Dis-Honest Tea CEO in Hot Water? Why Organic Brands Must Dissociate Themselves from Junk Food Industry

Honest Tea Marketing

Story at-a-glance

  • Coca-Cola, which is part owner of the organic brand Honest Tea, has donated millions of dollars to anti-GMO labeling campaigns to make sure genetically engineered ingredients remain hidden
  • Conflicting interests between Honest Tea and Coca-Cola appear to have resulted in false statements that are anything but transparent. In fact, public statements by the Honest Tea CEO may even constitute an SEC violation
  • The Grocery Manufacturers Association of America is suing Vermont in an effort to overturn the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling in the US
  • The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is also pushing a Congressional bill that would block states from passing GMO labeling laws
  • In response, you can join the Organic Consumers Association’s nationwide boycott of ALL GMA member brands and products, including organic brands


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

Two years ago, Seth Goldman sold a significant portion of Honest Tea—the organic beverage brand he co-founded—to Coca-Cola.

As you probably know, Coca-Cola has donated millions of dollars to anti-GMO labeling campaigns to make sure genetically engineered ingredients remain hidden. Meanwhile, Goldman, a self-proclaimed activist who is still CEO of Honest Tea, claims his company is for transparency in labeling.

The conflicting interests between Honest Tea and Coca-Cola appear to have resulted in false statements that are anything but transparent. Could these public statements by Goldman constitute an SEC violation, considering these statements may have reassured concerned customers to continue purchasing organic products whose profits were used to fight the consumer's right to know?

Is Coca-Cola and/or Honest Tea Guilty of SEC Violation?

In a September 3, 2013 article in the Washington Post,1 Goldman states that "after internal discussions, Coca-Cola will not be directly lobbying against a similar effort in the state of Washington, although it is a funder of trade associations arguing against the labeling."

Fast-forward a couple of months, to when the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA) was caught red-handed in a money-laundering scheme aimed at protecting the identity of its anti-GMO labeling donors during the Washington campaign.

Once the GMA was forced to reveal where the money for its anti-labeling campaign came from,2, 3 Coca-Cola Company was is shown right there on Washington's official political disclosures, front and center, as the fifth largest contributor, having thrown $1.5 million into the pot!

So, did Coca-Cola lie to Goldman, leading him to make a false statement? Or did he lie, knowing that Coca-Cola was really planning on laundering its donations to the Washington anti-labeling campaign? This way, no one would know that Goldman lied, and that Coca-Cola paid big bucks to squash GMO labeling yet again.

If you're wondering why these are newsworthy questions, it's because executives making false or misleading statements about their company, including false or misleading financial statements that benefit a publicly traded company, is an SEC violation4—it's pretty serious stuff.

And, from a more personal standpoint, do you really want to support a company that lies right to your face about such an important issue as whether or not they will spend that money that you gave them to prevent you from learning what's in their products?

Besides the legality of making such false statements, it's just plain wrong. Goldman now says he's going to change Coke which is an interesting comment in itself, but it appears we should be far more concerned about major junk food companies destroying organics.

GMA Sues to Overturn Vermont's New GMO Labeling Law

The Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA) consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are downright ruthless in their efforts to ensure subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo.

Most recently, the GMA has shown its true colors by suing Vermont5, 6 in an effort to overturn H.112—the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling in the US.

The bill was passed by an overwhelming margin,7 and Governor Peter Shumlin signed the historic bill into law on May 8. The law will require food manufacturers to label genetically engineered (GE) foods sold in Vermont, and prohibits them from labeling foods with GE ingredients as "natural" or "all natural."

The GMA's lawsuit claims that their members are going to end hunger with their pesticide-laden GMOs, but we already know that the problem with hunger is not production, it's distribution. There's more than enough food to go around; it's just poorly distributed.

So their worldwide rescue plan is to fatten up the developing world on high fructose corn syrup from GE corn, sugar from GE sugar beets, and trans fats from GE soybean oil or GE cottonseed oil – what a gigantic lie!

GMO Promises Fall Flat Again and Again... Because They're Not Based on Truth

The traits of GE plants require MORE water, not less, placing increasing pressure on areas already suffering from lack of potable water. Many GE plants also produce their own internal pesticides. This was meant to reduce pesticide requirements, but instead, these plants require more pesticides than ever before—just to keep up with the proliferation of resistant pests and weeds!

For example, Bloomberg8 recently reported that "BASF, the world's biggest chemical maker, plans to produce 50 percent more dicamba weedkiller in Texas to keep pace with anticipated demand from a new generation of genetically modified crops." 

Dicamba—this is the weedkiller that has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. And Texas is gearing up to dump 50 percent more of it on its crops in the near future. How is this benefiting anyone's health and well-being? The list of failed GMO promises goes on and on... Countries that recognize these facts and risks are even being more or less blackmailed into accepting GE crops, especially if they're in need of aid. El Salvador is one such example.9

GMOs Have Labeling Requirements in More Than 60 Countries, But Not in the 'Land of the Free'

The words "Contain GMOs" are required on labels in 64 other countries around the world—a fact the GMA lawsuit neglects to mention. It is truthful information, and just like added flavors must be labeled "natural or artificial," and juice must state if it is from concentrate, whether or not an ingredient is genetically engineered falls under truth in labeling.

To take it a step further, it prevents fraud. Free market principles require certain understandings. If you label a product "salmon," a buyer and seller understand what salmon is.

If you splice eel genes into salmon, it is now sEELmon, or some-such-thing. It's no longer plain, regular old salmon. If you continue to mislabel this eel-spliced fish as salmon, the seller is committing fraud. Labeling GMOs—transgenic plants and animals—is a truthful right of the consumer.

We consider non-labeled transgenic products to be fraud that the federal government has allowed based on "substantial equivalence"—a term invented to monopolize and patent life between a few gigantic corporate interests.

Largest Boycott EVER, Now in Progress!

Joining the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America in this lawsuit against Vermont are the Snack Food Association (SFA), International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). These are deep pockets, my friends! On June 12, Organic Consumers Association's National Director, Ronnie Cummins responded to the news by calling for a nationwide boycott of ALL GMA member brands and products, saying:10

"Today's move by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to prevent Vermont from requiring food companies to disclose the truth about what they put in the billions of dollars' worth of food they sell to consumers is a desperate attempt to protect corporate shareholder profits at the expense of consumers' rights and health.

More than 60 other countries have either banned GMOs, or require mandatory labeling of foods that contain them. Consumers in the U.S. have every reasonable right to the same information that consumers in other countries have about foods and ingredients that have not been subjected to independent, pre-market safety testing.

Beyond the truth and transparency in labeling issue, every U.S. citizen should be concerned when a multi-billion dollar corporate lobbying group sues in federal court to overturn a state's right to govern for the health and safety of its citizens... The GMA's membership includes more than 300 companies in the business of selling junk food, pesticides and drugs.

The OCA today calls on consumers to boycott the products sold by all of those companies, including the organic and natural brands whose parent companies are members of the GMA. We also call on consumers to support those companies that demonstrate solidarity with consumers by withdrawing their membership support from the trade association. Marketing statistics show that boycotts impact sales, and that this is the best way for consumers to influence corporate decision-makers."

Please Support Vermont's Legal Defense Fund

To help Vermont defend its GMO labeling law against these multi-national giants, please also consider making a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund, which has been set up to raise funds for this purpose. The fund has also pledged $500,000 to help Oregon pass a GMO labeling initiative in November. As noted by the Organic Consumers Association:

"After years of good old-fashioned work, and playing by the rules, the grassroots labeling movement achieved its first real victory this year, when Vermont passed the first no-strings-attached law requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

But the rules mean nothing to the rich and powerful companies like Monsanto and Coca-Cola, who belong to one of the country's most powerful lobbying groups—the GMA. This is the moment of truth for the grassroots GMO labeling movement. If Monsanto and the GMA succeed in overturning Vermont's GMO labeling law, lawmakers in the other 29 states that are currently considering GMO labeling bills will drop them like hot potatoes.

We can't let that happen. Your donation today will help us defend Vermont, and pass GMO labeling in Oregon. Legal experts assure us that Vermont's labeling law will hold up in court. But we can't win in federal court unless we show up. And that means paying a legal team to defend what's rightfully ours. This battle is about your health, and the health of your environment. This battle is about the rights of states to pass laws to protect their citizens. This is our battle. And it's going to take all of us pulling together to win it."

Money Bomb
Donate Today!


Crazier Still—the 'DARK' Act

The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is also pushing a Congressional bill called the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014."11 The bill, dubbed the "DARK" (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would actually preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws12.

They're actually trying to take away individual state's rights – which were encouraged by our constitution. The constitution was meant to prevent federal superpowers becoming corrupted, and from creating an authoritarian, fascist federal government. We've watched our individual and state rights deteriorate over many decades, succumbing to these enormous industry powers, and this is probably one of the biggest, most blatant overreaches yet.

Why Boycotting the Organic Elite Is Necessary to Protect the Future of Real Food

So take a moment to consider all of this: Coca-Cola is a member of GMA—and one of the biggest contributors to its anti-labeling efforts. This means that Coke is using money they make from Honest Tea to fight GMO labeling, and sue states that successfully pass their own labeling laws. AND, money from Honest Tea and other organic brands owned by big junk food manufacturers is also used to push a bill that will effectively BAN states from passing labeling bills in the first place!

It's completely outrageous! Furthermore, ALL of the organic elites are essentially providing funds to sue Vermont by being members of either the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, or the National Association of Manufacturers.  

So HOW exactly is Coca-Cola or any of the other organic elites helping organics? The answer is, they're not helping one whit. They're actually helping destroy and "bury" organics within the folds of a very opaque, very greed-driven, and decidedly anti-health—not to mention anti-freedom—industry.

This is why the GMA Boycott—aimed at boycotting every single product owned by members of the GMA,13 including natural and organic brands like Honest Tea—is so important. If you think that the GMA has any concern whatsoever for your health, your rights to make your own decisions, or your financial wellbeing, then think again. Its objections to GMO labeling are not aimed at protecting you from confusion, unnecessary complexities, or higher prices. The GMA is protecting the profits of their members, and those profits depend on widespread consumer ignorance!

Coca-Cola Is Front and Center of Nutritional Ignorance Campaign

Coca-Cola Company actually appears to have taken a center role in the fight to keep you as ignorant of nutritional facts as possible, and this effort is not restricted to genetically engineered ingredients. It applies to ANY ingredient in their products that have well-established dangers, such as high fructose corn syrup and aspartame.

Growing awareness of the health dangers associated with both diet and regular soda has caused soda sales to rapidly dwindle.14 Sales of carbonated beverages in general fell three percent in 2013, while diet Coke and diet Pepsi both dropped by nearly seven percent.15 Coca-Cola's strategy to regain its customers has included a number of ludicrous publicity stunts.

First, it rolled out an ad campaign encouraging people to unite in the fight against obesity by exercising more. Fortunately, most people saw the 2013 campaign as a poor attempt at damage control,16, 17 considering the overwhelming evidence linking soda consumption to obesity. Shortly thereafter, Coca-Cola launched another ad campaign. This time—in the misleading guise of a public service announcement18, 19 no less—they tried to assure you that diet beverages containing the artificial sweetener aspartame are a safe and healthy alternative to regular soda.20

Most recently, the soda industry funded a study that claims to confirm what theconflicting interests  industry has been saying all along—that drinking diet soda will help you lose weight.21, 22 Not only that, but drinking diet soda will make you lose more weight than drinking no soda at all—a claim that flies in the face of research findings spanning some 20 years! This study was in part funded by the American Beverage Association, and naturally, Coca-Cola is one of its most prominent members.23

So, not only does Coke not want you to understand the facts about the role of high fructose corn syrup in obesity, it also does not want you to be aware of the health dangers associated with the artificial sweetener aspartame (or that aspartame actually makes you pack on more pounds, faster, than regular sugar), and it does not want you to know that it probably uses genetically engineered corn in its beverages.

Coca-Cola uses profits from its organic brands to keep you in the dark about these nutritional facts in a number of different ways; through misleading advertising, money-laundering schemes to hide campaign funds, and "research" that supports whatever crazy notion they want you to have about their product...

Other Ways Coca-Cola Misleads You

Speaking of misleading advertising: The US Supreme court recently decided24 that POM Wonderful can sue Coca-Cola for misleading consumers; its 59 ounce containers of “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices” actually only contains two teaspoons of pomegranate and blueberry juice. More than 99 percent of the product is apple and grape juice.

And, speaking to the reality of consumers being mislead, when Coca-Cola’s attorney claimed that “only unintelligent consumers might be duped” by the label, Justice Kennedy replied: “Don’t make me feel bad because I thought that this was pomegranate juice!” In this case, it’s quite clear that Coca-Cola was out to deceive you. If the label says pomegranate juice, why would you assume it’s something else entirely?

Coke says it is “tackling obesity,” when it really should accept a large portion of blame for causing obesity. Coke is nothing but a Marlboro in liquid form when it comes to shortening your life. These artificially sweetened low-calorie drinks essentially just equates to making a smaller cigarette... At some point in the future, I predict these junk food purveyors to confront the same obvious problems the tobacco company faced. In the meantime, they will do anything to rake in funds from making people sick. One thing’s for sure though; diet soda is a fraud, and implying that you can lose weight by drinking diet soda is a scam.


By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.