PepsiCo and Naked Juice: Confused about GMOs

I’m a fan of Naked Juice. The Protein Zone and Protein Zone Mango smoothies are great ways to refresh and rebuild tired muscles after a long run..

I’m not a fan of sanctimonious b.s., though, and Naked Juice is peddling that along with its juices and smoothies.

Here’s what I’m talking about. The other day, I noticed this message on a Naked Juice bottle:

We use only the freshest, purest stuff in the world and leave out everything else. * no added sugar * no preservatives *non-GMO**   *gluten free

The double asterisk next to non-GMO led me to this:

While many ingredients do not exist in bioengineering varieties, Naked Juice does not use ingredients that were produced using biotechnology as a matter of principle.

It was the last five words that caught my attention. “As a matter of principle.” The phrase also is used on Naked’s website.

Not as a matter of marketing. Not because the consumers of Naked Juice just might happen to be the kinds of people  who would feel good about avoiding GMOs. But as a matter of principle.

Hmm. There’s an implicit moral judgment there, no?

What, I wondered, might the principle be?

That GMOs make people sick? That they are bad for the environment?

Not likely, I thought, because PepsiCo, which owns Naked Juice, uses GMOs.

PepsiCo wouldn’t sell products that are unhealthy or bad for the environment, would it?

Certainly not, the company said in response to a  shareholder resolution about GMOs in 2009. On page 66, PepsiCo says that the U.S. FDA has concluded that genetically engineered foods are “as safe for consumption as traditionally developed foods” and that “this finding is supported by significant scientific consensus.” The company even goes on to say nice things about genetic engineering:

We believe that genetically engineered products can play a role in generating positive economic, social and environmental contributions to societies around the world, particularly in times of food shortages.

That’s because farmers believe that GMOs make them more productive. GMO use is growing worldwide, particularly in China and India.  Scientists I respect like Pamela Ronald tell me that GMOs have the potential to save the lives of millions of poor people, the kinds of people who cannot afford to spend $3.19 for a 15.2-ounce bottle of juice.

A week ago, I emailed Naked Juice to ask what “principle” is guiding the company’s decision to avoid GMOs. It took a while, but eventually I heard back from Rebecca Herbst, a PR woman with Olson, which reps Naked Juice. She replied:

Since Naked Juice’s inception, we have been committed to crafting the highest quality juices and juice smoothies that use only the best bare-naked ingredients. This means that our products are made from 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, with the only non-juice ingredients coming in the form of whey and soy for our protein smoothies. There is no added sugar, no preservatives and nothing artificial in Naked Juice–ever.

There may be a principle in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. What makes the claim even sillier is that the only ingredient I could find in any Naked Juice product that comes in a genetically-engineered variety is soy. So avoiding GMOs for this company is easy–you can’t get GMO apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, coconuts, to the best of my knowledge.

I also asked why there’s no mention of PepsiCo on the Naked Juice bottle or on the website, at least that I could find. That’s not very “naked,” is it?

She replied:

Since 1983, juice fans have come to trust the Naked Juice brand….Our relationship with PepsiCo has allowed us to bring Naked Juice to juice lovers across the country, but we’ve heard from our fans that it is the Naked Juice brand that signifies that they can be confident that they are purchasing the delicious juices and juice smoothies that they know and love.

Sheesh.

The thing is, there’s lots to like about Naked Juice. The flavor, the nutrition, the innovative reNEWabottle that’s made from recycled bottles and is itself recyclable. Some consumers, I’m sure, like the fact that there are no GMOs inside. Put that on the label if you like. I’m all for transparency.

But please…spare me the moralizing unless you can back it up with science.

Comments

  1. martin Z says:

    There’s lots of science to back up the potential for non-GMO and the dangers of GMO (which is tied to industrial ag & synthetic inputs). Many farmers around the world are vehemently rejecting them, and the overwhelming majority of consumers want GMO products labeled

    Just a start in your reading….

    http://www.rodale.com/vandana-shiva

    http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/node/436

    http://www.non-gmoreport.com/nongeneticallymodifiedfoodorganic/gmofoodenvironmentalrisks.php

    http://www.non-gmoreport.com/nongeneticallymodifiedfoodorganic/gmofoodhealthrisks.php

    http://www.non-gmoreport.com/nongeneticallymodifiedfoodorganic/negativeimpactsindustrialagriculture.php

    • Thanks your comment, Martin, and I will look at some of the links. You know, I’m sure, that there’s lots of science on both sides and as I mentioned in the blog, more and more farmers are adopting transgenic crops.

      Having said that, I support labeling for GMOs. Consumers who choose to avoid them should be able to do so.

      • Marc,

        Thanks for the reply

        The productivity and efficacy of GMOs remains disputed, with many studies finding they fail to deliver on the touted benefits (e.g., produce more food, produce more nutritious food)
        http://www.africanconservation.org/forum/thread-for-gm-the-environment/11484-gm-crops-increase-pesticide-use-and-fail-to-alleviate-poverty.html

        It’s important to dig into both sides since the public information available on GMO safety, support and efficacy is slanted. This is largely because GMO crops/seeds are produced and backed by corporations and trade associations with that are much larger and better funded the companies and grassroots movements those opposing GMOs.

        Global increase in GMO acreage is not necessarily a sign of broad, willing adoption by farmers, particularly small-scale farmers in poor countries. The Monitor did an excellent piece on how multinationals, including many biotech firms, lease land from African governments to plant GMO crops such as biofuels, often for export versus food, and contract small-scale farmers to grow the same to be sold to said firms. This exacerbates hunger, has little impact on poverty and fills the environment w/ synthetic agrochemicals used to optimize GMO efficiency and productivity. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2011/0206/Hunger-and-food-security-Is-Africa-selling-the-farm

        Also, it struck me as more of a reflection of your beliefs that Pepsi’s that you took their statement as a judgment, as it seems like a simple statement of brand beliefs to me. If it’s a brand statement, it also seems immaterial for them to mention corporate parent. The principle they’re upholding could be that they believe consumers have the right to purchase non-GMO products if they desire, not necessarily contradicting PepsiCo’s support fur and possible (quite probable given % of corn and canola that are HMO) use of GMOs in its own products.

        • Caroline says:

          Martin,
          Your last statement
          “The principle they’re upholding could be that they believe consumers have the right to purchase non-GMO products if they desire, not necessarily contradicting PepsiCo’s support fur and possible (quite probable given % of corn and canola that are HMO) use of GMOs in its own products.”
          may show your own bias for non-GMOs (or against GMOs) as you are defending Naked juice’s unnecessary statement concerning their not using GMOs, that is, if Naked juice simply wanted to provide “naked” labeling that GMOs are not used. Their first statement of “…no preservative, non-GMO, gluten free” is sufficient. The added statement of them not using biotechnological ingredients “as a matter principle” is clearly (and grammatically) implying that the USE of ingredients produced using biotechnology is bad, or just not good. …Nonetheless, if that is their opinion and standard, they should stand by it, unashamed. So there is no need for defending that statement, even in the face of criticism. Stand by your principles even if others disagree. And agree to disagree.

  2. Marc, I agree with your take on this issue. The first principle guiding natural and organic products brands should be empowering informed consumer choice through clear, correct labeling, backed by education to help people understand what the label means. Some post-Expo West thoughts on this here:

    http://www.linhartpr.com/featured/brand-organic-now-what/

  3. Martin…learn how to write and Caroline…so eloquently put…Marc …not sure why you care. As far as I am concerned as long as the consumer is told EXACTLY what ingredients are in what they are consuming..who cares what their MORAL stance is. Science is not exact.. (obviously or I would have never suffered forty years before being diagnosed with Celiac) so really guys don’t you have something better to do than question someones moral stance on a food label??

  4. Guess I'll Switch To Pom Wonderful says:

    “Naked Juice does not use ingredients that were produced using biotechnology as a matter of principle.”

    The statement is ambiguous.

    Naked Juice does not refuse GMO ingredients.

    Naked Juice refuses ingredients produced under a set of principles.

    As GMO ingredients are produced without principles, Naked Juice is therefore free to use them.

  5. 1. Naked Juices has been misrepresenting their contents. That means they have no scruples whatsoever. What if you are allergic to a substance and want to avoid it? They say it isn’t in their product and you consume it? If we cannot rely on them to tell us the truth, why would you want to purchase their product?

    They recently settled a class action lawsuit
    Here’s a snippet of an article about that
    Pepsi’s popular Naked Juice line has been forced to strip the words “all natural” from its labels after a class-action suit determined the claim was misleading and false.

    Naked Juice Co. agreed to pay $9 million to settle the suit, which was brought by a group of consumers who alleged the juices and smoothies could not be called natural and GMO-free. Under the terms of the settlement, Naked Juice can continue to deny that they misled the public, but they are changing the labels nonetheless.

    The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleged that Naked Juice couldn’t call their products all natural because they contained Archer Daniels Midland’s Fibersol-2 (“a soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent”), fructooligosaccharides (an alternative sweetener), and genetically modified soy.

  6. Ha now they have a class action law suit paying people out because all along they were using GMOs and synthetic vitamins!! Every person can get up to 45 bucks!

  7. Hmmm. Calcium pantothenic acid? Vitamin B5? Produced how? Rabid online mob action just so lawyers can claim, with a high moral/judgmental tone, “YOU ARE NOT NATURAL!” How dare you produce your vitamins w/this or that usual chemical that added vitamins are produced with! How very happily those lawyers are to ask for more millions to line their pockets for the costs in starting this lawsuit and getting key online, etc. outrage generated…seriously! Oh no! There are trace chemicals in it just like in our polluted world! Just please label everything in there and put the usual disclaimers. There. All better. Happy to say I will continue to be a Naked Juice fan. I like how it makes me feel!

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