21 May 2015 Fast Food Giant McDonald’s is Pressured to Promote Sound Science Regarding Food Safety and Potential of GMOs
National Center for Public Policy Research Presents Shareholder Resolution Saying Corporate America Faces Grave Risks if it Disengages from Food Safety Debate
Nation’s Leading Burger Chain Deflects Responsibility – Suggests Government, Not Private Sector, Should Educate Consumers About Food and Health Issues
National Center Calls Response of McDonald’s “Inane”
Oak Brook, IL / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, the National Center for Public Policy Research 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 calling on McDonald’s for an increase in 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 company’s proxy statement.
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 here.
A preliminary vote showed the National Center/Amy Ridenour proposal did not receive enough votes to pass.
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. So far in 2014-15, National Center representatives have participated in 68 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.
Background Information on GMOs:
Numerous scientific bodies have determined that GMO foods are safe, including: The National Academy of Sciences (“no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population”), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (“the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe”), the American Medical Association (“bioengineered foods have been consumed for… 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature”), the Royal Society of Medicine (“There is no reason to doubt the safety of foods made from GM ingredients that are currently available, nor to believe that genetic modification makes foods inherently less safe than their conventional counterparts”) and the World Health Organization (“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved”).
The European Union spent ten years and hundreds of millions of Euros to exhaustively examine GMOs, determining: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” Scientific American reported: “the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes. The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.”