Pep­sico de­nies ac­cu­sa­tions on link to aborted fe­tal cells

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

So far, re­searchers us­ing aborted fe­tal cell lines haven’t been able to cure paral­y­sis or re­verse the ef­fects of Parkin­son’s dis­ease, but they may be able to make diet so­das taste bet­ter.

Pep­sico has come un­der in­tense pres­sure from pro-life groups for con­tract­ing with Seno­myx Inc., a San Diego biotech com­pany ac­cused of de­vel­op­ing flavor en­hancers us­ing cell lines taken from the kid­ney of an aborted fe­tus. Pep­sico, the world’s sec­ond-largest food and bev­er­age busi­ness, an­nounced the $30 mil­lion deal on its web­site in Au­gust 2010.

The move rep­re­sents what pro-life ad­vo­cates de­scribe as a trou­bling shift in com­mer­cial re­search in­volv­ing cell lines de­vel­oped from aborted em­bryos and fe­tuses. While re­search has cen­tered on vac­cines and medicines, Seno­myx has con­tracted with com­pa­nies that make soft drinks, candy, gum

For Amer­i­cans who have for­got­ten, or who never knew, how much worse things could get — shan­ty­towns, gnaw­ing hunger and a des­per­ate 1 in 4 peo­ple out of work — Fed­eral Re­serve Chair­man Ben S. Ber­nanke is pro­vid­ing a re­minder.

In a se­ries of four lec­tures he is de­liv­er­ing at Ge­orge Washington Univer­sity this month, the one-time Prince­ton pro­fes­sor and renowned spe­cial­ist on the Great De­pres­sion is ex­pound­ing on the hor­rors of the De­pres­sion and how the aus­ter­ity poli­cies of the cen­tral bank at the time made things worse.

Lessons learned from the 1930s de­ba­cle led to more en­light­ened cen­tral

and cof­fee cream­ers.

Af­ter a re­view of Seno­myx’s pa­tents in 2011 showed that the com­pany was us­ing the fe­tal cell line in its re­search, more than a dozen pro-life groups launched a boy­cott of Pepsi prod­ucts that has since spread to 11 na­tions, in­clud­ing Canada, Poland and Australia, as well as much of Western Europe.

An at­tempt to bring a res­o­lu­tion on the is­sue be­fore Pep­sico share­hold­ers for a vote failed af­ter the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion ruled Feb. 28 that the re­search and de­vel­op­ment agree­ment with Seno­myx fell un­der the cat­e­gory of “or­di­nary busi­ness op­er­a­tions.”

Pep­sico at­tor­ney Ge­orge A. Schieren said the pro­posed res­o­lu­tion “deals with mat­ters re­lated to the com­pany’s or­di­nary busi­ness op­er­a­tions.”

He said these op­er­a­tions “are so fun­da­men­tal to run a com­pany on a day-to-day ba­sis that they could not be sub­ject to stock­holder over­sight.”

The rul­ing stunned pro- life ad­vo­cate Debi Vinnedge, who led a sim­i­lar ef­fort in 2003 against the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firm Merck & Co., which uses aborted fe­tal cell lines in the man­u­fac­ture of some vac­cines. In that case, the SEC al­lowed the proxy vote, re­ject­ing Merck’s “or­di­nary busi­ness” ar­gu­ment.

“The SEC let us take Merck to task over us­ing fe­tal cell lines in vac­cines, so we’re shocked that the SEC would not al­low it with some­thing as sim­ple as a flavor en­hancer,” said Ms. Vinnedge, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Chil­dren of God for Life, which fights the use of aborted em­bry­onic and fe­tal cells in re­search.

Pep­sico ini­tially de­clined to com­ment on the is­sue, but in the weeks since its SEC vic­tory, the food and bev­er­age gi­ant has con­tacted pro-life ad­vo­cates and me­dia to deny the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Jeff Dah­ncke, Pep­sico se­nior di­rec­tor for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, thanked The Washington Times in an email for “giv­ing us the op­por­tu­nity to clar­ify mis­per­cep­tions and er­ro­neous me­dia re­ports on the topic.”

“Pep­sico does not con­duct or fund re­search, in­clud­ing re­search per­formed by third par­ties, that uti­lizes any hu­man tis­sue or cell lines de­rived from em­bryos or fe­tuses. We clearly com­mu­ni­cate this in our Re­spon­si­ble Re­search State­ment on our web­site,” Mr. Dah­ncke’s state­ment said. “Any re­search funded by Pep­sico and con­ducted by Seno­myx for Pep­sico must abide by this re­spon­si­ble re­search state­ment.”

In a state­ment to Life­news, Mr. Dah­ncke also de­nied spec­u­la­tion that sweet­en­ers de­vel­oped by Seno­myx had been used in the recipe for Pepsi NEXT, a lowcalo­rie cola with 60 per­cent less sugar than a stan­dard Pepsi. The drink is be­ing launched this week.

Ms. Vinnedge called the Pep­sico de­nial “pure de­cep­tion.”

She said she found HEK-293, a “hu­man em­bryo kid­ney” cell line pro­duced from an aborted fe­tus in the 1970s, in more than 70 Seno­myx pa­tents, all re­lated to flavor en­hancers.

“What Pepsi is do­ing is say­ing that they’re not tak­ing the cells di­rectly from a fe­tus. Well, that’s true, they’re tak­ing them from a lab,” Ms. Vinnedge said. “They’re do­ing this with se­man­tics to get around what they’re re­ally do­ing.”

Pep­sico isn’t the only com­pany grap­pling with the is­sue.

Nes­tle and Kraft-cad­bury Adams have con­tracted in the past with Seno­myx, although Ms. Vinnedge said the com­pa­nies no longer have prod­ucts in de­vel­op­ment with Seno­myx. Camp­bell’s cut its ties to the com­pany in 2011 af­ter re­ceiv­ing com­plaints from pro-life ad­vo­cates.

“We re­ally aren’t go­ing af­ter [Nes­tle and Kraft] like we are with Pepsi be­cause Pepsi is still in the de­vel­op­ment stages,” Ms. Vinnedge said. “They can change it. They can say, ‘Let’s use a morally re­spon­si­ble cell line.’”

Ex­am­ples of other cell lines in­clude those de­vel­oped from an­i­mals or in­sects, she said.

At least one ef­fort to counter the Pep­sico boy­cott was waged on the on­line web­site Care2 Pe­ti­tion­site. The anony­mous or­ga­nizer called for sig­na­tures to sup­port Pep­sico and said the pro-life boy­cott was “a smear cam­paign.”

“De­spite the eth­i­cally ac­cept­able and non­con­tro­ver­sial na­ture of this re­search, a pro-life ac­tivist . . . has launched a boy­cott of Pep­sico., a ridicu­lous ac­tion against a com­pany which is spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars try­ing to make its prod­uct health­ier for con­sumers when most pro­duc­ers of soft drinks are per­fectly com­fort­able us­ing high fruc­tose corn syrup,” said the pe­ti­tion, which gath­ered 51 sig­na­tures be­fore be­ing closed.

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