What a Tangled Web We Weave

April 20, 2011 09:00 AM

By Debi Vinnedge

On March 29, Children of God for Life put out a startling press release that has raised the eyebrows of even the most liberal thinkers. Senomyx Biotechnology produces flavor enhancers for food giants—Nestle, PepsiCo, Cadbury Adams LLC* (a Kraft company) and Solae—using aborted fetal cells HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney), which were taken from an elective abortion in the 1970s.

As indicated on its web site, Senomyx’s partnering food companies fund research and development plus they provide royalty payments on sales of products using Senomyx flavor ingredients. Thus, without question, they are as morally culpable as Senomyx in commercializing aborted fetal remains. As one bright consumer pointed out, Senomyx cannot wash its hands of this any more than a person who pays a hit man to do his dirty deeds.

We believe that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and chance to amend, so last year Children of God for Life wrote to Senomyx and pointed out the various moral cell lines researchers could use instead. Kent Snyder, CEO of Senomyx, was warned that unless the company changed its methods, we would contact its partners and take boycott action.

Senomyx ignored the warning. So true to the promise, Children of God for Life began contacting the food companies; we put the information in our brochures and included the news in all public speaking engagements. A disgusted public was quick to respond by writing to the food companies earlier this year.

Meanwhile, letters started coming in the mail from consumer relations departments at the food companies, but quite frankly, some of the responses left us incredulous!

Ignoring the moral concerns of its customers, PepsiCo wrote, “We hope you are reassured to learn that our collaboration with Senomyx is strictly limited to creating lower-calorie, great-tasting beverages for consumers. This will help us achieve our commitment to reduce added sugar per serving by 25% in key brands in key markets over the next decade and ultimately help people live healthier lives.”

Excuse me, but if PepsiCo thinks lower calories and sugar content justifies using aborted children remains to develop those additives, the company is more morally depraved than we thought!

Likewise, Nestle didn’t seem to get it either, noting in its letter to us that, “The cell line that Senomyx uses is so well established in scientific research.” And in another consumer letter the company noted, “Nestle only uses ingredients and food additives that are approved for use in foods by the FDA or the USDA.”

Well that’s comforting, isn’t it? The FDA allows the use of aborted fetal remains in a number of vaccines and medicines too, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

Campbell Soup, however, showed compassion and a ray of hope in its response: “Every effort is made to use the finest ingredients and develop the greatest selection of products, all at a great value. With this in mind, it must be said that the trust we have cultivated and developed over the years with our consumers is not worth compromising to cut costs or increase profit margins.”

And Campbell Soup stuck to that conviction. Within hours of the press release, the company notified us that the decision had been made earlier in the month with its investors to sever all ties with Senomyx. The company actually listened to its customers and took the matter to heart! And for that, we are extremely grateful!

As for the rest of the companies, perhaps it’s time they take notice of the wide-sweeping effect this has on the public at large. As one pro-choice mother wrote: “I deeply understand the reasons that may lead a woman to such a tragic action as abortion, but I find it a big injustice that a little human being may be used for producing whatsoever, including vaccines. Abortion is a tragedy that can be justified by solitude, desperation, lack for alternatives, but the reduction of a human being to a commercial good to be exploited is deliberate. It is something unacceptable for me and, in some ways, I find it even ‘more ethically burdened’ than abortion itself.”

Now certainly we know that deliberately ending another innocent human being’s life for any reason can never be justified. But the underlying point from this young woman demonstrates that this issue reaches well beyond pro-life sensibilities to simple common decency.

In the wise words of Pope Benedict XVI given to the bishops as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1991, “‘We must lead society back to the eternal moral values,’ that is to say, open ears almost gone deaf, so that once again the promptings of God might be heard in human hearts. … The silencing of conscience leads to the dehumanization of the world and to moral danger, if one does not work against it.”

How true his words echo in our hearts and rouse our consciences to take action and stop this injustice! From vaccines to new medicines to cosmetics and now to flavor-enhancing research and development for foods, the field of biotechnology has taken on a waste-not-want-not mentality that sees nothing wrong with exploiting the remains of aborted children as long as it benefits someone or turns a profit. 

It’s high time our nation stands up and says, “Enough is enough!” It is indeed time to awaken the sleeping giant.

For more information on how you can help, see www.cogforlife.org/senomyxalert.htm

Debi Vinnedge is the executive director of Children of God for Life.

 

*In today's commentary, Cadbury Adams LLC was erroneously written as Cadbury Chocolate. Cadbury Chocolate is not part of this boycott and its products are perfectly appropriate to buy and enjoy. We apologize for this error.

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