March 22, 2001
SEATTLE--Coffee conglomerate Starbucks Coffee Co. will begin serving GM-free milk in its 2,758-store chain. In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Starbucks' president and chief executive officer, Orin Smith, stated that the company was concerned with the public's perception and health concerns. "If I've got 10 percent of my customer base that's concerned about this issue, I'm concerned," he said.
What made Starbucks have a change of heart? Six organic organizations sent a letter dated Feb. 14 to the coffee retailer expressing their concerns about the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on human health and the environment. In a response letter, Starbucks stated that it recognized that "some of our customers may be concerned about GMOs, even in the absence of any evidence of harm to the public."
The company assured the groups that its core products--coffee and tea--were completely GM-free, and that the soymilk it serves was certified organic. Nonetheless, the company stated that because 95 percent of the U.S. milk supply contains GMOs, mainly in the form of the growth hormone rBST (recombinant bovine somatotrophin), it would begin to take measures to find an alternative source for its milk. However, this does not mean the company will stop serving the GM milk; instead, it will offer an rBST-free milk alongside its soymilk as an alternative to regular dairy milk. Smith said that the company hoped to one day have all rBST-free milk products.
Even though this announcement was meant to appease the organic industry, scientific organizations such as the American Council on Science and Health and the National Center for Public Policy Analysis wrote their own letter to Starbucks, dated March 20. The letter stated that Starbuck's action to go rBST-free was "unfounded and harms consumers." "Milk from cows supplemented with protein-based growth hormones, which naturally occur in all cows, is the same, nutritious milk," the letter said.
Smith's letter noted that organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization state that rBST-treated cows are no different than untreated cows. For additional information, visit www.starbucks.com.
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