Think Tank Pressures McDonald's to Educate Consumers about GMOsFri, 22 May 2015 10:11:12 CDT
Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research
At the annual shareholder meeting of McDonald's in Oak Brook, Illinois, the National Center for Public Policy Research Thursday presented a shareholder resolution urging the worldwide burger chain to increase its efforts to educate consumers about the safety and benefits linked to the use of genetically modified organisms in its products. The company's management, however, disavowed any responsibility in educating the public about its products.
"The reluctance of McDonald’s to defend GM foods highlights a major reason why the public is so ill-informed about this issue," said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. "Relying on the government to educate consumers is a sure-fire way to ensure the public remains ignorant. The government's responsibility for food inspection and safety is fine, but when it comes to educating the public, its track record is abysmal."
Danhof also observed demonstrators urging McDonald's to increase its lowest wage to $15 per hour, noting the demonstrators had luxurious coach buses and expensive signage.
"It looked to me like a classic case of astroturf," said Danhof. "Perhaps if liberal governments and municipalities hadn't already artificially raised their minimum wage to prices not dictated by market forces, these demonstrators would have been on the job somewhere rather than serving as a mouthpiece for Big Labor."
At the meeting, Danhof presented a shareholder proposal, submitted by National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour. He noted:
Our proposal asks the company to defend its products and promote the safety and benefit of Genetically Modified Organisms. Companies whose products may contain GMOs, such as McDonald's, are harmed by the public's ignorance on the issue.
With more than 2,000 global scientific studies on genetically engineered foods, the evidence is clear; GMOs are perfectly safe. The debate is over. Despite this scientific consensus, anti-GMO activists... continue to sow fear and doubt. Their actions are ignorant and inhumane. Polling data shows that nearly four in ten Americans are misinformed about GMO safety and more than nine in ten are not aware of the unnecessary cost and unscientific rationale of GMO labeling. That ignorance harms the company and the developing world where malnutrition is sometimes exacerbated by resistance to GMO technology.
To read Danhof's full statement, as prepared for delivery, click here.
The National Center's proposal pointed out the humanitarian need for advanced technologies to boost worldwide agricultural output, stating:
According to the World Health Programme, approximately 805 million people do not have enough food to eat. Lack of proper nutrition is responsible for 45 percent of the deaths worldwide in children under five... according to the World Health Organization, "the development of GM organisms (GMOs) offers the potential for increased agricultural productivity or improved nutritional value that can contribute directly to enhancing human health and development."
GMO foods are a great gift to mankind. They lower food costs, allow farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way and show great promise for ending world hunger and malnutrition. The Company should be more pro-active in delivering that positive message of GMOs.
The National Center's proposal is available on page 50 of the proxy statement issued by McDonald's. Click here to read.
The board of directors of McDonald's opposed the proposal, by stating,
The issues raised in the proposal are complex, and reach far beyond McDonald's role as a purchaser of food products to implement. The Board believes education efforts and reporting in this regard should be the responsibility of scientific, regulatory and government agencies... We believe that it is not the Company's role to educate the American people on the benefits of genetically modified ingredients and the potential of genetically modified crops to alleviate worldwide hunger.
"This is perhaps the most inane, tepid statement ever issued by a corporate board," said Danhof. "McDonald's is one of the most recognizable food brands in the world. With those trillion-plus meals served comes responsibility. And when it comes to the issue of GMOs and worldwide hunger, McDonald's has a humane responsibility. As the world's population continues to climb, and malnutrition and death result due to a lack of adequate food resources, I hope the McDonald's board of directors may some day realize and make amends for their decision to sit on the sidelines of the GMO debate."
In April, Danhof attended the annual meeting of Coca-Cola shareholders in Atlanta, Georgia and similarly urged the beverage giant to increase its efforts to promote sound science in general and GMOs in particular. In reply, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent agreed that the food and beverage industry has an important role stating, "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."
A video of the exchange between Danhof and Kent is available by clicking here.
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.
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 by clicking here.
A preliminary vote showed the National Center/Amy Ridenour proposal did not receive enough votes to pass.
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