On Tuesday, May 6, shareholders and activists will gather in Chicago to protest the Kraft Foods Group (Kraft) annual shareholder meeting. At issue is the company’s involvement in a 2013 ballot initiative fight in California that would have required food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in the state to be labeled. In a resolution filed by Green Century Capital Management, shareholders are asking for Kraft to refrain from all political spending.
Kraft’s shareholders’ call for the company to refrain from political spending makes perfect sense. More than 90 percent of Americans support GMO labeling. And, in a 2012 poll, more than 79 percent of respondents said they would boycott a company to protest its political spending. Taken together, it’s no wonder that Kraft’s shareholders are drawing a hard line for company executives.
Anti-label groups blanketed the airwaves with ads saying that GMO labeling would drive up prices and hurt farmers. Proponents of GMO labeling were far outspent in the race to get the word out. In the end, the multimillion-dollar anti-labeling advertising campaigns funded by Kraft, Monsanto and other processed food corporations cast enough doubt among voters to defeat the initiative.
Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and while the debate about the health effects of GMOs rages on, many would prefer to keep their distance. Many countries have placed strict restrictions on GMOs, and some have banned them outright. Without specific GMO labels, Americans trying to avoid genetically modified foods face a confusing hodgepodge of labels that make it difficult to eat GMO-free.
Kraft’s shareholders are right to demand their company stay out of the political fray.
Kelly Ngo is the online advocacy organizer for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.