Later this week, shareholders of Abbott Laboratories, makers of the popular Similac infant formula, PediaSure and other pediatric nutrition products, will vote on whether or not the company should adopt a non-GMO policy.
Many of the ingredients used to make infant formula, including soy, corn, and dairy products, are derived from genetically modified crops. These plants have been genetically altered to produce pesticides internally or to be resistant to herbicides that would otherwise kill the plant. Opponents of GMOs fear that GMO foods have not been adequately tested for long-term health effects—especially for infants.
"Based on the body of existing research, nobody should be eating GMO foods, especially not babies," says Charlotte Vallaeys, Policy Director at The Cornucopia Institute, a farm and food policy research group which joined with As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, to petition Abbot Laboratories shareholders to vote to ban GMOs from its infant formula.
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"Until infant formula makers stop using GMO ingredients," Vallaeys added, "hundreds of thousands of newborns, infants, and toddlers are unwitting participants in this huge, uncontrolled experiment with the health of the next generation. It's time for formula makers to stop experimenting with the health of babies who consume their products."
Consumer sentiment is increasingly siding against GMOs, as evidenced by California's mandatory GMO labeling law, which narrowly lost in a state-wide vote last November, and the recent announcement by Whole Foods Market to require GMO labeling by 2018.
"Removing GMOs from nutritional products and infant formula in a timely manner has only upsides for Abbott," said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. "We believe this is an opportunity to reduce risk to Abbott shareholders and position the company for the changing consumer attitudes towards GMOS that will likely result in regulatory reform and create demand for non-GMO crops in the United States. It is an opportunity to lead on this important issue."