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Children of God for Life, a nonprofit pro-life organization, announced on Tuesday that it filed a shareholder resolution last week calling on PepsiCo to stop using an aborted fetal cell line in its research and development activities.
The resolution, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the company, seeks to prevent the HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney) cell line from being used to develop flavor enhancers for its beverages.
The PepsiCo shareholder who filed the resolution asked "the Board of Directors [to] adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements."
In August 2010, PepsiCo entered into a 4-year agreement with Senomyx, a California based company. The company’s website says it develops “innovative flavor ingredients for the food, beverage, and ingredient supply industries.”
PepsiCo wants Senomyx to develop artificial high-potency sweeteners for PepsiCo beverages. Under the contract, PepsiCo is paying $30 million to Senomyx to develop and test new flavors. The company uses cell lines to test their flavors. Cells expressing certain proteins produce a chemical signal when flavors are introduced. These chemical signals let the testers know they have an exact flavor match.
“There are many options PepsiCo could be using instead of aborted fetal cells,” noted Debi Vinnedge, president of Children of God for Life. She told The Christian Post that they have the option to work with insect cells and yeast cells, but instead chose to use human embryonic kidney cells.
When the pro-life group wrote both companies requesting they use one of several non-objectionable, viable cell lines listed in their patents, Senomyx did not respond.
However, PepsiCo sent a letter to consumers. The letter said, “With respect to the flavor discovery research with Senomyx, we utilize techniques that have been the gold standard for several decades by top universities, hospitals, U.S. government agencies, and essentially every pharmaceutical and biotech company in the world. Yet, there is some misinformation being circulated meant to distort what we’re doing and question our motives and those of other companies.”
Vinnedge said Pepsi’s comment on “misinformation” was in regards to people writing letters claiming the company uses fetal tissue in their products, which is not true.
PepsiCo did not respond to calls from The Christian Post regarding the matter.
Children of God for Life has also initiated a boycott of PepsiCo and is joined by over two dozen other pro-life organizations, including American Life League, Colorado Right to Life, American Right to Life and Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute.
Bradley Mattes, executive director of Life Issues Institute, whose pro-life group is also participating in the boycott, told The Christian Post, “Pepsi has decided to dig in their heels and move forward, so I think the consumer concerned about the sanctity of human life should boycott.”
Mattes did commend Campbell Soup for responding to pro-life concerns and severing all ties with Senomyx after the testing practices were revealed.
Meanwhile, letters sent to all PepsiCo Board Members and Senior Management from COGFL have gone unanswered.
"Shareholders have a right to know the truth about what PepsiCo is doing with their hard-earned savings," said Vinnedge in a recent press release. "PepsiCo's lack of consideration to the public's moral sensibilities has only served to fuel the fire and threatens stock values, retirement pensions and investments."