Monsanto shareholders rejected a proposal to disclose all corporate contributions to tax-exempt organizations and trade associations Friday during the seed company’s annual meeting.
The proposal was among three that failed after shareholders voted them down.
The proposal for increased transparency calls for St. Louis-based Monsanto to provide additional information related to its political expenditures. Currently, the company discloses 501(c)(6) trade groups it gives $50,000 or more to, but not other types of nonprofits. Additionally, federal lobbying laws require Monsanto to divulge its lobbying activities, but not elaborate on its position.
“Our board believes the information currently made available strikes the balance between transparency on one side and excessive burden and cost on the other,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant at the shareholder meeting.
About one in five voting shareholders approved the call for increased transparency.
“This proposal arises from the trend in recent years for companies to make large payments to trade associations and other nonprofits to influence the public and lobbying politics,” said Beth Savitt, who spoke on behalf of the advocacy group As You Sow, at the meeting.
Monsanto’s most recent political disclosures from 2014 show the company gave about $2 million to more than half a dozen trade and industry groups. Those groups included CropLife America, Fuels America and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which alone received more than $861,000 from Monsanto.
Federal disclosure records show that Monsanto spent about $4.3 million lobbying in 2015, a slight increase compared to the previous year’s $4.1 million.
Grant said the seed company has “extensive” measures in place to keep shareholders informed and also noted that Monsanto recently ranked among the most transparent in the United States.
In 2015, the Center for Political Accountability put Monsanto among the top-five corporations in its Zicklin index, a ranking of most transparent companies. The Center for Political Accountability produces the index in partnership with The Carol Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Shareholders also rejected calls for an independent board chairman and a report on the safety of glyphosate, the main chemical used in the popular herbicide Roundup.
About 15 percent of shareholders voted for adopting an independent board chairman, while slightly more than 5 percent of shareholders voted to approve a report on the safety of glyphosate.
In March, the World Health Organization’s International Agency For Research On Cancer classified the Roundup chemical as a likely human carcinogen.
Various other reports have both supported and contradicted the World Health Organization findings.
The European Food Safety Authority recently determined that the evidence does not support categorizing glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent.