March 14, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Despite documents clearly showing that Pepsi has partnered with a research organization that uses cells derived from an aborted baby in flavor research, in a statement sent to LifeSiteNews this week, PepsiCo has denied the allegations.

As LifeSiteNews previously reported, the soft drink producer has been under fire from pro-life organizations for contracting with Senomyx, a company known to use cells originally derived from an aborted fetus in flavor research.

A PepsiCo shareholder also protested the contract in a shareholder resolution filed last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), asking that the company “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.”

Jeff Dahncke, senior director of communications at PepsiCo, told LifeSiteNews in a recent email that the company “does not conduct or fund research that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from human embryos or fetuses.”

The company has reportedly sent similar emails to consumers who wrote in protest of Senomyx’s practices.

But Debi Vinnedge, executive director of Children of God for Life, an organization which has been at the forefront of promoting the pro-life boycott of Pepsi, says the denials simply don’t stand up in light of the clear facts.

According to Vinnedge, there is incontrovertible evidence that Senomyx’s work on behalf of Pepsi utilizes cell lines ultimately derived from an aborted baby, since that is the only kind of cell line the biotech company uses in its sweetener patents. Under a 2010 contract between the two companies, Senomyx is developing artificial high-potency sweeteners for PepsiCo.

“They have other cell lines they use in their patents that could be used, and we’ve encouraged Senomyx to do that, but they are not doing that,” she told LifeSiteNews.

According to Vinnedge, Pepsi’s misleading claim that its research does not use aborted baby tissue likely rests on the fact that the process by which Senomyx obtains the cell lines may be a few steps removed from the originally harvested cells. Cells obtained from human tissue are typically cultivated in a lab so that they grow and multiply, and are then sold to companies like Senomyx.

“They’re not taking it directly from the fetus, that’s how they get away with saying what they’re saying,” she explained, adding that “the cell line still contains the full DNA from that aborted baby, no different than if you were taking it directly from the fetus.”

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Vinnedge also pointed out that the company’s response to the shareholder resolution belies its claim to consumers. If Senomyx were not using cells ultimately derived from an aborted fetus, she said, Pepsi would have issued a straight-forward denial of the claim in its response to the SEC. 

Instead, the company sent a 36-page response asking the Commission to exclude the resolution because it “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations”  and “probed too deeply into matters of a complex nature upon which shareholders cannot make an informed judgment.”

In light of this, Children of God for Life is standing by its boycott, Vinnedge said.

She noted that her organization agrees with the conclusions of a 2005 document on cooperation in moral evil issued by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, which says it is licit for parents to make use of vaccines that were originally derived from aborted babies. The document added that that there is “a grave responsibility” to make use of alternative vaccines, if available, and to “make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems.”

However, Vinnedge noted, the document was dealing with the issue only in reference to the use of aborted fetal cells in medicine. “Their response, I believe, would be a little different when you talk about soda or cosmetics,” she said. “It’s not like there’s a necessity to use them.”