PepsiCo and Naked Juice: Confused About GMOs

PepsiCo and Naked Juice: Confused About GMOs

Naked Juice bottles - CC license by JeffBedford

 I’m a fan of Naked Juice. The Protein Zone and Protein Zone Mango smoothies are great ways to refresh and rebuild tired muscles after a long run.

I’m not a fan of sanctimonious b.s., though, and Naked Juice is peddling that along with its juices and smoothies.

Here’s what I’m talking about. The other day, I noticed this message on a Naked Juice bottle:

We use only the freshest, purest stuff in the world and leave out everything else. *no added sugar *no preservatives *non-GMO** *gluten free

The double asterisk next to non-GMO led me to this:

While many ingredients do not exist in bioengineering varieties, Naked Juice does not use ingredients that were produced using biotechnology as a matter of principle.

It was the last five words that caught my attention. “As a matter of principle.” The phrase also is used on Naked’s website.

Not as a matter of marketing. Not because the consumers of Naked Juice just might happen to be the kinds of people who would feel good about avoiding GMOs. But as a matter of principle.

Hmm. There’s an implicit moral judgment there, no?

What, I wondered, might the principle be?

That GMOs make people sick? That they are bad for the environment?

Not likely, I thought, because PepsiCo, which owns Naked Juice, uses GMOs.

PepsiCo wouldn’t sell products that are unhealthy or bad for the environment, would it?

Certainly not, the company said in response to a shareholder resolution about GMOs in 2009, [PDF]. On page 66, PepsiCo says that the U.S. FDA has concluded that genetically engineered foods are “as safe for consumption as traditionally developed foods” and that “this finding is supported by significant scientific consensus.” The company even goes on to say nice things about genetic engineering:

We believe that genetically engineered products can play a role in generating positive economic, social and environmental contributions to societies around the world, particularly in times of food shortages.

That’s because farmers believe that GMOs make them more productive. GMO use is growing worldwide, particularly in China and India. Scientists I respect like Pamela Ronald tell me that GMOs have the potential to save the lives of millions of poor people, the kinds of people who cannot afford to spend $3.19 for a 15.2-ounce bottle of juice.

A week ago, I emailed Naked Juice to ask what “principle” is guiding the company’s decision to avoid GMOs. It took a while, but eventually I heard back from Rebecca Herbst, a PR woman with Olson, which reps Naked Juice. She replied:

Since Naked Juice’s inception, we have been committed to crafting the highest quality juices and juice smoothies that use only the best bare-naked ingredients. This means that our products are made from 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, with the only non-juice ingredients coming in the form of whey and soy for our protein smoothies. There is no added sugar, no preservatives and nothing artificial in Naked Juice — ever.

There may be a principle in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. What makes the claim even sillier is that the only ingredient I could find in any Naked Juice product that comes in a genetically-engineered variety is soy. So avoiding GMOs for this company is easy — you can’t get GMO apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries or coconuts, to the best of my knowledge.

I also asked why there’s no mention of PepsiCo on the Naked Juice bottle or on the website, at least that I could find. That’s not very “naked,” is it?

She replied:

Since 1983, juice fans have come to trust the Naked Juice brand…Our relationship with PepsiCo has allowed us to bring Naked Juice to juice lovers across the country, but we’ve heard from our fans that it is the Naked Juice brand that signifies that they can be confident that they are purchasing the delicious juices and juice smoothies that they know and love.


The thing is, there’s lots to like about Naked Juice. The flavor, the nutrition, the innovative renewabottle that’s made from recycled bottles and is itself recyclable. Some consumers, I’m sure, like the fact that there are no GMOs inside. Put that on the label if you like. I’m all for transparency.

But please…spare me the moralizing unless you can back it up with science.

Naked Juice bottles - CC license by JeffBedford