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OCA Dumps Frankenfoods at Safeway Shareholders Meeting

Contra Costa Times (California)- May 10, 2000

Safeway defending gene-altered ingredients A spokeswoman says shareholders
were backing such products during an annual meeting vote, while protesters
point to dangers

By Andrew Gordon
TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN RAMON -- Safeway shareholders appeared Tuesday to be defeating a
resolution that would have directed the supermarket chain to remove
genetically engineered ingredients from its products until long-term tests
can determine whether they are safe.

Shareholders of the Pleasanton-based company voted on the resolution at the
Marriott Hotel during their annual meeting. A final vote count won't be
available until later in the week, said Debra Lambert, Safeway's corporate
director of public affairs. However, she said with nearly all the votes
counted, almost 98 percent voted against the resolution.

Meanwhile, outside the Marriott, more than a dozen people protested
Safeway's use of genetically engineered products. They carried signs reading
"No to Franken-Cow" and "Genetic Contamination is Forever."

The resolution was crafted by the As You Sow Foundation, Catholic Healthcare
West and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Some members of
those groups are Safeway shareholders.

"Safeway derives no financial benefit from using genetically engineered
foods," said Michael Passoff of the As You Sow Foundation in a statement.
"There is no consumer demand for these products and growing consumer
backlash against them."

In a news release, Safeway stated, "we share and actively support our
customers' interests in food safety ... As a retailer, however, we are
neither qualified nor entitled to establish food safety regulations and
labeling requirements."

The statement deferred to the federal Food and Drug Administration's
practice of requiring labels if food is significantly changed from its
traditional form, such as altering the nutritional content. Safeway also
stated it "would have serious difficulty determining what constitutes
genetically engineered crops, organisms or products thereof."

Protester Simon Harris, California field organizer for the Organic Consumers
Association, said the FDA does not require tests on such products, and the
only tests being done are by corporate scientists.

"I don't think the FDA is looking out for us," said Harris. "How can you
promote and regulate something at the same time?"

Harris said he hopes the protesters convey the importance of testing
genetically engineered foods to the shareholders. He said this is part of
the organization's ongoing efforts to raise public awareness.

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