| WTF News |
With public pressure mounting over the safety of GMO foods, Tuesday could become a pivotal moment for opponents of genetically modified crops. The biotech industry has largely followed the lead of Monsanto Company, who has been the leader in the sector for two decades now. Tuesday’s shareholder meeting at the company’s St. Louis campus has raised the stakes around the debate as investors will consider two resolutions related to the risks to profitability seen developing for Monsanto in light of the increased opposition to GMO crops.

St. Louis Business Journal
The separate proposals — coming from two shareholders — call on the $14.8 billion company to work with the Food and Drug Administration on food labeling guidelines, and to assess the impact of seed contamination of non-genetically modified crops. Monsanto’s board opposes both measures, according to its Dec. 9 proxy statement.

The first was submitted by Washington, D.C.-based activist Adam Eidinger, who holds 75 shares. His proposal, which calls on Monsanto to develop food labeling guidelines with the FDA, suggests that foods be labeled if 0.9 percent or more of their makeup is from genetic engineering.

“Americans have the right to know what they are eating,” the proposal states.

The second proposal is by California shareholder John Harrington of Harrington Investments, who holds 30 shares. That proposal calls on Monsanto to assess financial risks associated with crop contamination, monitoring and removal.

(He submitted a similar proposal that failed last year; 7.3 percent of shareholders voted in favor of it.)

In its proxy statement, Monsanto said it supports voluntary labeling but believes mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients “could confuse and mislead consumers.”

But according to Eidinger, his proposal is based on a “simple business argument” that food labeling is in the company’ best interest. “If you’re looking at Monsanto being viable in the long term, they need to never shy away from standing by their products,” he said. “The more you hide something the more people think something is wrong with it.”

Occupy Monsanto resolution on labeling and transparency

Occupy Monsanto

The Monsanto Board shall prepare a report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, assessing any material financial risks or operational potential impacts on the Company in order to:

  • Work with the FDA to develop food labeling guidelines for American consumers that discloses whether genetic engineering was used to produce the food;
  • Work with the FDA to develop a standard threshold of 0.9% or higher for foods created with genetic engineering;
  • Analyze the inclusion of U.S. patent numbers on American food labels where patented biotechnology was used to produce the food;

Harrington Investments on environmental risks and public health

Harrington Investments

RESOLVED: The Monsanto board shall prepare a report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, assessing actual and potential material financial risks or operational impacts on the Company related to these GMO issues, including:

  • Seed contamination of non-GMO crops, including costs of seed replacement, crop and production losses and clean up, decontamination and continued testing of affected seeds;
  • On-going buffer zone control, including production acreage losses and on-going maintenance required to secure or maintain access to contamination-sensitive markets,
  • Crop, production, and post-harvest losses and associated costs of market rejections, including temporary or permanent market losses resulting from GMO contamination;
  • Loss of organic or other third-party certification due to GMO contamination and any costs associated with additional, record-keeping, testing or surveillance required to regain certification or retain certification on impacted operations;
  • Removal and destruction of contaminated GMO plants;
  • Soil contamination and on-going related mitigation and remediation costs; and
  • Damage to farmers’ reputations, livelihood, and standing in the community.

The report shall also discuss the impact of related public policies on our customers and consumers, and shall be available by July 1, 2014.

Past resolutions

The following resolution in early 2013 was seen as progress over the 2012 initiative where Monsanto executives prevented the same two groups from achieving substantive discussion.

Jan 2013 STLtoday.com

Monsanto shareholders voted down a proposal Thursday that would have forced the biotech seed giant to report on how its genetically modified products might affect organic farmers.

Only 7 percent of votes cast by shareholders were in favor of the proposal, the Creve Coeur-based company said Thursday.

Monsanto had opposed the proposal, which would have required the company to make a report on the financial impact of the unintentional introduction of GMO seeds into organic farms.

Monsanto’s ‘unsustainable’ path

IB Times

“Monsanto’s business model is based on keeping us in the dark, keeping shareholders in the dark, and other stakeholders and consumers,” said Harrington research analyst Tracy Geraghty during a media briefing on Monday. “The company has spent hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars over the years in legal fights, campaigns and lobbying expenses, fighting against disclosing these risks in operations and products.”

“Basic economics tells us that this is not a sustainable model,” she continued.

Monsanto has set aside $271 million for environmental and litigation liabilities, according to its latest annual report, though it’s unclear if these litigation expenses are related to its GMO work. (The company doesn’t mention any GMO-related lawsuits specifically.) The $56 billion market-cap company is often viewed as the corporate poster child for the use of GMO seeds. It has lobbied vigorously against mandatory GMO labelling, a regime now in force in most European countries.

Harrington Investment’s proposal seems doomed to failure, even though the investment advisor says hundreds of Monsanto shareholders have indicated they’d support the measure. John Harrington held only 30 shares of Monsanto stock as of August 8, 2013, according to Monsanto’s 2013 proxy statement.

Monsanto’s board of directors urged voters to kill the Harrington proposal. The company said it already reports material financial risks in its disclosures, as required by securities rules, meaning that a GMO-specific report would be “redundant.”


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