Since 2011, UC Berkeley has been actively endorsing one of the top consumer plastic polluters on the planet and the poster child for big food monopolies: PepsiCo. PepsiCo is an extensive contributor to the climate crisis, marine plastic pollution, labor exploitation, rainforest deforestation and malnutrition. Under our current pouring rights contract, 85% of all food and beverages in campus dining areas and vending machines must be owned by PepsiCo.
How is this possible? PepsiCo owns everything from Gatorade to Cheetos, Doritos to Sabra hummus, Quaker Oats to Lay’s, KeVita kombucha to Tostitos tortilla chips and nearly everything else you see at The Golden Bear café or the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union vending machines. With sugar and palm oil as major ingredients, PepsiCo compounds existing food insecurity by negatively affecting marginalized students who are unable to afford or access healthier alternatives. Our partnership is a direct barrier to accessible nutrition and demonstrates what seems like apathy for the health of underrepresented communities.
This apathy seems to be apparent in the corporate relations of PepsiCo, which has long partnered with Indofood palm oil plantations. Indofood utilizes child labor and exposes workers to harmful pesticides that are illegal in the United States. It was not until PepsiCo was exposed for links to such abuses that it cut ties with Indofood in July 2019. The irony that our university proclaims social justice and equity is inescapable.
Beyond rescinding campus claims of social justice, the PepsiCo partnership nullifies every single one of UC Berkeley’s sustainability goals. PepsiCo has contributed to the deforestation of more than 25,000 acres of Indonesian rainforest for palm oil and is a giant fossil fuel and plastic polluter in the world, at 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 2.3 million metric tons of plastic per year. There is hypocrisy in our claims for campus sustainability; we pledge zero waste by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2025and yet endorse a monopoly of environmental injustice. As a representative of ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ’s Office of Unsustainable Partnerships, we refuse to accept any claims of progress so long as our administration maintains this partnership.
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