Grocery business Safeway, which has 1,335 stores across the United States, was filed with a shareholder proposal citing “unprecedented public demand” for GMO labeling as a reason for it to voluntarily provide the information to consumers.
At an AGM held last week, consumer advocacy group US Public Interest Research Group presented a petition signed by over 130,000 consumers that calls on the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company to label GMOs.
Polling consistently demonstrates a very high level of support for GMO labeling across the United States, including a recent New York Times poll that found that 93 percent of Americans polled favored labeling.
Despite some companies choosing to move faster than regulators and voluntarily provide consumers with information about the presence of GMOs in their food products, Safeway has not yet gone down this route.
“Transparency is absolutely critical for earning and maintaining consumer trust, particularly when it comes to issues like food quality and safety,” said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management, which issued Safeway with the proposal.
“Shareholders have reason to be concerned if Safeway is unwilling to provide the transparent food labeling called for by over 90 percent of US consumers.”
USPIRG has pushed Safeway and other grocers to follow the lead of Whole Foods, which committed to labeling GMOs in all in-store products by 2018.
“Consumers want to know whether the food they eat contains GMOs,” said Steve Blackledge, deputy director for USPIRG. “Safeway can get on the right side of their customer base by committing to a simple label. And the added bonus is they can keep up with some of their competitors.”
In the last 12 months, bills or ballot initiatives that would require companies to label foods that contain GMOs have been introduced in over 20 states, and recently approved in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont.
Companies including Whole Foods, Chipotle and Ben & Jerry’s have adopted policies to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs in products.
Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s claims not to source any GMO ingredients.