Shareholders sent a strong message to Abbott Laboratories over concerns about the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the company’s Similac baby formula. A second-year resolution filed by As You Sow in favor of GMO labeling earned the support of 6.7% of shareholders, representing $2.2 billion in shares.
The vote reflects increasing investor worries about the potential risk of GMO ingredients. Peer-reviewed scientific research has demonstrated that GMO crops can lead to increased pesticide use, crop blights, and risks to public health. GMOs are labeled or banned in 64 countries. Recently, Vermont passed a comprehensive GMO labeling law, and several other U.S. states have GMO labeling ballot initiatives scheduled for upcoming elections.
Earlier this year, pressure from As You Sow and other concerned parties helped achieve a significant food safety victory when General Mills agreed to reformulate its original Cheerios cereal to be completely GMO-free. But there is still a long way to go as other General Mills cereals will continue to contain GMOs. We have filed another resolution with General Mills urging them to continue phasing out GMOs from their products until and unless long-term testing proves them safe.
With polls showing 93% of Americans in favor, GMO labeling in the United States is inevitable. Refusing to remove or label GMOs is a material risk to brand reputation, as companies are essentially telling consumers they don’t deserve to know what’s in their food. We will continue working with shareholders and advocates to make 2014 a breakthrough year for health and safety in food.
Read more about our work on GMOs on our GMO page.