Make Your Cup Count

by Robyn Landis


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DID YOU KNOW? Starbucks is the *world's largest* consumer of rBGH milk--milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (the drug designed to force cows' bodies to produce more milk than nature intended, which in turn creates many of the health problems that require the dairy cows to be dosed liberally with antibiotics during their short and brutally miserable lives). In addition to the intense suffering caused to the cows, the drugs have been linked to myriad human illnesses.

Starbucks is also generally among the top 15 users of genetically modified foods and ingredients in the U.S--right up there with Coca Cola, Kellogg's, and Procter & Gamble!

Organic Consumers Association and volunteers around the world have been participating in a "Frankenbucks" Campaign.  You can be equally effective by simply choosing OTHER establishments from which to get your beans and brewed java.

(In the Seattle area especially, there are now actually DOZENS of available brands, even in supermarkets; a number of downtown cafes serve organic coffee and many organically produced baked goods.  [On Vashon, that's Cafe Luna!]  Seattle is a leader in this area. Seattle is one of a couple cities in which SBC locations serve only rBGH-free milk.)

Also, Starbucks refuses to brew organic coffee in its retail locations.

Consider these undeniable facts and ask whether you want this:

1. CHEMICALS: Regular, pesticide-grown, sun-grown coffee is poison for all concerned. Worldwide, coffee is the most pesticide-doused crop of any that we eat or drink (only cotton is a close second--but that's another story. ;-) . Many of the pesticides used for coffee sold to the U.S. are actually outlawed for use in the U.S. The conversion of much coffee production to more "modern" sun growing destroys the balanced ecosystem that once controlled pests and weeds naturally, now requiring constant and massive chemical blitzing.

2. BIRDS AND FORESTS: In addition, sun-grown coffee is responsible for the vast destruction of tropical forests which provided habitat for songbirds (many of which are becoming extinct as the shade-growing tradition has given way to full-sun farming systems). The trading of shade canopy coffee trees for new high-yielding, sun-tolerant varieties in the last few decades has also increased soil erosion/depletion.

3. FAIR TRADE: Finally, organic and shade-grown coffee tends to also be a fairly-traded product that provides fair wages and conditions for coffee growers.  For the most part, "modern" coffee production simply has not compensated farmers for all their costs. Full-sun coffee plantations are more expensive to maintain--in addition to their greater environmental costs. Sun-grown coffee is no boon for farmers--only for agribusiness and chemical companies!

As always, I ask why NOT choose differently, when there are plenty of other easy options? It's so easy to do the right thing. When buying beans, simply choose SBC Organic, Cafe Appassionato Organic, Tony's, Kalani, Equal Exchange, Cafe Mam (these first 6 are widely available locally in NW) Thanksgiving, Sacred Grounds, Cafe Canopy, Dean's Beans, Veritas, Elan, New Harvest, Altura, Organic Coffee Company, White Horse, Peace Coffee, GreenMountain, Ibis, SojoBlend... (there are LOTS more!).  Many are on the web for easy mail-ordering. Local PCCs and Thriftways typically carry from three to six brands of organically produced, fair-trade, songbird-safe beans in their coffee aisles!

Vashon musician Danny O'Keefe's Songbird Foundation offers one of several lists of sources for organic shade-grown fair trade non-GMO coffee in the NW:

So does Seattle Audubon:

You can also use the form letter below (I modified it a bit for myself) to write or fax to Starbucks CEP Orin Smith. You can do it online by going to:

It only takes a few seconds!

Dear Orin Smith,

As a health conscious, socially and environmentally-concerned consumer, I am upset about the current policies and practices of Starbucks. I am upset about the introduction of untested, unlabeled, and potentially hazardous genetically engineered ingredients -- without my knowledge -- into the foods that I consume and serve to my family.  I am dismayed to learn that Starbucks allows recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and other genetically engineered ingredients in your coffee beverages, ice cream, chocolate, and baked goods.

I am also upset that Starbucks is refusing to brew and serve Fair Trade, shade-grown coffee in its cafes (as opposed to just selling the beans in bulk);  and that you are not following through completely on a previous agreement to improve the wages and working conditions for the thousands of workers on coffee plantations that supply you with coffee in Guatemala and other nations.

As you know, shade-grown Fair Trade coffee (most of which is organic) is much better for the environment, helping to preserve biodiversity and the precious habitat of migratory birds and other creatures, as well as being safer for coffee workers. As you also know, wages and working conditions for small coffee producers and plantation workers who supply your company with its primary product are abysmal.

I have reviewed the current information on genetically engineered foods and crops and I'm gravely concerned about the effects they could have on human health and the environment.  Since these foods have been rushed to market, there has been no time to conduct long-term human health studies. Numerous scientists have warned that genetic engineering could likely introduce allergens and novel toxins into food, could lower its nutritional value, and in the case of milk produced with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH), possibly increase the risk of cancer.

I would like to see Starbucks publicly state that you are removing all genetically engineered ingredients from your brand-name products and that you will label your bottled coffee beverages and ice cream as certified rBGH free (or organic).

If you cannot guarantee me in writing that you are moving to banish untested, unlabeled rBGH and other genetically engineered food ingredients from your  brand-name products, brewing and promoting Fair Trade coffee in all your cafes, and following through completely and transparently on your previous pledge to improve the wages and working conditions of the plantation workers who supply  you with your coffee--you leave me no choice but to boycott your products, and to tell everyone else I know to do the same thing. I look forward to receiving response from you in writing.


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   "Regular, pesticide-grown, sun-grown coffee is poison for all concerned. Worldwide, coffee is the most pesticide-doused crop of any that we eat or drink. Many of the pesticide used for coffee sold to the U.S. are actually outlawed for use in the U.S."

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