Kroger Company – Eliminate GE Foods From Store Brands (1999 – 2000)
WHEREAS: International markets for genetically engineered (GE) foods are threatened by extensive resistance to gene protection technology, transgenic technology and genetically altered foods: Several of Europe’s largest food retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury Group, Carrefour, and Rewe, have committed to removing GE ingredients from their store-brand products; In the UK, three fast-food giants — McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken — are eliminating GE soya and corn ingredients from their menus; Gerber Products Co. announced in July 1999 that they would not allow GE corn or soybeans in any of their baby foods; Archer Daniels Midland asked its grain suppliers in August 1999 to segregate their genetically engineered crops from conventional crops.
There is increasing scientific concern that genetically engineered agricultural products may be harmful to humans, animals, or the environment: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has acknowledged (July 13, 1999) the need to develop a comprehensive approach to evaluating long-term and secondary effects of GE products; As early as 1989, scientists reported that GE foods may pose risks to human health; Some GE crops have been engineered to have higher levels of toxins, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), to make them insect-resistant. When plants are genetically engineered to resist predators, the plant defense systems may involve the synthesis of natural carcinogens, and may pose a public health risk; In 1998, research showed that Bt crops are building up Bt toxins in the soil; In 1999, the European Union suspended approval of new genetically engineered organisms until a new safety law for genetically engineered organisms is implemented in 2002. This followed a new study that showed Bt corn pollen may harm monarch butterflies.
In the U.S., we have a long tradition of citizens’ “Right to Know”; an expression of this includes the current laws requiring nutritional labeling of foods: A January 1999 Time/CNN poll indicated that 81% of Americans said that GE food should be labeled as such; GE crops may incorporate genes that are allergens or from animal species. Individuals can not avoid them for health or religious reasons unless they are labeled; The European Union requires labeling of GE foods, as will Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors to adopt a policy of removing genetically engineered crops, organisms, or products thereof from all products sold under its brand names or private labels, where feasible, until long-term safety testing has shown that they are not harmful to humans, animals, and the environment; with the interim step of labeling and identifying these products that may contain these ingredients, and reporting to the shareholders by August 2000.
We believe that this technology involves significant social, economic, and environmental risks. Our company should take a leadership position in delaying market adoption of genetically engineered crops and foods. Failure to do so could leave our company financially liable, should detrimental effects to public health or the environment appear in the future.