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Monsanto Shareholders' Meeting: Protests Outside, No To Anti-GMO Resolutions Inside

Maria Altman (St. Louis Public Radio and The Beacon)
About 30 protesters stood outside Monsanto's headquarters during the annual shareholders' meeting.
Credit Maria Altman (St. Louis Public Radio and The Beacon)
Adam Eidinger is a Monsanto shareholder and proposed a resolution asking the company to support GMO labeling. He participated in the protests outside Monsanto's headquarters.

Ten protesters were arrested outside Monsanto’s headquarters during its annual shareholder meeting Tuesday. The arrests happened shortly after the shareholders failed to pass two resolutions that would have changed Monsanto's policies on its Genetically Modified Organism products.

Adam Eidinger, one of the protesters, is also a Monsanto shareholder.

He proposed one of the resolutions. It asked that Monsanto work with the Federal Drug Administration to label genetically modified food.

CEO Hugh Grant told shareholders the company strongly supports voluntary food labeling.

"This voluntary labeling approach empowers people who may choose to avoid GM ingredients a choice that some people prefer, but without imposing new costs on people who don’t choose organic or non-GM products," Grant said.

The measure failed with just 4.16 percent of the shareholders’ vote.

Eidinger joined members of Occupy Monsanto protesting outside Monsanto.. He said the movement against GMOs will only grow.

"We’ve thrown the gauntlet down and we’re expecting a year from now that more than 10,000 people will be here if they don’t label GMO foods," Eidinger said.

Eidinger had anticipated that the vote on his resolution would fail and he planned to block traffic outside Monsanto as part of a peaceful protest following the vote. Occupy Monsanto later said 10 protesters were arrested, including Eidinger.

Another resolution offered by investor Harrington Investments Incorporated asked Monsanto to produce a report on the financial risks associated with GMO products.

Margot McMillen, a farmer from Callaway County, served as a proxy for Harrington.

"As shareholders we are asking for information, disclosure, and transparency critical to this company’s reputation and its share price," McMillen said.

Grant told shareholders that the resolution was redundant as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission already requires such disclosure.  

That measure failed with 6.5% of the shareholders’ votes.

Even though both resolutions failed, CEO Grant acknowledged that Monsanto could do a better job communicating about GMOs. Grant told shareholders that the company had not engaged with the public as much as it should have over the decades. He apologized and said that he and other leaders had worked hard in the last year to change that.

"We’re actively working to listen and engage more and more and you can expect this will only continue and become part of the DNA of who we are in the years ahead," Grant said.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.