industry has a moral obligation and a business incentive to confront anti-GMO activists by promoting the safety and promise of these high-yield foods,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “The attacks on GMO foods often come from elitists such as television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz and the self-appointed Food Babe, Vani Hari , who have used their respective platforms to spread junk science and fear. But their actions have real-world harm and large food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola have a duty to set the record straight.”

At the meeting, held April 29 in Atlanta, Danhof explained the scientific community agrees GM ingredients are safe and the actions of anti-GMO activists are causing human suffering. He stated:

Despite the fact that GMOs are mainstream agriculture, GMOs feed people more efficiently, GMO crops are more environment-friendly than conventional crops and there is a scientific consensus GMO foods are safe – activists still attack companies such as Coca-Cola for using GMOs in some of its products.

Last year, Scientific American reported that the delayed application of Vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice thanks to controversies stirred by anti-GMO activists had cost over 1.4 million life years in India alone since 2002. This is real human suffering and death.

Danhof went on to explain that the anti-GMO crowd has tricked much of the public into distrusting these ingredients. This increases the need for strong corporate action:

The anti-GMO attacks come from Americans who have likely never missed a meal in their lives. Their campaign against GMOs is unscientific, fear-based and inhumane, but they are winning. One ABC News poll showed 93 percent of Americans think the federal government should mandate GMO labeling – a tactic they hope will elevate GMOs with taboo products such as tobacco and alcohol.

As perhaps the most recognizable brand in the world, Coca-Cola has an opportunity, and indeed a duty, to do more to bridge the GMO information gap and educate consumers about the safety of GM products.

Danhof asked Mr. Kent to make Coca Cola’s health scientists, nutrition specialists and himself available to the American and international media to combat the unscientific activists and stand up for the promise of GMOs.

To read Danhof’s full statement, as prepared for delivery, click here.

Coca-Cola’s Kent replied:

First, we appreciate your question – question about technology, biotechnology, that you’re presenting, in a way a slightly different perspective than we have heard in the past. And we’ve- all of us at Coca-Cola, we firmly believe that there is – that the only way that we can combat some of these matters that you’ve just talked about is again, that golden triangle of government – not relying solely on government though, business, and civil society organizations like yours, public policy think-tanks like yours, coming together and talking about how we have more sound science, how we can have better science and how we can collaborate more to make sure that consumers are better educated, government officials are better educated and that we can have a consensus of view forward on how to deal with some of these major issues that you have outlined.

And many of our regulatory affairs executives and scientific executives are involved in those discussions and I’m very happy even to even re-commit them a very productive dialogue with organizations like yours. And I’m very happy to be also a part of those where it can serve a purpose.

“It is encouraging to hear an industry leader that is willing to push back against these anti-GMO activists,” said Danhof. “A whole lot of folks have bought into the fear campaign regarding high-yield produce, which is often financed by the organic food lobby. Corporate tepidness has played a part in allowing this misinformation campaign to gain so much momentum. As a perpetual target of these attacks, it is incumbent upon Coca-Cola’s leadership to be pro-active in the GMO debate.”

In 2014, National Center representatives spoke with many major food companies about doing more to engage the public in the debate over GMOs.

On three occasions, the National Center urged investors to reject unscientific shareholder resolutions concerning GMO labeling. After National Center representatives explained the safety and promise of GMOs, shareholders of Safeway, Monsanto and General Mills each rejected proposals regarding mandatory GMO-labeling.

“A little education goes a long way on the GMO issue,” said Danhof. “Since the other side’s arguments lack merit and are based only on fear, the public is quick to take to reasoned explanations that are fact-based and rooted in science. Someone just has to be in the public sphere continually making that case. I hope Coca-Cola and other food and beverage companies start taking that role more seriously.”

To read more of Danhof’s writings on GMOs, click here. You can also watch Danhof debate the GMO issue with liberal talk radio host Thom Hartmann here.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder meetings and work with big business. So far in 2014-15, National Center representatives have participated in 66 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues.

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. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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Starbucks Applauded for Standing Firm in Defense of GMOs

Free-Market Activist Group Urges International Coffee Giant to Reject Doing Business with Suppliers Working With Activists Opposing Company and Humanitarian Interests

Seattle, WA/Washington DC – At the annual meeting of Starbucks shareholders in Seattle Wednesday, the National Center for Public Policy Research applauded Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for standing firm against un-scientific, inhumane anti-GMO activists and requested that the coffee giant cleanse its supply chain of corporations that work with activists against Starbucks interests.

“While Starbucks executives fell short of promising to purge its supply chain of companies that are working hand-in-glove with anti-GMO activists pressuring Starbucks, if I were in the leadership of one of these companies, I would certainly reconsider our corporate stance,” said the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project Director, Justin Danhof, Esq.

At the meeting, Danhof asked Schultz, in part:

Just this month a coalition of activists working with various companies launched a campaign to force this Company to serve ONLY milk produced from cows that are not fed GMOs, without regard to the views of our Company’s customers or the fact that this Company already offers dairy milk free of bovine growth hormones and an organic soy milk alternative.

Some of the companies that are now working with those who are engaged in pressuring this Company to reject GMOs sell organic milk, coffee beans, paper supplies and other products that this company uses. Can we, the shareholders, be confident that this firm will avoid buying products from firms that are working with activists to pressure this company to work against sound science, against its interests, against the very real environmental benefits of GMOs and against the health interests of little children overseas?

Some of the companies engaged with Green America, the group pushing Starbucks to ban milk from cows that have eaten GMO crops, include Organic Valley, Larry’s Beans and Seventh Generation.

“The Starbucks executives are well versed in the GMO issue, and have sided with common sense,” said Danhof. “Earlier, when a MoveOn.org website petition threatened the company with a boycott unless it donated to a GMO labeling initiative in Washington, the company did not back down. For that, Starbucks deserves a lot of credit.”

Last week, Scientific American reported that the delayed application of Vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice thanks to controversies stirred by anti-GMO activists had cost over 1.4 million life years in India alone since 2002.

A magazine commentary further explained that “[t]he majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children. These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.”

“Anti-GMO activists have so demonized this wonderful technology that people are afraid to make use of it, even to save lives,” said Amy Ridenour , chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “As Scientific American reported, the company that figured out how to insert a gene from carrots into rice to allow rice to develop Vitamin A turned over all the financial interests from its discovery to a non-profit. It didn’t want people’s opposition to profit-making to get in the way of a lifesaving and sight-saving crop. But people still aren’t being saved because relatively wealthy American and European anti-GMO activists who have plenty of Vitamin A in their diets have frightened people in the Third World away from planting this rice. And who suffers the most? Children.”

“Starbucks has a reputation as a liberal company and we are a conservative group,” added Ridenour, “but we commend Starbucks. It is right to stand up to these hard-hearted activists and stick with the science and the potential of GMOs. While Third World lives are not directly saved specifically by the type of milk served at Starbucks stores, many may be saved if leading companies such as Starbucks stick to their guns and the world, noting this, comes to realize that GMOs, if we let them, can save many lives. Companies such as Starbucks are very influential.”

A video recording of the entire exchange between Justin Danhof, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead is on YouTube here, the question as prepared for delivery is here and a transcript of the Starbucks executives’ responses is here.

In January, Danhof attended the annual meeting of Monsanto shareholders on behalf of the National Center and spoke out against a shareholder proposal that tried to force that company to support mandatory GMO labeling.

In his remarks there, Danhof noted that:

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 and 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 National Center for Public Policy Research is a Starbucks shareholder.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist program. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 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 more important public policy issues. Today’s Starbucks meeting was the National Center’s fifth attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.

In less than three months in 2014, the Free Enterprise Project’s work has garnered over 1,000 media citations and has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, the Fox Business Network, Rush Limbaugh, Business Insider, the Washington Times, the Guardian, the Daily Caller, MSNBC, the Daily Mail and many hundreds more.

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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