By Vandana Shiva
There are powerful human rights and environmental reasons for banning the production of soft drinks in India. Each liter of soft drinks destroys and pollutes 10 liters of water.
In a democracy, the prohibition of harmful products and activities is the expression of the freedoms and rights of citizens. Bans protect citizens from dangers to health and the environment. That is why tobacco has been banned in public places. For this reason, the Montreal Protocol has banned substances with depleted ozone and the Basel Convention the trade in toxic and hazardous waste.
Coca Cola and Pepsi have joined the group of toxic and dangerous products that must be banned to protect the health of citizens and the environment. On August 22, the “Coke and Pepsi out of India” campaign intensified its activity with a day of action to ban the two soft drinks. Kerala has already banned Queues. Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan have banned soft drinks in educational centers and in cafes of official institutions. And the Coca-Cola and Pepsi clearances are spreading across the country.
Steal the water and produce thirst
There are powerful human rights and environmental reasons for banning the production of soft drinks in India. Each Coke and Pepsi factory draws 1-2 million liters of water daily. If each factory takes 1-2 million liters a day and there are 90 factories, the daily extraction is between 90-180 million liters. Amount that would cover the daily drinking water needs of millions of people. Each liter of soft drinks destroys and pollutes 10 liters of water and high levels of cadmium and lead have been found in the toxic sludge produced (Kerala Pollution Control Council, Hazard Center).
Long-term exposure to Cadmium can cause kidney dysfunction, and damage to bones, liver, and blood. Lead affects the central nervous system, the kidneys, the blood, and the cardiovascular system. Women from a small village in Kerala managed to close a Coca-Cola factory. “When you drink Coca-Cola, you drink the people's blood,” says Mylamma, the woman who started the movement against Coca-Cola in Plachimada. The Coca-Cola factory in Plachimada planned in March 2000 to produce 1,224,000 bottles of Coca-Cola products per day and had a provisional license to install a water extraction pump, granted by the panchayat (NT: council municipal). However, the company began to illegally extract millions of liters of drinking water. According to the people of the area, Coca Cola extracted 1.5 million liters a day. The water level began to drop, dropping from 150 to 500 feet deep. Peasants and castes lamented that water storage and supply were being adversely affected by the indiscriminate installation of drilling of wells to capture groundwater, which has serious consequences for crops. Wells also threaten traditional drinking water sources, ponds, waterways and canals. When the company refused to provide the data required by the panchayat, it was notified in court and the license was canceled. Then Coca-Cola tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Chairman of the Local Council, A. Krishnan, with 300 million rupees.
Coca-Cola not only stole water from the local community, it also polluted what it did not appropriate. The company deposited waste outside the factory that, in the rainy season, spread through the rice fields, canals and wells, causing serious health hazards. As a result of these spills, 260 wells drilled, for public use, have dried up. Coca-Cola also dumped wastewater into the dry wells of the company's premises. In 2003, the district medical officials informed the people of Plachimada that their water was not safe to drink. Women, who already knew that the water was toxic, had to walk miles to get water. Coca-Cola has caused a water shortage in a region that had abundant water by dumping leftover sludge that contained large amounts of lead, cadmium and chromium.
The women of Plachimada were not willing to allow this water piracy. In 2002, they started a sit-in on the doorstep of Coca-Cola. To commemorate the first anniversary of their struggle, I joined them on Earth Day 2003. On September 21, 2003, a huge march issued an ultimatum to Coca-Cola. In January 2004, the World Water Conference brought activists from around the world to Plachimada to support their fight. A movement started by local Adivasi women has sparked a national and global surge in support of them.
Today the factory is closed and movements have started in other factories.
Cola's soft drink giants are exacerbating the water crisis already facing rural dwellers.
There is only one measure and one guideline in the problem of water use: the fundamental right to have clean, safe and adequate water cannot be violated. Coke and Pepsi are violating that right. That is the reason why the extraction of millions of liters of water should be prohibited. In the case of Plachimada, the Supreme Court of Kerala has established that “the groundwater belongs to the people. The State and its institutions must act as trustees of this great wealth. The State has the obligation to protect the groundwater against excessive exploitation and the passivity of the State in this matter amounts to infringing on the right to life of the people, guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The groundwater found on the land of the second defendant does not belong to him.
The groundwater belongs to everyone and the defendant does not have the right to claim a large part of it and neither can the Government authorize a private entity to extract similar amounts of groundwater, since it is a property that is held in trust. "
The principle that water is a public good and common property is what has led to the prohibition of water extraction in Plachimada. The local communities of 55 Coke and Pepsi factories have relied on this principle to sue those corporations on January 20, 2005 for plundering a community resource.
Steal health, produce disease.
The fight against Coke is also a fight for health. Pesticide residues have been found in Coke and Pepsi, but even without them, sodas are dangerous.
These beverages have zero nutritional value compared to our indigenous beverages such as nimbu pani, lassi, panna, and sattu. The soft drink giants have made the youth of India ashamed of our indigenous food culture, despite its nutritional value and safety, through their aggressive advertising campaigns. They have monopolized the thirst market by buying up local companies like Parle and displacing traditional cold drinks, made at home or in the cottage industry. But what Coke and Pepsi sell is a toxic potion of colors with anti-nutritional values.
The Indian Ministry of Health has asked movie stars not to support Coke and Pepsi because of the dangers of sugar in soft drinks, causing obesity and the diabetes epidemic among children. Marion Nestlé has called soft drinks the quintessential “junk food”, high in calories and low in nutrition. The Center for Science and the Environment for the Public Interest has called soft drinks "liquid sugar." 12 ounces of soda can have 1.5 ounces of sugar.
Increasingly, the soft drink giants are using High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). The Ministry of Health has not yet assessed the problem of the health risks of HFCS and those of transgenic foods in the event that the cereals used are transgenic. If the government wants to have safe sweeteners it should ban HFCS and encourage cane sugar growers in India to do so organically. The Central Government is failing utterly to protect the health of Indian citizens Nutrient composition in soft drinks compared to orange juice and skim milk (12 oz container)
|Coke||Pepsi||Orange juice||Skim milk|
|Vitamins C (mg)||0||0||146||3|
|Folic acid (mg)||0||0||164||18|
Source: Marion Nestlé, Food Poltiics.
The sugar in soft drinks is not a natural sugar, sucrose, but cereal syrup with a high concentration of fructose. Factories for the production of this syrup have begun to be set up in India and, if strict regulations are not enacted, the Indian diet could follow the model of the American diet, with high doses of fructose that produce insulin resistance. Unlike sucrose, fructose is not metabolized in the same way but is diverted to the liver where it releases fatty acids into the blood. Some studies have concluded that fructose diets have 31% more triglycerides than sucrose diets. Fructose also lowers the oxidation rate of fatty acids. PA Mayes, a scientist at the University of London, has concluded that the long-term absorption of fructose causes adaptation of enzymes that increase the formation of fat lipogenesis and VLDL (bad cholesterol) leading to triglyceridemia (too many triglycerides in blood), lower glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood). Scientists from the University of California at Berkeley have also confirmed that the abuse of fructose has led the American diet to produce metabolic changes that facilitate the storage of fat.
India cannot afford the high costs of the fructose diet which also has other nutritional costs in its side effects. When cereals are used to produce fructose syrup, the poor are denied basic necessities. At present, 30% of cereals are used as raw material for the production of livestock feed and fructose and diverted from human consumption. Furthermore, the displacement of healthier sweeteners derived from sugarcane such as gur and khandsari deprives farmers of income and livelihoods. The impact of Colas on the food chain and on the economy is therefore enormous and does not end in the bottle.
In any case, what is inside the bottles is not suitable for a healthy diet. It is well known that the consumption of soft drinks contributes to the deterioration of the teeth and adolescents who consume them have a 3-4 times greater risk of having broken bones than those who do not drink them. Soft drinks are becoming the main source of caffeine in children's diets as each 12-ounce container of cola contains about 45 milligrams.
There are other ingredients in that toxic potion: an anti-freeze compound - ethylene glycol, and phosphoric acid to give it a little punch. People consume 4 kg of chemicals per person per year based on 20.6 million tons of chemicals used as artificial colors, seasonings, etc ... (Prashant Bhushan, "Soft Drinks, Toxic Potions"). For this reason, we should not worry only about pesticides but about the toxic concoctions to which our children are becoming addicted thanks to the giants of Cola.
Another violation of Coke and Pepsi is that of the right to health. Phosphoric acid and carbon dioxide make sodas extremely acidic, which is why they are effective as toilet cleaners. We would not accept that our children drink products to clean toilets but industrial soft drinks, which have the same acidic properties, are sold freely.
Because of all these dangers, schools in the United States have banned soft drinks. For the same reasons, 10,000 schools and colleges in India have been declared Coke and Pepsi clearances. And because of this, the Kerala government has banned Queues. Because of these dangers, the cafeteria of the Indian Parliament does not serve either Coke or Pepsi. And because of those risks, Pepsi representatives admit that their drinks are not healthy for children.
However, the Union Government hesitates in the face of pressure from the United States. The Union Health Ministry has challenged a study on pesticide residues in Coke and Pepsi, literally citing another study commissioned by Coca Cola. It is clear that the health of citizens cannot be in the hands of a government that establishes arbitrary rules that guarantee the security of obtaining huge benefits to Coke and Pepsi but do not guarantee the health security of its citizens.
The Ministry of Health has announced that by January 2007 they will require safety requirements for Coke and Pepsi. But neither will be safe as of January 2007. There are two reasons why reliance solely on standard setting is not reliable in ensuring that citizens have healthy and safe products. First, centralized government decisions can easily be influenced by corporate interests, as we have seen in the government's response to the Parliament debate. There is a science of big business and a public science. In an age when corporations run everything, their science wins out. Second, the standards themselves are reductionist in that they are to be set only for pesticide residues based on permitted levels of ingredients such as water and sugar, without taking into account the terrible effects of the product on the health of people. people and the environment. We need total food security, not manipulated reductionist pseudo-safety standards that protect corporations and not people.
The Health Ministry's own observations make it clear that reductionist "safety standards" do not make Coke and Pepsi "safe." Thus, while declaring that pesticide residues are "within safe limits" in bottles tested in Mysore and Gujarat, they also claim that Colas are junk food and are not safe for health. Safety is more than just standards for pesticide residues. And, as we've seen, different labs are giving different results.
Whether or not to ban Coke and Pepsi cannot, and should not, depend solely on whether a particular laboratory does not find particular levels of pesticide residues in soft drinks above the allowed limits. The problems with Coke and Pepsi causing a water and health crisis alone are reason enough to ban them. Together, they make prohibition imperative. These are crimes against nature and people and are determined by their impact, not by the "standards" of the instruments used to commit them. Coke and Pepsi are committed to violating the earth's aquifers and slowly poisoning our children. And there are no "safe standards" for rape or slow murder. Therefore, we must eliminate them from our lives through actions as free and sovereign citizens of a free and sovereign India.
A speech by a minister influenced by the Cola giants does not give Coke and Pepsi “carte blanche” as they claim. The “carte blanche” must come from the free citizens of India and the people of India have not given it to them. We must follow the example of Pachimada and Kerala to get India free of Coke and Pepsi to protect our groundwater and the health of our future generations.
We must oppose any attempt to deprive us of the constitutional rights of citizens and states to make decisions about the safety of our food, as established by the 2006 Food Safety Act.
Original title: Coke Pepsi and the Politics of Food Safety - Origin: ZNet Commentaries -Translated by Felisa Sastre and reviewed by Esther Carrera