Coalition Against Coke Contracts Lecture Sparks Controversy
Coca-Cola vending machines are a familiar sight all over University
buildings. The company has a 10-year, 10-milion dollar contract with
the University, a contract that will be coming up for renewal in June
Recently, there has been mounting opposition to the contract from
the Coalition Against Coke Contracts as well as the University chapter
of Students Against Sweatshops and other campus organizations.
On Thursday night, the Coalition Against Coke Contracts hosted Amit
Srivastava, coordinator of the India Resource Center in San Francisco,
Calif., who discussed Coca Cola's practices in Colombia and India.
Another lecture is scheduled for Friday night at the Urbana Independent
Media Center, 202 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana, at 6 p.m.
Srivastava discussed the four areas of concern in India about the
company. The topics include: water scarcity allegedly created by the
bottling plants in the surrounding communities; pollution of ground
water, as well as land with the cleaning agents used by the company;
distribution of toxic fertilizers to farmers, a practice now outlawed
by the Indian government; and Indian Coke products found to contain
levels of pesticides up to 34 times greater than those allowed by
the standards of the United States and the European Union.
Kari Bjorhus, spokesperson for the Coca-Cola Company, said the water
shortages in India are attributed to an unusually small amount of
rainfall in the past couple of years. In the Indian state of Kerala,
a bottling plant has been closed for over a year due to concerns over
water shortage. Bjorhus said that the government of Kerala conducted
a yearlong study on the causes of drought in the state and found that
the Coca-Cola was not responsible for the shortages.
"Our goal is to replace all the water we take," Bjorhus said. "We
share a concern over water scarcity."
Srivastava said he supports a rigorous investigation of Coke by the
University and the dropping of the Coca-Cola contract before the 2007
deadline. He said the University of Michigan held a similar investigation
that took 10 months last year. In the end, Michigan put Coke on a
Sravistava also said Rutgers University also pulled its exclusive
contract with Coca-Cola just four months ago. Fifteen college campuses
in the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom also cancelled
their contracts with the company.
Joshua Rohrscheib, co-president of the Illinois Student Senate, expressed
his concern about the negotiations going on between the University
Representatives Commission and the Coca-Cola Company.
The commission is a multi-university group designated to investigate
Coca-Cola's bottling plants in Colombia and to develop a method to
address other concerns of communities affected by Coca-Cola and its
affiliates in the world, according to a letter signed by various representatives
from other universities on behalf of the whole commission.
"We ask the administration to take a public stand saying (to Coca-Cola),
'If you don't let independent third party investigations take place
and you don't stop dragging your feet, when the contract comes up
for renewal, we will seriously consider exploring other options, not
renewing it, or going with Pepsi,'" Rohrscheib said.
Jen Walling, graduate student and ISS senator, also expressed her
own concern over the exclusivity of Coke's contract.
"The influence of Coke on this campus is huge just in diminishing
the options available to students," Walling said. "What about outside
smaller beverage companies that could be providing more choices to
students and lowering prices?"
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