It's the Environment, Stupid.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pesticides and soda in India

No one else is saying it, so I thought I would. Coke and Pepsi should not take the full blame for pesticides in their soft drinks produced in India. However, they also shouldn’t be excused from helping to remedy the situation.

While the partial ban of the soft drinks in India has been making headlines in the past week, this is not a new issue. The Indian Parliament banned the sale of Coca-Cola in their cafeterias after a report released in January 2004 noted the high levels of pesticides in the soft drink produced and distributed within the country. This was a small victory (and a point of criticism) for The India Resoure Center, a watch group that tracks Coca-Cola’s practices in India.

The India Resource Center has also sounded the alarm over water usage by the cola giant, tracking accounts that document declining water tables, and other water abuse issues in villages where its plants operate. Coca-Cola’s response to these accusations is the release of press statements, detailing how they abide by local laws and regulations, and truck in water for people in local villages.

The whole of India seems to want to rally against the corporation because of the pesticides, but no one seems to want to stand behind a community that might be consuming these pesticides every day in their drinking water – pesticides that might be there with or with out a soft drink plant.

Instead of asking ‘how much pesticides should be allowed in the soft drinks?’ someone should ask how the pesticides are getting into the water supply in the first place. According to a press statement by Coca-cola, the company uses strict measures in testing their soft drinks for pesticides, but it doesn’t say if they monitor pesticide level in the water used to make the soft drinks.

Coca-cola says they do a lot already to ensure groundwater replenishment, and monitoring of waste effluents, but perhaps they should also work with local governments and communities to identify the source of the pesticides and work towards ways of eliminating (or reducing) their use, instead of pouring their money into spinning the PR bottle. And perhaps those calling foul on coca-cola should shift their activism efforts to push for least toxic pest control methods.

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