Starbucks Campaign

After several years of preliminary consciousness raising around the GE food

issue, Friends of the Earth, Organic Consumers Association, and other allies

in the Genetically Engineered Food Alert scored a major victory last fall.

Genetically engineered corn, StarLink, had contaminated over 300 US brand

name products (Kraft and Safeway taco shells, Mission Food products, etc.)

as well as much of the entire multi-billion dollar US corn crop and hybrid

seed supply. Not only is the StarLink fiasco costing the industry, according

to Wall Street analysts, up to a billion dollars in losses, but even more

costly to the biotech industry is the fact that the incident has thoroughly

alarmed millions of American consumers; not to mention millions of consumers

overseas whose governments import billions of dollars of US corn. According

to Dan Cekander, a top US grain trade analyst in Chicago, the StarLink

scandal has impacted and ‘distorted’ the entire global corn export market,

and will likely ‘continue to do so for four or five more years’ due to the

fact that StarLink- contaminated corn will continue to show up in the

marketplace, as reported in the Latin American business publication El

Financiero, 2/28/01

Now is the time, in the wake of the StarLink scandal, for US consumers and

food activists to go on the offensive. The Organic Consumers Association and

five of our closest allies (Friends of the Earth, Rights Action Canada,

Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, and Sustain) have decided

to target Starbucks, the largest gourmet coffee shop chain in the world, as

our first major North American corporate target. On March 20, 2001, while

Starbucks holds their annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, we are

organizing ‘Frankenbuck$’ protests in front of Starbucks cafes in up to 100

cities across the US, leafleting and holding up signs. In a number of strategic cities

there will be press conferences as well This will be the largest coordinated

protest against genetically engineered foods (as well as the largest protest

against agricultural sweatshops) in US history.

Please go to the Starbucks section of our website and check out this campaign.

If you are willing to leaflet or do media work in your local city or community,

please contact Simon Harris, the OCA’s national Starbucks Campaign

coordinator at

Starbucks has over 2,500 coffee shops in the US and Canada (3,300 worldwide)

and sells its bottled Frappuccino coffee beverages and ice cream to several

thousand additional retailers and college campuses. Twenty percent of all

coffee shops in the USA are now owned by Starbucks. Starbucks has

partnerships with Pepsi-Cola, Marriott, Kraft/Phillip Morris, and the

Albertson’s supermarket chain. In addition, Starbucks now has outlets in 18

nations, making them one of the fastest growing food and beverage companies

in the world. If you live outside the US and are willing to help organize a

campaign in your country, please contact us as well at


Despite rising consumer concerns, Starbucks stubbornly refuses to guarantee

that the milk, beverages, chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods they are

serving or selling are free of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and

other genetically engineered ingredients (including soy derivatives and corn

sweeteners). The bottom line is that Starbucks needs to get rid of all GE

food ingredients and label its packaged or bottled products as being


Several thousand Starbucks outlets are still using milk coming from dairies

that allow cows to be injected with Monsanto’s controversial Bovine Growth

Hormone, a hormone often associated with higher risks for cancer in humans.

rBGH is a powerful drug, which cruelly damages the health of dairy cows,

forcing them to give more milk. Milk from rBGH injected cows is also likely

to contain more pus, antibiotic residues, and bacteria. Monsanto’s rBGH is

banned in every industrialized country in the world except for the United

States and Mexico. Starbucks is one of the largest buyers of rBGH-tainted

milk in the world. Labeling its bottled coffee beverages and ice cream,

which are sold in thousands of retail stores, as rBGH-free will send a

powerful message to Monsanto and the dairy industry that consumers want rBGH

taken off the market. For more information on the hazards of the genetically

engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, see the special rBGH section

on our website.

Although biotechnology corporations are currently field-testing genetically

engineered (decaffeinated) coffee beans, Starbucks has not taken a public

stand on whether or not it intends to purchase these genetically engineered

coffee beans in the future.



Although Starbucks has recently bowed to consumer pressure and begun selling

certified Fair Trade, shade-grown (organic or transition to organic) coffee

beans in bulk, they are refusing to brew and seriously promote Fair Trade

coffee, unlike a number of other gourmet coffee shops and companies.

Only shade-grown or organic coffee, which avoids the use of the use of toxic

pesticides and chemical fertilizers, protects the environment and preserves

the forest canopy and the priceless biodiversity of plants and animals

(including migratory songbirds). All coffee certified as Fair Trade or

organic is shade-grown, as opposed to corporate plantation coffee, which is

grown in the direct sunlight, utilizing pesticides and chemical fertilizers,

typically on large plantations where the surrounding forest cover has been

completely chopped down. Wages paid to impoverished farm workers on the

typical sun-grown coffee plantations supplying Starbucks and other large

coffee buyers average approximately $600 per year, less than the annual cost

of a daily Starbucks latte in the US, Canada, Japan, or Europe.

Coffee is the largest agricultural export commodity on the world market,

with 18 billion dollars in annual sales. The US coffee import market, the

largest in the world, totals almost four billion dollars. Coffee is a widely

cultivated crop that can readily be converted to or maintained as 100%

shade-grown and organic. It is the most important export of dozens of

developing nations, including Mexico and the nations of Central America.

There are 25 million, mainly small, coffee farmers left in the world, most

of whom are growing coffee in a sustainable and organic (shade-grown as

opposed to sun grown and chemical-intensive) manner. Many of these

indigenous and small farmers, who inhabit the most biologically diverse and

fragile areas of the world (the mountains and rainforests of Chiapas,

Oaxaca, and Guatemala for example), are trying to make a living in the face

of intense economic exploitation, racial discrimination, and government


The only way these campesinos (farm workers) and small coffee farmers can

survive, and thereby preserve global biodiversity, is to get a better price

for their coffee. It is market demand in the industrialized North that

determines how much Fair Trade coffee gets sold, and in turn how many of the

world’s 25 million coffee growers can be enrolled in Fair Trade cooperatives

and programs. Because companies like Starbucks (and institutional food

vendors like Sysco) are not brewing, seriously selling, and heavily

promoting Fair Trade coffee, most coffee sold today is sun-grown, plantation

coffee. Only 550,000 or 2% of the world’s coffee growers now benefit from

being part of the Fair Trade movement. We need to increase this percentage,

as quickly as possible, or else indigenous and rural communities across the

global South and tropical biodiversity will perish. Analysts estimate that

as many as 50% of shade-grown coffee producers in countries like Mexico will

abandon production over the next few years unless market demand for Fair

Trade coffee increases dramatically.

Unfortunately the world’s small shade-grown coffee producers, many of whom

are indigenous people, are being forced out of business and off the land by

a ruthless global coffee cartel determined to drive down the prices paid to

coffee farmers and monopolize and control the world coffee market supply —

in the process forcing their industrial, plantation model of sun-grown coffee on

the entire world. Currently four food giants basically control the world’s

coffee supply: Procter and Gamble (Folgers); Kraft/Phillip Morris (Maxwell

House); Sarah Lee (European brands), and Nestle (Hills Brothers). Buyers for

these conglomerates have recently been paying small farmers as little as 30

cents a pound for their coffee beans, a starvation price which is equal to

less than a third of what it costs these farmers to produce the coffee. Fair

Trade coffee, on the other hand, guarantees producers at least $1.26 per

pound, a price which will steadily increase as corporations such as

Starbucks are forced to begin to brew and promote Fair Trade coffee on a

major scale.

The world’s millions of small coffee farmers desperately need certified Fair

Trade and organic coffee (which provides these small farmers with a living

wage for their coffee beans) to become the dominant force in the 18 billion

dollar world coffee market, not just a tiny niche.

Despite dubious claims that they have begun to fulfill their promises

(dating back to 1995) to improve the wages and working conditions of

impoverished workers on the coffee plantations of suppliers in Guatemala and

other nations, Starbucks has offered little or no evidence of action. The

public relations brochures in their cafes boast about social responsibility,

but they have refused to divulge to international human rights monitors

specifics on where and how they have made a difference.



Some people have asked why the OCA is raising the issue of Fair Trade

shade-grown coffee and social justice along with the issue of genetically

engineered food and beverages in the Starbucks campaign.

It is our belief that the time has come to build a broader and more powerful

movement against genetically engineered foods, factory farming, and chemical

intensive agriculture. One of the best ways to do this is to bring together

people whose primary concerns are social justice or preserving the

environment and biodiversity, with those whose passion is stopping genetic

engineering and converting the world’s agricultural system to organic

farming as soon as possible. In reality, all of these crucial issues are

inextricably interconnected. Genetic engineering poses a mortal threat to

public health, biodiversity, and the environment, and, in addition, is being

used as a tool for agribusiness monopolies to drive most of the world’s two

billion small farmers and rural villagers off the land and replace them with

a US-style system of factory farming and industrial agriculture which is

more conducive to corporate profits. When it comes to our food supply;

environmental preservation, sustainable development, and social and economic

justice go hand-in-hand.

Organic farmers, in this case shade-grown coffee growers, cannot afford to

grow the crops that we need and exercise a sustainable and ethical

stewardship over the land, unless they get a fair price for their labor. If

we allow the global coffee cartel and its accomplices such as Starbucks to

continue to control the food and beverage choices of the world’s consumers,

restricting Fair Trade and organic coffee to being nothing more than a small

niche market, 20 million small shade-grown coffee producers will shortly be

forced off the land. The timber companies, plantation owners, and cattle

barons are waiting in the wings to chop down the remaining forests and

eliminate much of what is left of tropical and semi-tropical biodiversity.

With your help, and the combined efforts of the emerging global movement of

consumers, food activists, and anti-sweatshop Fair Trade organizations, we

can stop this war on nature and indigenous people and convert our global

agricultural system to one that is organic, sustainable, and equitable.


If you are willing to help leaflet a Starbucks outlet in your community,

beginning March 20, send an email to or call


Print the Frankenbucks leaflet from our website:

Go to a Starbucks and ask to speak to the manager. Show them the leaflet and

tell them that as a customer of Starbucks you expect GE free products that

are humanely and sustainably produced. Ask them for a verbal and written

assurance that they will change their policies (i.e. that they will remove

rBGH and other genetically engineered ingredients from their coffee

beverages and their foods; that they will start brewing and seriously

promoting Fair Trade coffee; that they will fulfill their pledge to improve

the wages and working conditions of coffee plantation workers; that they

will pledge never to use genetically engineered (decaffeinated) coffee


Ask Starbucks to show you that the milk they are using is labeled as

rBGH-free (sometimes called rBST). If you order soymilk with your coffee,

make sure it’s labeled as organic or as free of genetically engineered soy

and soy derivatives. Ask if Starbucks baked goods are guaranteed to be free

from GE soy, soy derivatives, corn sweeteners, and oils.

If you order a coffee from Starbucks, ask them to brew it with Fair Trade

coffee beans. If they won’t, tell them you will take your business


Patronize socially and environmentally responsible businesses and products.

If one of Starbucks competitors is brewing Fair Trade coffee or avoiding

genetically engineered ingredients, give your business to them instead of


Join the Organic Consumers Association and the growing Fair Trade movement

across the USA. Keep Informed by visiting our website:

Call, write, fax, or email Starbucks. Tell them to send you a written

guarantee that they will change their policies on genetically engineered

foods, Fair Trade coffee, and wages and working conditions of coffee

plantation workers, or else you will no longer buy their products.


Mr. Orin Smith, CEO

Starbucks Coffee Company

P.O. Box 34067

Seattle, WA 98124-1067

Telephone: 800-235-2883

Fax: 206-447-3432

email: you can send an email from the Starbucks website:

Note: Starbucks may likely change its email or telephone numbers to deal

with the fact that they are being swamped with calls and emails. Send them a

letter or fax if you can, or better yet visit one of their stores directly

and voice your concerns.

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