Civil Liberties

Forget Pepsi Clear: How 'Bout a Refreshing Pepsi FETUS?


Coming soon to a billboard near you?: "I'm Pro-Choice and I drink Diet Pepsi!" or "Pepsi: The Choice of the Pro-Choice Generation!"

Check out this Wash Times headline, which must be every CEO's nightmare and every crisis-PR honcho's wet dream: 

PepsiCo denies accusations on link to aborted fetal cells

…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 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….

Read the whole story here.

As the headline suggests, Pepsi people say it's all a bunch of hooey. I'm torn between marveling at the bizarreness of the whole scene (yet one more indication that sometime over the past decade or three, we started living in a Philip K. Dick novel; for other examples, go here and here) and trying to figure out if anyone should care.

Let's assume the charges are true, both that Senomyx patents are lousy with results ultimately from aborted fetuses and that Pepsi's unique taste is somehow related to same. Does that actually present an ethical dilemma? It's not as if the fetuses were created and then aborted for research purposes, or otherwise diverted from any other end.

This headline reminds me of a ploy developed by a high school friend to push Frank's Cola to the top of the heap in the soda wars. He argued that Frank's should start advertising itself as the only "100% Guaranteed Urine-Free" soda on the market. Assuming that claim passed FTC muster (based on the taste of Frank's, that would require independent testing, to be sure), the bigger soda companies would either have to follow suit or look as if they were in fact hiding something.

Are you listening, Coke executives? We're all getting a little tired of those goddamned polar bears.