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Group promotes boycott of Starbucks

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday March 21, 2001

For some, Starbucks is java heaven. For others, it’s the enemy.  

Those who hold the latter view stood with placards and information sheets outside company branches across the country Tuesday, trying to get regulars to join a one-day boycott. 

“I don’t want corporations  

taking over our local coffee shops,” said Terri Compost of Oakland, as she distributed leaflets outside the Starbucks at Cedar Street and Shattuck Avenue. The local organizing group, which had set up a sidewalk stand offering free organic tea, came together through the Ecology Center where people were meeting over concerns about genetically-engineered foods. The national boycott was organized by the Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association. 

Boycott efforts got a little help from PG&E’s rolling blackouts, Compost said with a laugh. On a more serious note, she pointed to Starbucks’ corporate culture: a Starbucks will come into town and locate near a competitor to drive it out of business, she said.  

There are problems with the brew itself, she said. Most of the coffee carried by Starbucks is not “fair-trade” coffee, which means that a third party certifies that workers who grow it are paid a fair wage. They do carry one fair-trade coffee, but only the beans. Protesters say they should promote brewed fair-trade coffee. 

Also, milk products sold at Starbucks contain Bovine Growth Hormone which organizers claim is associated with cancer. 

Starbucks prepared its response in a document signed by Orin Smith, president and executive officer. He said the company concluded its products are safe “either because they have been approved by government agencies or conform to governmental regulations.” 

As for the Bovine Growth Hormone in milk, Smith wrote: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Institute of Health and regulatory agencies in 30 countries take the position that milk from cows supplemented with ...(recombinant bovine somatropin) is no different from milk from untreated cows.” However, in response to concerns, the company is looking for an alternative which Smith said they expect to stock by the end of summer. 

Smith quotes Paul Rice, executive director of TransFair USA – the company that certifies fair trade coffee – saying: “Starbucks high-profile support for Fair Trade sends a powerful and visionary message to the rest of the coffee industry....”