Why PepsiCo Is Fighting GMO Labeling in California

Written by Michele Simon

Most people just think of soda when they hear the name “Pepsi.” But in fact, PepsiCo is the nation’s largest food company and second largest in the world. Its annual earnings top $60 billion, from a dizzying array of brands. Walk down almost any supermarket aisle (soda, snacks, cereal, juice) and you’re likely to bump into a PepsiCo-owned product.

This explains why the company is the top contributor among food makers to the “No on 37” campaign in California – a ballot initiative that would require labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients. Also, as I wrote about recently, PepsiCo is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a powerful trade group that has so far contributed $375,000 to the No on 37 campaign.

Why would PepsiCo pony up more than $90,000 just to keep Californians in the dark about what they are eating? A closer look at its “portfolio of products” (in corporate speak) reveals exactly what’s at stake for the food giant.

PepsiCo brands span five divisions: Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Tropicana, and Quaker. While most consumers probably think of processed snacks and cereal-type products when trying to avoid foods containing GMOs, beverages are also a major culprit (which explains why Coca-Cola has donated more than $61,000 to the No on 37 campaign).

Estimates are that up to 85 percent of corn grown in the U.S. in genetically engineered, and a significant number of PepsiCo brands contain some form of corn. For example, among PepsiCo beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup are brands such as Pepsi, and Mountain Dew, as well as the AMP Energy and Lipton iced tea lines, each of which contain numerous flavor varieties. Even some products within the company’s Tropicana line of “juice drinks” contain HFCS. Then there’s Naked Juice, which last year became the target of a consumer deception lawsuit over the brand’s “non-GMO” claim on the label, among other issues. (Gatorade reformulated its products to replace HFCS in 2010, but is not exactly a health drink either, as recent research has revealed.)

Speaking of GMO-related lawsuits against PepsiCo, I wrote last December about how the company is being sued over several Frito-Lay snack products labeled “natural,” despite containing genetically-modified corn and vegetable oils, including corn, soybean, and canola oils. (That case was re-filed earlier this year.) In 2010, Frito-Lay announced that half of its products would be made of “all-natural ingredients,” but of course non-GMO isn’t part of the company’s definition of natural. As I have explained, the Food and Drug Administration unfortunately has so far refused to create a workable definition, which is why companies like PepsiCo are able to deceive customers so easily.

The scope of Frito-Lay products potentially impacted by GMO labeling is vast. Among the brands under this $13 billion division that contain corn include Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos, and Cheetos. And that’s not counting the vegetable oils, which are almost all made with GMO ingredients. Even allegedly healthier brands like SunChips contain GMO corn, which is why that product is named in the deceptive labeling lawsuit against Frito-Lay.

Even PepsiCo’s relatively healthy division Quaker would be impacted if GMO foods must be labeled. In addition to plain old oats, the Quaker brand makes heavily processed granola bars. I counted six sources of corn—including HFCS and “corn syrup solids”—in this new “yogurt” variety (which contains no actual yogurt, but rather “yogurt flavored powder” – don’t even ask). It’s one thing for junk foods to bear a GMO label; I can’t imagine hard-core Cheetos fans caring too much about GMOs, but Quaker consumers probably would.

Another PepsiCo brand sure to make HQ nervous over GMO labeling is Mother’s, which claims its products are “all natural.” The Cornucopia Institute tested Mother’s cereal and found that it contains GMO ingredients, which is expected since some of the varieties contain corn. Imagine how many mothers would be upset to learn that the cereal named after them is genetically engineered.

PepsiCo’s official policy regarding using GMO ingredients is rather bland:

Approval of genetically-modified foods differs from country to country regarding both use and labeling. For this reason, PepsiCo adheres to all relevant regulatory requirements regarding the use of genetically-modified food crops and food ingredients within the countries it operates.

Translation: We follow the law, very impressive. But the statement also points to how the company has different standards around the world depending on what the law requires. More than 40 other nations— including the entire European Union— require some form of disclosure for foods made with GMOs.

What a shame that here in its home country, PepsiCo wants to ignore what 90 percent of American consumers say they want: To know which foods contain GMOs. PepsiCo would rather fight to maintain the status quo because it means a continued cheap supply of ingredients for its highly-processed, unhealthy beverages and junk food.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

GM Foods: Isn’t It Your Choice?

California Gets Mandatory GMO Labeling on the Ballot

Top 5 GMO Foods To Watch Out For


Photo: WOAH! Dream BIG/flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thanks for sharing.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra3 years ago

Thank you TreeHugger, for Sharing this!

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra3 years ago

Thank you TreeHugger, for Sharing this!

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K.4 years ago

The UN and others has declared that our population needs to be reduced by 2/3 so we re more manageable whatever that means to them. So i suppose food we eat is the latest form of legal genocide to follow in the footsteps of medical malpractice aided and abetted by big pharma.

Wendy Schroeder
Wendy Schroeder4 years ago

I've never liked Pepsi much but now I will not drink it at all.

Reed B.
Reed B.4 years ago

@Dorothy N: "May I add,Reed B., that while you have a perfect right to your opinion, even where they do mirror Monsanto's talking points, we have a right to our concerns and to make our own personal choices, something companies like Monsanto are trying to deny us while they alter life itself on our planet"

Dorothy, you have no idea how many times I have been called a Monsanto stooge because of the position I hold. I have been accused of working for them, or some other agro company probably more than a dozen different times by a dozen different people. I am not afraid of saying who I am and what I do. I will gladly link to my pages. When I sent my documents folder to provide all the references I use, that is link to my personal google + and gmail account. It tells you what my name is, and it tells you who I am in all sense of the word.

You are perfectly right to your opinion, as am I. I will not ever deny you this. The one thing that is true about opinion though, is that it can be wrong. If you make a claim such as "I believe the earth is flat" then I can provide you with evidence to the contrary, even though it should be you doing this. When you make a statement that has some notion in it, I will either verify it, or correct it. If you have noticed, I did in fact say that CCD was correlated to an insecticide. I never denied that. I provided papers to support that.

I am not pro anything, other than pro science. I have a strong opinion that science can lead us where

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N.4 years ago

May I add,Reed B., that while you have a perfect right to your opinion, even where they do mirror Monsanto's talking points, we have a right to our concerns and to make our own personal choices, something companies like Monsanto are trying to deny us while they alter life itself on our planet.

Reed B.
Reed B.4 years ago

Okay in all honesty, I am tired, and there is way to many links on that stupid, non referenced article page. I am just going to skip to the next one and tackle a few of those. Also, I just realized, but maybe you should stop getting your GMO information from a website that is named non-gmo report. Try google scholar... or anything....

Nevermind. All it is, is opinion articles that make claims without evidence to support it. Please. Will you send me credible sources of information???? I would be on here for years if I allowed those articles as forms of evidence.... Please, next time be more targeted. I can talk about CCD and GMO because it is a small topic with well defined points.

No more "natural news, or anti-gmo.com etc" news articles. If you read an article and it is referring to a paper, find the stupid paper then come to me. I don't want to hear a regurgitation of information that likely is misinterpreted. That is why I keep articles of wild gmo claims, that are often, not what the article says.

Reed B.
Reed B.4 years ago

2) GM food risks: This one is gonna take a while.... First link: GMO truth by two genetic engineers, I have read it before, it was flawed and biased, and has been criticized as such. It wasn't published in any journal and had no peer scrutiny. I have repeatably found the point on cis/intragenic plants being just as dangerous as transgenics... which is just plain silly as breeding techniques are able to do the same thing, but may incur unintended losses.
The talk about a paralyzed farmer is what is anecdotal, and is no form of evidence. He strongly believes it was 2-4-D, but that doesn't mean it was the factor that caused his paralysis, or that it didn't cause it. This can't be known unless more of the health effects of 2-4-d are known. Thus far it appears that if you follow the directions mandated on the herbicides they are relatively safe, though I think it may need a bit more research in the matter.
The pig thing: Again an individual farmers OPINION. This doesn't mean shit to me, and he references journal articles that he has never read and do actually say what he thinks... It is just one farmer thinking he knows what is causing something, then looks for any evidence to support his claim instead of getting someone to find out for him through SCIENCE.
Next link: another opinion article about the same author from purdue university... DONT CARE, Publish it or never happened.
next link: This is actually true, but not because of the reasons you think. Most are funded becau

Reed B.
Reed B.4 years ago

I will say it a million and one times, it is not bt toxin associated with CCD, it is not gmo foods, it was a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids.... and no one is denying that. The problem is everyone is still associating it will gmo foods.