So far, researchers using aborted fetal cell lines haven’t been able to cure paralysis or reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease, but they may be able to make diet sodas taste better.
PepsiCo has come under intense pressure from pro-life groups for contracting with Senomyx Inc., a San Diego biotech company accused of developing flavor enhancers using cell lines taken from the kidney of an aborted fetus. PepsiCo, the world’s second-largest food and beverage business, announced the $30 million deal on its website in August 2010.
The move represents what pro-life advocates describe as a troubling shift in commercial research involving cell lines developed from aborted embryos and fetuses. While research has centered on vaccines and medicines, Senomyx has contracted with companies that make soft drinks, candy, gum and coffee creamers.
After a review of Senomyx’s patents in 2011 showed that the company was using the fetal cell line in its research, more than a dozen pro-life groups launched a boycott of Pepsi products that has since spread to 11 nations, including Canada, Poland and Australia, as well as much of Western Europe.
An attempt to bring a resolution on the issue before PepsiCo shareholders for a vote failed after the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled Feb. 28 that the research and development agreement with Senomyx fell under the category of “ordinary business operations.”
PepsiCo attorney George A. Schieren said the proposed resolution “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations.”