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Monsanto Shareholders Just Say No to GMO Labels

As more than 20 states consider mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, shareholders at Monsanto’s (MON) annual meeting on Tuesday voted against proposals to label and assess the costs of GMOs. Monsanto’s board opposed both measures, which came from two separate shareholders with fewer than 100 shares each.

For what it’s worth to GMO critics, the decisions weren’t unanimous even among stakeholders in a major GMO company. One resolution, which sought a report on the cost of GMO contamination affecting non-GMO and organic crops, received 6.51 percent of shareholder votes, while another asking the company to work with regulators on GMO labeling guidelines received 4.16 percent of the vote, according to a Reuters report.

In the past two years, voters in California and Washington have rejected proposals requiring GMO labeling, and New Hampshire House members defeated a GMO labeling bill this month. Only Connecticut and Maine have laws requiring labels for GM food, though they won’t take effect until other states adopt their own rules.

Meanwhile, companies such as General Mills (GIS) have taken their own measures—the cereal company announced that Cheerios will now be labeled “not made with genetically modified ingredients.”

Monsanto has been stepping up public-relations efforts recently. Last week, the company’s chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, sat down with Bloomberg Businessweek and explained the company’s position on labeling—basically, that it should be voluntary, not required by law: “We’re absolutely supportive of voluntary labeling,” Fraley said, praising the Cheerios change as an example. “That’s great. That’s the market at work, that’s companies exercising their decision on what will meet customer demand, and that’s exactly the way to do it.”

He described the California and Washington labeling initiatives as “sponsored, frankly, by people and organizations who don’t like GMO technology and wanted to create a negative connotation. … We didn’t want to be in a position where they have a negative connotation on the label.”

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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