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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Strategic CSR - GMOs

The article in the url below details an ironic situation. In last November’s election in the U.S., there was a ballot initiative in California (Proposition 37) that was designed to force food companies to disclose any GMO ingredients in a product on the product’s label. Food companies are not currently required to do this anywhere in the U.S.—unfortunately, the issue is a low priority for many consumers, and that was not promising to change any time soon in a country where it is estimated that “75 percent of grocery products contain a genetically modified ingredient.”
In an effort to defeat Prop 37, corporations spent “more than $40 million” on lobbying and advertising during the election campaign and, as a result, the proposition failed to win a majority of votes. Another victory for the corporate lobby, right? Except that it did not work out that way:
“Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California measure has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri, and a swelling consumer boycott of some organic or ‘natural’ brands owned by major food companies. … [today, there are] roughly 20 states considering labeling requirements.”
Ultimately, the actions taken by the food companies converted a local issue that no one was paying attention to into a national issue that is being hotly-debated:
“‘They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners,’ said Mr. Benbrook, who does work on sustainable agriculture.”
Now, forced to backtrack, the companies have joined the discussion with a wide-range of stakeholders to work out a more effective solution:
Executives from PepsiCo, ConAgra and about 20 other major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart and advocacy groups that favor labeling, attended a meeting in January in Washington convened by the Meridian Institute, which organizes discussions of major issues.”
A strategic CSR perspective would have got them to this place a lot sooner and saved them $40 million in the process.
Take care
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Companies Weigh Federal Labels for Gene-Engineered Ingredients
By Stephanie Strom
February 1, 2013
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final