Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Religious Investors Urge 63 Top U.S. Restaurant, Food, Beverage, Candy Companies to Oppose Spring Planting of Genetically Modified Sugar Beets



Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, New York City PressRelease, 4 Mar 2008 http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/religious-investors-urge-63-top-us-restaurant-food-beverage-candy,302298.shtml

NEW YORK, March 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A total of 63 leading U.S. restaurant, food, beverage and candy companies - including such household names as McDonald's, Campbell Soup, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Sara Lee, PepsiCo, Wendy's and Hershey's - are the focus of a major Web-based campaign at http://www.dontplantgmobeets.org/ seeking to block the April 2008 planting of genetically modified sugar beets. The genetically modified sugar beet crop would be used to make the sugar contained in thousands of the most widely consumed food products in the U.S., according to the Web site created by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) - a broad-based coalition of nearly 300 faith-based investors with over $100 billion in invested capital.

ICCR is concerned about sugar beets and other genetically modified crops because of weak governmental review and oversight, and the lack of long-term, independent and peer-reviewed safety studies.

The sample letter text provided for consumers visiting http://www.dontplantgmobeets.org/ reads in part: 'As a consumer, I am writing to urge your company to publicly oppose the spring 2008 planting of genetically modified sugar beets in the United States. You have the power to tell agribusiness firms that you won't buy sugar made from genetically modified sugar beets. You should know that I am among the more than 50 percent of Americans who avoid genetically modified foods if given a choice. That means that if you publicly announce that your company will NOT use sugar from genetically modified sugar beets, I will be more likely to spend my hard-earned money with you. If you decide to use genetically modified sugar, I will avoid your products. And I would take that one step farther: If you fail to label your food or beverage as containing genetically modified sugar, I will have to operate on the assumption that it does contain the product ... and I will avoid it just to be safe. I am a big believer in consumers getting good information and having real choices. I do not want to be 'forced' to eat genetically modified sugar either because it is sneaked into my food on an undisclosed basis or because it is added into virtually all food and beverages.'

Leslie Lowe, director, Energy & Environment Program, Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, said: 'This is a front-burner brand, reputation and consumer confidence issue for the biggest U.S. companies that sell food, drink, candy and other products containing sugar. These companies face major potential backlashes if they do not act now to stop the use of genetically modified sugar from sugar beets. Not only can these companies send a clear signal that they will not buy, but they have done this sort of thing before. McDonald's does not use genetically engineered potatoes. General Mills will not use genetically engineered wheat. Anheuser Busch does not use genetically engineered rice. Heinz has a policy of 'seeking to avoid' genetically modified organisms. Campbell's Soup Co. does not use genetically engineered tomatoes even though the company helped to develop such a tomato. Now, it is time for these companies and others to make it clear again that they are not going to try to sneak genetically modified sugar into the diets of Americans.'

Margaret Weber, coordinator of corporate responsibility, Adrian Dominican Sisters, said: 'These companies have active relationships with suppliers. They do not just 'take what comes.' Now is the time to signal that GE-sugar is off the table.'

Jeffrey Smith, author of 'Seeds of Deception' and 'Genetic Roulette,' said: 'Consumer concern about the mounting evidence of health problems linked with genetically modified foods will likely reach a tipping point in the near future, forcing GMOs out of the U.S. food supply. When Europe hit its GMO tipping point in April 1999, within a single week nearly all major food companies committed to remove genetically modified ingredients. While this took companies by surprise then, market indicators now suggest that the U.S. tipping point will take place before the end of 2009. In fact, consumer backlash against the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone rbGH has driven it out of products in about 40 of the top 100 dairies, as well as Starbucks, Kroger's, Publix, and others.'

The full 63 companies targeted in the ICCR campaign at http://www.dontplantgmobeets.org/ reads as follows: Alpine Confections Inc.; American Crystal Sugar Co.; American Foods Group LLC; American Licorice Co.; Anheuser-Busch, Cos. Inc.; Brown & Haley; Brown-Forman Corp.; Campbell Soup Co.; Canada Bread Co.; Coca-Cola Inc.; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Cott Corp.; Dairy Farmers of America; Dannon Co. Inc.; Dean Foods, Co.; Del Monte Foods; Dole Food Co. Inc.; Farley's & Sathers Candy Co.; Ferrara Pan Candy Co.; Flowers Foods Inc.; Foremost Farms USA; Fortune Brands Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Gilster-Mary Lee Corp.; Godiva Chocolatier Inc.; Golden State Foods; Gorton's; H.J. Heinz Co.; Hain Celestial Group; Hershey Co.; Imperial Sugar Co.; Interstate Bakeries Corp.; J&J Snack Foods; J.M. Smucker Co.; Just Born Inc.; Kellogg Co.; Kraft Foods; McDonald's; McKee Foods Corp.; Molson Coors Co.; Nestle (US and Canada); New England Confectionery, Co.; OSI Group; Pepsico Inc.; Procter & Gamble Co.; Reser's Fine Foods; Ruiz Foods; Russell Stover Candies Inc.; Sara Lee Corp.; Schwan Food Co.; Seneca Foods Inc.; Sherwood Brands, Inc.; Tootsie Roll Industries Inc.; TreeHouse Foods Inc.; Unilever North America; Warrell Corp.; Wells' Dairy; Wendy's; Weston Foods; Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.; World's Finest Chocolate Inc.; Zachary Confections, Inc.

Sugar beets have been modified to insert a gene that makes the plant resistant to glyphosate, a toxic herbicide, sold under the trade name Roundup. At the request of Roundup pesticide maker Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently increased the allowable amount of glyphosate residues on sugar beet roots by a whopping 5,000 percent. (Sugar is extracted from the beet's root.) More than 50 percent of Americans have said they would reject genetically modified foods if given a choice. If the sugar beets in question are planted, genetically modified sugar will enter the food supply in early 2009. If the U.S. companies at the focus of the new ICCR campaign use genetically modified sugar, their exports to the European Union will require documentation and testing, an additional cost and inconvenience.

ABOUT ICCR

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is a coalition of nearly 300 faith-based institutional investors, representing over $100 billion in invested capital. ICCR members bridge the divide between morality and markets by envisioning a civic economy that integrates ethical, environmental and social values. Inspired by faith, committed to action, ICCR members work to build a just and sustainable global community. For more information on ICCR, visit http://www.iccr.org/.

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, New York City

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