ICCR Shareholders vs. World Hunger
Religion & Liberty Online

ICCR Shareholders vs. World Hunger

Finding solutions for feeding the world’s poorest is about as non-controversial a mission as you could imagine for someone pursuing a religious vocation. Yet, the investors belonging to the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility put politicized science ahead of that mission in their opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The ICCR’s approach to GMOs leans more toward anti-business political activism than any concern for producing plentiful crops that are resilient against pests, diseases and extreme weather events such as drought or excessive precipitation, which, in turn, would benefit those endeavoring to provide inexpensive foodstuffs to the economically and ecologically disadvantaged.

Judging from ICCR proxy shareholder literature, feeding more people less expensively is secondary to a politicized agenda. This from the ICCR’s “The Right Solutions to Hunger:”

“In recent years, several weeds have built up resistance to the herbicides used on GE [genetically engineered] crops, driving the use of more, and multiple industrialized herbicides to kill them. Who is looking long-term, for the protection of the consumer and the food system and who will bear the risk?” asked Margaret Weber of the Congregation of St. Basil. “These issues are critical and it is apparent that the regulatory system is not adequately addressing them,” she continued.

And this:

To help companies achieve best practices around GE foods, ICCR recently developed a set of five key performance indicators (KPIs) to help gauge performance. The indicators cover topics such as developing and implementing a public policy on GE food safety, disclosure of lobbying expenditures to ensure monies aren’t used to fund anti-regulatory efforts and strategies for addressing the potential adverse impacts from GE food

All this, according to ICCR, suggests something like a conspiracy between government and industry to poison somehow the general public with “potential adverse impacts.” Thus it follows the ICCR’s proxy shareholder resolutions directed at the nation’s three largest GMO producers: Dow Chemical Company, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and the real bête noire of the left, Monsanto.

In its report released earlier this month, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan, Washington-based think tank, asserts:

There is no agricultural policy change that could be adopted with more positive impacts and fewer downsides than drastically reducing regulations applied to crops improved through biotechnology. Foods derived from crops or animals improved through biotechnology have been subjected to more extensive scrutiny than any other agricultural product in human history. Humans and livestock have consumed billions upon billions of meals derived wholly or in part from these improved agricultural varieties for nearly two decades, which have sustained a strong record of safety for humans and the environment. Yet these innovative products, which are developed and brought to market with precise, predictable and safe techniques, are subjected to regulatory obstacles that dwarf those faced by older products and obsolete technologies, some with genuinely problematic legacies.

Authoritative bodies have repeatedly examined these issues and concluded that the regulatory burdens on advanced biotechnology are not justified by science, data, or experience. These misunderstandings must be challenged, and scientific evidence must be restored to its primacy as the basis for making regulatory decisions about food safety.

And this:

[W]e argue that the critical, game-changing solutions for building global agricultural resilience will come only from expanding the innovation and adoption of next-generation crops and agricultural practices. We need new and improved crop varieties that use less water, deliver increased yields and improved nutrition, and have built-in means for repelling insect pests, resisting disease, and withstanding extreme heat, cold, rain and drought. Agriculture will need every existing tool in the box, as well as the development of new ones, including the use of demonstrably safe crops improved through modern biotechnology, commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or transgenics.

As noted by David Gregory, research and policy analyst for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation: “Standard of living has risen everywhere across the planet and continues to rise. Total wealth is also up. The cost of almost everything is down relative to income, including even the cost of catastrophe. There has never been less hunger or disease.”

Yet, the ICCR, a New York-based group which claims to work for “a more just and sustainable world by integrating social values into investor actions,” would apply the brakes on this very real progress in a manner more inclined to satisfy the producers of art-house shockumentaries than inexpensively and safely ending world hunger – which is the real “adverse impact.”

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.