After pro-life boycott, PepsiCo rejects fetal tissue research

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Soft drink maker PepsiCo has said that it does not conduct or fund research that uses human embryonic or fetal tissue, causing a pro-life group to end its boycott of the company.

“We can assure you that 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,” said Paul Boykas, PepsiCo’s Vice President for Global Public Policy.

Boykas made his remarks in an April 26 letter to Debi Vinnedge, executive director of the group Children of God for Life, who had been protesting PepsiCo's ties with a company that uses an aborted fetal cell line in creating product sweeteners.

In response to the letter, Vinnedge said her organization is “absolutely thrilled” with the company’s decision. She encouraged opponents of the research to thank PepsiCo and resume buying the company’s products.

“They have listened to their customers and have made both a wise and profound statement of corporate integrity that deserves the utmost respect, admiration and support of the public,” she said April 30.

Brad Mattes, Executive Director of the boycott partner Life Issues Institute, also praised the company’s action.

“We are grateful to PepsiCo and especially to all those who sent a loud and clear message to the management of this company. It’s incumbent upon us to closely monitor the situation to be sure that PepsiCo remains true to their word,” he said.

In August 2010 PepsiCo entered into a four-year, $30 million agreement with the San Diego-based company Senomyx to develop high-potency sweeteners for its beverages. Most of Senomyx’s patents involve the aborted fetal cell line HEK-293, which originated in human embryonic kidneys.

Children of God for Life launched a boycott of PepsiCo in May 2011 to pressure the company and other Senomyx partners to sever all ties with the research firm. Campbell Soup cut ties with Senomyx in 2011 soon after its connections to fetal cell research came to light.

Boykas' April 26 letter said that Senomyx does not use the HEK cells or any other tissues or cell lines from human embryos or fetuses for its research for PepsiCo.

Vinnedge said that it “makes financial sense” for Senomyx and its partners to stop using aborted fetal cell lines.

“Senomyx needs to stop using the aborted fetal cell lines entirely and we will continue to pressure them to do so,” she said.

Thirty-five pro-life organizations took part in the boycott. Children of God for Life said it heard from many self-described pro-choice women who were angered by Senomyx’s reported use of aborted fetal cell lines.

Vinnedge encouraged opponents of the research to show “appreciation and support” for PepsiCo. Besides Pepsi-Cola soft drinks, PepsiCo is the maker of Gatorade, Tropicana, Quaker Oats, and Frito Lay products.

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