from the New American magazine
March 8, 2012
SEC Rules for PepsiCo's Use of Aborted Fetal Cells
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided against a
group of PepsiCo shareholders in their efforts to stop the company from
contracting with a firm that uses cells from aborted babies in producing
artificial flavor enhancers.
As reported last year in The New American, the shareholders had filed a
resolution with the SEC after Pepsi ignored tens of thousands of concerned
pro-life individuals who had expressed their disgust and opposition to its
contracting with Senomyx, a biotech company that tests its food additive
products using a process that includes fetal cells from aborted babies.
In a decision delivered by letter February 28, the SEC said that Pepsi's
research and development agreement with Senomyx, which includes the use of
aborted fetal remains in flavor enhancement research, falls under "ordinary
business operations" for the soft drink company. According to
LifeSiteNews.com, the SEC decision came in response to a 36-page document
submitted by Pepsi through its attorneys in January 2012. "In that filing,
PepsiCo pleaded with the SEC to reject the shareholders' resolution filed in
October 2011 that the company '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,'" reported the pro-life news site.
PepsiCo lead attorney George A. Schieren had argued that the shareholder
resolution should be disregarded because it "deals with matters related to
the company's ordinary business operations." He added that "certain tasks
are so fundamental to run a company on a day-to-day basis that they could
not be subject to stockholder oversight."
Debi Vinnedge of Children of God for Life, which had originally exposed the
relationship between Pepsi and Senomyx, said that she was "appalled by the
apathy and insensitivity" of PepsiCo and the Obama administration's SEC. "We're
not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use," she said in a
statement. "We are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child
for profit. Using human embryonic kidney to produce flavor enhancers for
their beverages is a far cry from routine operations!"
In its request to the SEC, PepsiCo argued that the shareholder resolution
"probed too deeply into matters of a complex nature upon which shareholders
cannot make an informed judgment." Responded an outraged Vinnedge: "In other
words, PepsiCo thinks its stockholders are too stupid to understand what
they are doing with the remains of aborted children." She added that "they
are about to find out just how smart the public really is when they turn up
the heat on the world-wide boycott!"
Vinnedge noted that Pepsi's next product roll-out, scheduled for
introduction in the next few weeks, will be Pepsi Next, which the company
claims will have half the sugar and calories of regular Pepsi, but all the
flavor. As reported by The New American last November, in an e-mail that
brushed aside concerns about cells from aborted babies being used to enhance
its products, "Pepsi pointed instead to the tradeoff, noting that the
research would help the company create 'lower-calorie, great-tasting
beverages for consumers.'" Wondered Vinnedge: "So is Pepsi Next the new
On its website Senomyx explains that its flavor research programs "focus on
the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients
that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food
and beverage products. Using isolated human taste receptors, we created
proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or
electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor."
But Vinnedge said that what the company doesn't say is that it is using
"human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to
produce those receptors." She emphasized that Senomyx "could easily have
chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the
G protein for taste receptors."
PepsiCo had a significant financial incentive to convince the SEC to side
with it against its shareholders. Less than a year ago it inked a
$30-million dollar deal with Senomyx for the research company to develop
artificial high-potency sweeteners for its products. Last year Vinnedge and
an army of pro-life individuals contacted both companies, asking them to
refrain from using fetal cells in the program, pointing out the existence of
non-objectionable, fully viable alternatives.
While Senomyx ignored the letter completely, Vinnedge recalled, Pepsi
officials replied with a generic e-mail from "Pepsi Consumer Relations,"
insisting that the company was "committed to using only the highest ethical
methods in all aspects of our research." The e-mail added that the issue was
"something we take very seriously, and we hold ourselves and all of our
research partners to the same high standards as the world's leading research
Regarding its relationship with Senomyx and the use of fetal cells in flavor
research, the Pepsi e-mail explained that the company utilizes "techniques
that have been the gold standard for several decades by top universities,
hospitals, U.S. government agencies, food and beverage companies, and
essentially every pharmaceutical and biotech company in the world."
That "gold standard" relies on the results of abortion, Vinnedge said,
noting the irony of PepsiCo's own Code of Conduct, which includes the boast
that the company deals "with customers, suppliers, the public and our
competitors in an ethical and appropriate manner." Noted Vinnedge: "There is
nothing ethical or appropriate in the way they are exploiting the remains of
an innocent aborted child."
In related news, Rebecca Taylor of the National Catholic Register reported
that in Oklahoma, State Senator Ralph Shortey introduced a bill that would
ban any product meant for human consumption that either contains tissue from
aborted babies, or which in its research or development included the use of
cells from aborted babies.
Predictably, Shortey's effort to protect the unborn made him the object of
ridicule among the national media and pro-abortion forces. Taylor noted that
"when Shortey suggested that his bill was not simply about aborted fetuses
in the food supply, but about companies using cells and tissues from aborted
human beings to test or develop various chemicals, drugs or therapies, one
angry commenter on the Huffington Post retorted, 'What companies? Name them.
If you can't, then this is the rantings of a paranoid delusional.'"
Taylor, a clinical laboratory specialist in molecular biology who writes
about bioethics on her blog, took the challenge on behalf of Shortey,
noting, as just one example, Neuralstem, "a Maryland company, which,
according to a Bloomberg press release, has a stem-cell line that came from
'fetal tissue donated by a woman who underwent an elective abortion at 8
weeks.'" Taylor recalled that in 2010 "Neuralstem announced that it injected
these stem cells from an aborted fetus directly into the spinal cord of a
man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is better known as Lou
Taylor added that recently Neuralstem announced the discovery of a new drug
that shows promise for the treatment of depression. In developing the
potential drug, the company "tested several compounds using its stem-cell
line to see which chemical showed promise in increasing the size of the
hippocampus, a part of the brain that is shrunken in those who suffer from
depression." While Neuralstem did not say if the stem-cell line it used came
from an aborted baby, Taylor noted that "in academic publications listed on
its website, the stem cells are described as 'fetal.'"
Neuralstem is not the only company using such cells. Taylor's research
actually came up with a list of a half dozen companies, including Senomyx,
that use cells and tissues from aborted babies in their products and
research. (View the list, along with company contact information, here.)
Taylor reflected that without the "loud and continuous pressure" from
individuals around the world who value and respect life, "the use of aborted
fetal tissue to bring products to market will not only continue, it will
expand. We live in a culture of death - a reality that means we truly do
need labels that warn consumers: 'This product was made possible by the
killing of innocent human life.'"