1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5508/should-coke-be-banned-in-india/

Should Coke Be Banned in India?

August 23, 2006 by

Jayant Bhandari writes that several provinces in India have recently banned sale of Coca Cola over claims that it contains a higher level of pesticides than is acceptable in Europe. Maybe it does. Decades of state-subsidized pesticides have completely polluted Indian water systems. And yet: environmentalists forget that not everyone can afford imported mineral water from Canada. FULL ARTICLE

{ 28 comments }

M E Hoffer August 23, 2006 at 8:40 am

This model : “When multinational companies brought bottled water to India, they took it to the furthest of places, even hundreds of miles from decent roads. They made it possible for people like me to travel and be confident we wouldn’t die from water poisoning”– in other words: Centralized water treatment and subsequent delivery, is as Bankrupt as Centralized electricty generation.

What the people of India, and throughout the World, need is: simple filtration, at the point of use.

Funny that the author of this article doesn’t note that Coke & Pepsi, in India, are responsible for the dramatic lowering of the water table in the areas of their respective “Bottling Facilities”.

“Anti-Growth” Environmentalism may be a plague, but it surely won’t be cured by “Pro-Growth” Anti-Realism.

Kautilya August 23, 2006 at 8:49 am

Although I like the overall article that you wrote, I don’t agree with a couple of things you said–
1) Bisleri India (brand owned by Parle India) was the first one to set up the infrastructure to provide bottled water all over India. Pepsi/Coke followed much later when they saw that there was a good market. In fact it is still the largest selling brand of bottled water in India. Its reach can bee seen from the fcat that people still call bottle water “bisleri” in India like xerox for copying in US.
2) You mentioned that McDonalds is helping with the caste system by serving lower castes. I think this is misrepresentation of facts. No private restaurant in India refuses to serve anybody in India as long as the person can pay. It is impossible to discriminate for them as people from all castes look the same and they are not going to ask for documentation to prove your caste before serving. If you can pay, you will be served.

One point I want to make in support of your article is a quote from –

this article
“conclusions were that Diet Pepsi contained 0.36 amounts of pesticide per parts per billion (ppb), as tested by the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata, that Pepsi contained 0.09 and that this was below the limit prescribed for packaged water by the Ministry of Health.
Compare this with 28040 times the prescribed limit that we find in tea, 11560 times that we find in eggs, 34180 times that we find in rice, 30200 times that we find in Indian apples and 6560 times that we find in milk products and you can see for yourself that the pesticide content of Pepsi is miniscule.”

Jacob Steelman August 23, 2006 at 9:35 am

Indian politicians are no different from politicians all around the world – no morals, no free market.

kuttappan August 23, 2006 at 11:01 am

Couple of points author fails to notice

1. The cola bottling plants actually reduced
the ground wanter level by over pumping
and violating the local land laws. In effect
robbing the poor people from their drinking
water

2. Secondly the author praises cokes ability
setup distribution chain in just months.
What he fails to notice is that they did
not setup anything. THey just purchased
the thriving local cola companies to acquire
its distribution chain. They tried to kill
the local brands. But in blind test people
still preferred the indian brands.

Another conflict: Author thinks that the multi-
nationals took bottled water to nook and corners
of India. But still have to have right contacts
in places to have access to drinkable water.
Sounds funny.

Readers please note that India is not a Hell
as author describes, especially the province
which Banned Coke and Pepsi. India has a well
established justice system. If coke proves
they did not do anything illegal their Ban
will be lifted. India in general has high
pesticide levels in ground water and lakes.
the primary reason is uneducated use pesticides.
The pesticide manufacturers (read multinationals)
just care about increasing pesticide sales
They do not care about educating farmers.

Lastly it is any companies responsibility to
ensure the purity of ingredients they use in
the products. If coke can Distill water for
Aquafina why cant they do the same for Coke
also? If cow milk or apple has high pesticides
it does not give them a reason to provide contaminated cola to masses. It is their
responsibility to source water from a place
which is not contaminated.

Francisco Torres August 23, 2006 at 11:02 am

Funny that the author of this article doesn’t note that Coke & Pepsi, in India, are responsible for the dramatic lowering of the water table in the areas of their respective “Bottling Facilities”.

Would it be any different or more moral if the water table was lowered by the government, or are the rest of us to gather from your comments that lowering the water table (i.e. drinking the water below your feet) is a big no-no?

Would you rather people NOT drink water, lest the water table become lower? Why should it even be an issue?

[quote]
“Anti-Growth” Environmentalism may be a plague, but it surely won’t be cured by “Pro-Growth” Anti-Realism.[/quote]

Again, are the rest of us to gather from your comments that people grow economically by ignoring REALITY? Jeez, talk about ignoring from your part the basic tennet of economics, which is how we deal with SCARCE resources – meaning, dealing WITH reality.

M E Hoffer August 23, 2006 at 12:05 pm

Francisco,

“The cola bottling plants actually reduced
the ground wanter level by over pumping
and violating the local land laws. In effect
robbing the poor people from their drinking
water.”

The vaunted Multi-National “saviors” are in Violation of local law.

And, “Again, are the rest of us to gather from your comments that people grow economically by ignoring REALITY?”– Maybe I was unclear, but, I was trying to describe the author’s viewpoint as being: “Pro-Growth”, while ignoring some hard realities.

If there are some tenets of basic Econ that I’m ignoring, Francisco, please point them out.

Geech August 23, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Am I missing the point? I don’t see a connection between water tables and pesticides.

Dr Lavanian August 23, 2006 at 1:35 pm

“Really, I would not be surprised if colas made from Indian water did contain pesticides. But who in his right mind would want Indian colas to adhere to European standards? “

…and why not? Does the poor guy in the village (who pays for the cola) not have the right to the same standards? …or does Jayant imagine that an Indian or for that matter any other 3rd world citizen deserves a lower standard?
Through out the article the author’s double standards and bias towards the western cola companies are glaringly obvious. I wonder what he charged the cola majors for this white-wash article…hmmm?

Sounak August 23, 2006 at 2:40 pm

Mr Bhandari:

While I agree with the basic thrust of your article, I wish you would not perpetuate stereotypes about India with your ill-informed examples. To cite just one example – in no way did McDonalds introduce a social revolution in India, as you seem to suggest. They were not the first to provide clean food or employ upper castes to clean bathrooms. There were plenty of home-grown entrepreneurs doing that decades before McDonalds came.
Regards
Sounak

Vince Daliessio August 23, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Folks, whatever your opinion of multinationals, it’s pretty clear to me that Coke and Pepsi are being singled out for political reasons, if the (unlinked) article above Kautilya quoted is correct, to wit;

“”conclusions were that Diet Pepsi contained 0.36 amounts of pesticide per parts per billion (ppb), as tested by the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata, that Pepsi contained 0.09 and that this was below the limit prescribed for packaged water by the Ministry of Health.

Compare this with 28040 times the prescribed limit that we find in tea, 11560 times that we find in eggs, 34180 times that we find in rice, 30200 times that we find in Indian apples and 6560 times that we find in milk products…”"

I don’t know which pesticides were found in each of the foods cited (it matters), but it would appear that the move against Coke and Pepsi have motivations that go beyond public health.

som August 23, 2006 at 3:07 pm

European Standrds? Hmm I wonder where these supposed scientists from the CSE went to school to learn to worship such socialist propoganda? The consequences of scholarships for foriegners to attend western universities and colleges is starting to surface in India now. Just in time to counteract that rising labor force isn’t it!

Fernando August 23, 2006 at 3:18 pm

And what about Bisleri India? Why is their water not banned for pesticides?

If:

a) these companies are lowering the water table near their bottling facitilies

and

b) these companies are being banned because of the pesticides

It follows that using the water from the water table should be banned… for everyone.
-> Reductio ad absurdum.

Or is it implied by those defending these measures that only multinational companies should be banned from using water with pesticide from the water table?

The matter of pesticide and water table are merely excuses. It is clear that the bias here is xenophobic and anti-capitalistic.

Brent August 23, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Dr Lavanian,

Why not European standards? Because European standards are arbitrary standards set by European politicians/bureaucrats, but are at least possible to attain given Europe’s wealth. India appears to be much poorer than than average European country, so European standards might choke off the supply of *better* water (provided by the corporations in question) to needy Indian citizens.

Vince Daliessio August 23, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Kuttapan said;

“India in general has high
pesticide levels in ground water and lakes.
the primary reason is uneducated use pesticides.
The pesticide manufacturers (read multinationals)
just care about increasing pesticide sales
They do not care about educating farmers.”

May I point out that India probably has (like Europe and the US) a longstanding common-law favoring of polluters vis-a-vis the property rights of those whose property is trespassed upon by pollution.

If polluters were held liable for pollution trespassing onto the property (including the bodies) of others, over-use of pesticides would end in short order. But India’s farmers (I am surmising) have political clout well beyond that of ordinary citizens and so will never be held to account.

Kautilya August 23, 2006 at 6:46 pm

Kuttapan,

Most pesticides in India are still manufactured by government owned companies and the main reason for overuse of both pesticides and fertilizers is they are cheap due to a subsidy by the government. Whatever is manufactured by MNCs and other private Indian companies is also heavily subsidized.

As basic economics will tell you if you make something artificially cheap, it will be overused and wasted.

Farmers lobby is very strong in India, and some states even give free water and electricity to farmers. This results in a lot of wastage. For example due to free electricity, some farmers use excessive groundwater by using electric pumps to grow rice in areas where it should not be.

There are lot of other stupid govt. regulations in agriculture in India, but that is probably off topic.

Arun August 23, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Hi,

I think most of the erroneous presumptions in the article like ‘miraculous distribution set ups overnite’, ‘first one to provide packaged drinking water’, etc are addressed effectively by comments from Kautilaya & Kuttappan.

Quote Brent’s comment:

****Dr Lavanian,

Why not European standards? Because European standards are arbitrary standards set by European politicians/bureaucrats, but are at least possible to attain given Europe’s wealth. India appears to be much poorer than than average European country, so European standards might choke off the supply of *better* water (provided by the corporations in question) to needy Indian citizens.****

I think Brent’s comment (Quoted above)reeks fairly of the typical holier than thou attitute that the west has perfected towards growing nations. The attitute which says ‘what is criminal or illegal for me, can be good for you because we have more money’.

I have to remind Brent that big bottled drinks companies have not set up their base in India for charitable purposes and their mission statement surely does not read “to proivde *better* water to needy India citizens for free”.
They are in it for one reason “MONEY”, which in itself is not a bad thing, but let us not fool ourselves that development of Indian living standards is the driving force behind their operations.

Also we are not talking about Indian government versus those from the European countries and their ability to provide people with *better standards*. We are talking about MNC’s which are making money who have to ensure that the prescribed health standards in a given country are followed. Brent, trust me, these companies are making much more money in India selling cola to 1 billion plus pupolation than compared to all of Europe. Now if we go by Brent’s logic, they should have higher standards here in India than in Europe as from the MNC’s point of view, India has more money to offer them than Europe making Europe a poor cousin to a market like India.

In the end, if it is proven that the colas do follow the prescribed Health Standards, then I am quiet happy to see them sell more and make more money.

But if not, then I have to ask three questions in the bard’s words:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?”

Andrew August 24, 2006 at 12:12 am

From what I’ve read, Indian gov is enforcing the advertisement rules: the moment lables correctly state the amount of aspartame in the bottle – they are free to go back on the market.

Nandini August 24, 2006 at 12:47 am

I was absolutely furious after reading this article. Jayant Bhandari sounds like a propaganda machine. I would ask him to comment (for starters) on two issues:

1) What do you have to say about the fact that after CSE came out with these findings, the US threatened (yes , threatened) to withdraw Foreign Direct Investment in India if the government took action against Coke and Pepsi?

2) ) McDonalds is not exactly the first restaurant to serve people of all castes/employ all people etc. There is not a single restaurant/food outlet in India that will refuse to serve you regardless of who you are. So please don’t make assertions that are so factually untrue just to strengthen your absurd theories.

Chander August 24, 2006 at 1:50 am

As a customer of coke& pepsi, I am delighted to know that there is a possiblity of my drink to have pesticide in it. I thank the NGOs who have brought this fact in limelight.
However I would also to know the amount of pesticide in the drinking water which comes in my tap. What’s the pesticide level content in that. I hope this question is attractive enough to some NGO/Goverment group so that they can do some survey and let us know. I hope this question comes in limelight in the same manner as the Coke/Pepsi.
For I can stop drinking coke & pepsi, but not that glass of water. So please enlighten me on the fact if that glass of water is good for me in the long run.

ZURMAN August 24, 2006 at 2:53 am

OK, IF THEY ARE DRINKING POLLUTED WATER THAT DOES NOT JUSTIFY THEY SHOULD BE FORCED (MARKETING)TO DRINK PESTICIDES, BECAUSE THAT DRINK IS PRODUCED AT HAZARD FREE ENVIRONMENTAL FACILITY. CAN YOU EMPIRICALLY JUSTIFY HOW MANY PEOPLE AND TO WHAT EXTENT THOSE OPEN WATER PONDS AND PESTICIDES DRINK CAUSE THE HEALTH CONCERNS OR DISASTER. TO ME THE DIFFRENCE IS ONE IS NICELY PACKED AND SOLD WITH CLEVER BUT UNETHICAL MARKETING AND MANAGMENT PRACTICES BUT OTHER IS WITHOUT TWO DEVILS MENTIONED ABOVE. OFF COURSE ONE IS FREE. EVEN IF YOU PERFORM SIMPLE COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS THE AUTHOR IS LOSER. THIS ARTICLES IS SIMPLE CASE OF VOWING FOR ASSIGNMENT FROM THOSE MULTINATIONAL WHICH RAISED HEALTH PROBLEM AFTER TAKING MONEY FROM YOU. A CLEVER DECEPTION AND SHOWS HOW OPENLY WE ARE AND WANT TO SUCCUMB TO MANIPULATION. I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE THE ARGUMENT PRESENTED FOR DRINKING WATER AT COST.

Francisco Torres August 24, 2006 at 9:18 am

M E Hoffer:
The vaunted Multi-National “saviors” are in Violation of local law.

Your rebuttal would make sense if that is what indeed you were implying, M.E. However your comment, Coke & Pepsi, in India, are responsible for the dramatic lowering of the water table in the areas of their respective “Bottling Facilities” clearly states your objection is with the lowering of the water table, as if that would be a bad thing, and not the breaking of any laws. You just mention it a posteriori.

Maybe I was unclear, but, I was trying to describe the author’s viewpoint as being: “Pro-Growth”, while ignoring some hard realities.

Some” – again, my friend, you try to fix this a posteriori. I recall you named the author a Pro-growth ANTI-realist, as if the man was living in a purely fantastic world. Even if Coke and Pepsi are lowering the water table (whether “dramatically” or otherwise) around their local facilities, in itself this is not a bad thing, since anyone that digs a hole and pumps water from the ground is going to do the same – why all of a sudden, the fact that two companies are doing what anybody else might is a bad thing?

The melodramatic undertones of the claim that both companies are leaving the poor without water is preposterous, especially in a country that has so much water.

Consider the following comment from Fernando:
It follows that using the water from the water table should be banned… for everyone.
-> Reductio ad absurdum.

Exactly. Which is why the laws are arbitrary and unfair. If lowering the water table is such a bad thing, then why does not the local governments ban all water pumping? Why just pick on Coke and Pepsi?

A solution to the conundrum is property rights – if in fact Coke and Pepsi (or their affiliates) are taking water from MY ground, then there is merit in holding these companies liable for damages. But if they lower the water table on their own lands, then there is no legitimate issue to pursuit.

Francisco Torres August 24, 2006 at 9:31 am

…and why not? Does the poor guy in the village (who pays for the cola) not have the right to the same standards?

He has . . . if he can pay for them. That is the point. Even so, the European standards have nothing to do with an actual, natural set point but with populist politics. For example, why does not the European governments ask for a pesticide content of zero parts per million in the bottled water? Obviously, the costs would outweigh the benefits. NOBODY can say for sure how many parts per million constitute the threshold between safe and unsafe. The standards that the Indian government is trying to set for bottled water basically stems from mere politics
and not actual science – they use the European standards because it is politically convenient and not because of scientific fact.


…or does Jayant imagine that an Indian or for that matter any other 3rd world citizen deserves a lower standard?

No, they deserve a bottled of reasonably clean water at an affordable price. The European “safety” standard is purely arbitrary, or can you say for sure what is the specific, natural threshold in PPM for pesticide content to call the water “safe”?

M E Hoffer August 24, 2006 at 10:20 am

Francisco,

What I “said” was: “Funny that the author of this article doesn’t note that Coke & Pepsi, in India, are responsible for the dramatic lowering of the water table in the areas of their respective “Bottling Facilities”.”

Yes, it is strange/funny that the author doesn’t mention some of the negative effects of his “vaunted MNCs”. He seems to take separate the good, from the bad, that they are obviously responsible for.

To me, yes, it makes him “Anti-Realist”. His screed is obviously “Pro-Growth”, making him a “Pro-Growth Anti-Realist”, for sure.

I don’t mind disagreements, just, please, stop taking points out of context.

And, this: “Even if Coke and Pepsi are lowering the water table (whether “dramatically” or otherwise) around their local facilities, in itself this is not a bad thing…”– I think is absolutely incorrect.

The lowering of the water table, over the fullness of time, is indeed problematical. It is indicative of water usage regimes that are, empirically, unsustainable. I’m sure you’ll agree that “desertification” has been the bane of Agricultural Man since the furrowing of the first plot. One simple way to aid in keeping that event from transpiring is to husband your groundsource water supply wisely. The organzations that move in to package, excessively, groundsource water for their own pecuniary gain are no better than the Forest Clearcutters, or the Ocean Drift-netters.

They are simple, and stupid, Pirates, all.

L.R. August 27, 2006 at 1:25 am

Nandini,

1. AFAIK, American businessmen are free to invest in Indian enterprises unless the U.S. specifically bans it (as it has done with Iran, North Korea, etc.). The elimination of an organized program will not change that.

2. He didn’t say it was the first. But in every neighborhood where there’s a McDonald’s, people can eat a meal for a couple of dollars. There’s an excellent chance it will be a quality meal, too (or, at the very least, that any problems will be isolated), since McDonald’s reputation (brand name) is worth billions and billions. Same reason you never hear about child molesters working at Disneyland.

(And did you really criticize the author for making absurd arguments a sentence after you deigned to speak for all the restaurants in a country of over a billion people?)

Nitin Paradkar November 8, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Dear Mr. Jayant Bhandari

In your article “Should Coke be banned in India” , you have written some good points like environmental education, pollution etc, but have missed some Important points.

Pesticides In Coke: why Coke doesn’t go ahead and reveal there 120 years old formula which is kept in a bank vault in Atlanta where only two executives banned from traveling on the same aircraft know it, which they have hidden till today.

Also you talked about the water being polluted, why wasn’t the single mineral water bottle was found high in pesticides? Why only Coke?

Developed Countries and Third World Countries: You claimed since India is third world country and environmental pollution is at high level, accepted, then why in 1999
: France ordered the removal from shops of Coke, Fanta and Sprite, which had been bottled at its Dunkirk plant, after about 200 people in Belgium and France complained of vomiting and dizziness after consuming the drink?

why did The Belgian Government banned the sale of all Coca-Cola drinks following more reported cases of poisoning across the country. Some 15 million cans and bottles of soft drink are being withdrawn from sale. The health minister said that doctors across Belgium had also reported cases of poisoning after people drank Coca-Cola products.

The situation doesn’t look any better in Coke’s home country, where the Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger – has passed a legislation that bans the sale of all fizzy drinks including Coke in schools across California.

How Coke is Making Development In India?

Coke is not only blamed for its unhealthy product but also for anti union abuses, murder, tortures and intimidatilabour

NYU is not be the first university to remove Coke from campus, More than 130 colleges and universities (mostly in the U.S.) have anti-Coke programs in place. At least 20 either have banned Coke products or axed exclusive contracts, per Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, New York started in April 2003.Coke has been targeted by the campaign because it failed to condemn the actions of paramilitaries at its Colombian bottling facility who allegedly tortured and murdered unionized workers and their families. -NY Times

Listed below are union leaders at Coca-Cola’s Colombian bottling plants who have been murdered. Hundreds of other Coke workers have been tortured, kidnapped and/or illegally detained by violent paramilitaries, often working closely with plant managements.

Date Name Coca-Cola Plant

1989 Avelino Achicanoy Pasto
4/8/94 Jose Elaseasar MancoDavid Carepa
4/20/94 Luis Enrique Giraldo Arango Carepa
4/23/95 Luis Enrique Gomez Garado Carepa
12/5/96 Isidro Segundo Gil Carepa
12/26/96 Jose Librado Herrera Osorio Carepa
6/21/2001 Oscar Dario Soto Polo Monteria
8/31/2002 Adolfo de Jesus Munera Lopez Baranquilla.

Last but not least From BBC “In two Communities Palchinada and Mehdiganj, Coke was distributing its solid waste to the farmers in the area as fertilizers. Test by the BBC found Cadium and Lead which are extremely toxic”.

I don’t think Coke Should be banned In India, or anywhere in the world, Instead it should be used as Toilet cleaner. I am sure they will give tough competition to Clorox and other products.

The net profit of coke from India is 2500 * 10 ^6 Rs per year. If we save that money then as you said it can be utilized to clean the water, better hygiene and better environmental education.

Matt May 21, 2009 at 11:51 pm

All of these writings are timeless. Substitute the aggressor and the victim and on it goes. Funny how history repeats.

Dhruv June 2, 2009 at 3:50 pm

So McDonald’s showed India how food can be served without flies on it?

I think Mr. Bhandari should be on the crew with George Lucas for one of the Indiana Jones movies instead of making attempts at blogging about India here on the Mises blog.

And since he is so exhilarated that upper Indian castes are made to clean toilets by McDonalds, I bring to him a very Misesian argument. Does he think that McDonalds somehow forces them to do this? Or were other institutions not allowing this previously in India? Neither of these are true and caste discrimination has been made illegal in India since the formation of the independent republic in 1947, in fact caste had no recognition under british law either. These people, no matter what caste they belong to, make their own economic decisions irrespective of what McDonalds has in mind for a progressive India and have been doing so since before McDonalds.

However, if the author still sees to McDonald’s as the reason (and this is the first time I hear about such ‘radical’ influence of McDonalds on Indian culture) instead of the economic choices of people irrespective of caste, I can assure him that the stagnant protectionists,whom he criticizes in this article, and those affirmative action seeking politicians of India who these days want see to it that upper Indian castes end up cleaning toilets, will give him much more pleasure than the economic liberalization of India.

Merrill Lebeau April 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Hello, just wanted to let you kow how much of an interesting read this was. Look forward to the next installment.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: