Abbott Laboratories shareholders reject proposal to remove GMOs from infant formula

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Infant formula, Genetically modified food, Genetically modified organism

Genetically-modified soy and corn are used in some Similac infant formula products, according to As You Sow.
Genetically-modified soy and corn are used in some Similac infant formula products, according to As You Sow.
An Abbott Laboratories shareholder proposal to remove genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) from its natural products - including its Similac infant formula range - has been rejected, the company has revealed.

Last Friday (26 April 2013), Abbott shareholders voted on whether the manufacturer should adopt a policy of only sourcing ingredients that have not been genetically-engineered.

The resolution was filed by As You Sow, a non-profit organisation that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy.

According to As You Sow, Abbott Laboratories uses genetically-modified corn and soy in its popular Similac brand infant formula range. It urged Abbott to remove GMOs from its natural products including its Similac range “until long-term safety testing proves GMOs are safe.”

Abbott is due to announce the final result of the vote in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing later this week. However, an Abbott spokesperson revealed to DairyReporter.com that As You Sow's proposal was unsuccessful.

“….based on a preliminary report of the inspectors of election the shareholder proposal on genetically-modified ingredients was defeated – it received the support of approximately 3% of votes cast,” ​said the spokesperson.

Availability of non-GMO ingredient supply

Coming up to the vote, As You Sow expected “strong support for the resolution, as investors encourage Abbott to get ahead of regulatory risk, improve its brand reputation, increase its association with health and caring for its customers, and fulfill its slogan – a promise for life.”

“Removing GMOs from nutritional products like infant formula can only benefit Abbott,”​ said As You Sow CEO, Andrew Behar.

“As new and credible scientific concerns are raised, consumers are demanding to be given a choice in what foods they eat and feed their families. Abbott has an opportunity to lead the industry in being proactive on this important issue,​” said Behar.

Abbott, meanwhile, urged its shareholders to vote against the proposal, claiming that it is “committed to the safety of its nutritional products.”

“As part of our ingredient selection process, it is necessary to consider the availability of ingredient supply,”​ said the company.

“The large-scale production of certain genetically-modified crops has made it difficult to obtain enough non-GMO supply to meet global demand.”

GMO labeling requirements

More than 60 countries, including Australia, China, Japan, and the 27 European Union (EU) Member States, require GMO labeling.

Several US states have proposed similar labeling laws. However, there are currently no US federal regulations regarding GMO labeling.

However, late last week, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced a bill that would require the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clearly label genetically engineered foods.

“American have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,”​ said Boxer.

“The legislation is support by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.”

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