For Immediate Release
Contacts: Patti Lynn/Infact
Tel: (617) 695-2525
David Lerner/Riptide Communications
Tel: (212) 260-5000
BOSTON -- In a letter sent to Bill and Melinda Gates today, the national corporate accountability organization Infact urged the couple to help end Philip Morris's involvement in the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Today, the Gates Foundation is announcing the launch of the new alliance, which includes Kraft Foods as well as UN agencies, to increase access to nutrient-fortified foods in developing countries. Kraft is a subsidiary of Philip Morris, the world's largest and most profitable tobacco corporation. The tobacco giant has been exposed for using its Kraft Foods division in efforts to undermine the World Health Organization-initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty. Infact is one of dozens of NGOs around the world working to ensure a strong and enforceable FCTC.
"By entering into a partnership with Kraft Foods through the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Gates Foundation may be unknowingly aiding Philip Morris's attempts to undermine the world's first public health treaty. It would be tragic if GAIN were to help serve Philip Morris's expansion of tobacco addiction, disease and death in economically poor countries," says Infact Campaign Director Kelle Louaillier.
Kraft is integral to Philip Morris's current effort to sanitize its public image-including a 1712% increase in spending on corporate image advertising from 1998-2000, highlighting the tobacco giant's charitable giving and ownership of Kraft. Last June Philip Morris launched an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Kraft stock with much fanfare. After the IPO of 16% of Kraft stock but only 2% of voting power, Philip Morris maintains control of the company.
"Philip Morris depends on Kraft for political cover, and to foster good will that may silence potential critics, as it drives a global tobacco epidemic that claims four million lives a year. Philip Morris's own internal corporate documents provide insight into how Kraft is complicit with the parent corporation's tobacco agenda, including efforts to derail regulation like the FCTC," says Louaillier.
An inquiry into once-secret tobacco industry documents by an Expert Committee appointed by WHO concluded in July 2001 that Philip Morris and other tobacco corporations have used their economic and political clout to undermine tobacco control efforts around the world. Based on those findings, the World Health Assembly last year called for increased transparency of the political activities and affiliations of the tobacco industry, and for monitoring by WHO of interference by tobacco corporations in public health policy.
Under this increased vigilance new evidence has recently come to light. Internal documents made public earlier this year established that Philip Morris hired PR firm Mongoven, Biscoe, and Duchin (MBD) several years ago to help it challenge the FCTC. MBD, notorious for its behind-the-scenes efforts to undermine advocacy on consumer and environmental protection, advised Philip Morris in 1997 to delay the adoption of a convention.
Current Philip Morris Chair Geoffrey Bible once outlined a plan to "use our food companies, size, technology, and capability with governments" to defuse the influence of the WHO over tobacco control policies. Last month Mr. Bible presided over Kraft's first annual meeting since its acquisition by Philip Morris in the late 1980s, belying the claim that the two corporations are separate.
Since 1977, Infact has been exposing life-threatening abuses of transnational corporations and organizing successful grassroots campaigns to hold corporations accountable to consumers and society at large. From the Nestlé Boycott of the 1970s and '80s to the GE Boycott of the 1980s and '90s to today's Boycott of Philip Morris's Kraft Foods, Infact organizes to win! For more information visit www.infact.org