Seventh Generation fights back against PETA claim


BURLINGTON -- An animal rights group is criticizing Burlington consumer products company Seventh Generation for backing toxic chemical reform measure that it says encourages animal testing.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is challenging Seventh Generation for supporting a toxic chemical reform measures that - if passed - "would require companies to test thousands of chemicals and products," a PETA news release stated. "Since regulators currently require animal testing, these chemicals would be tested on animals."

Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle said that consumers have responded with complaints and as of Thursday afternoon, nearly 24,000 individuals nationwide had signed PETA's petition pledging not to buy Seventh Generation products.

"Unfortunately, they've only told part of the story," Replogle said, adding that he did not anticipate a major impact on sales.

Seventh Generation, which designs and manufactures environmentally friendly cleaning and paper products, and personal care items, says it has similar policy goals to PETA.

"Our objective is to reduce the number of toxins in the environment and limit their impact on humans, and on animals and wildlife as well," said Ashley Orgain, corporate consciousness manager at Seventh Generation. The company does not test its products on animals.

Orgain called PETA's accusation "oversimplified."

Last week, PETA sent out the alert after Seventh Generation decided not to sign a letter supporting Tox 21, a new testing technology that is not proven enough, Seventh Generation officials say, to be effective.

"We've had conversations with PETA over the last six months or so," Replogle said. "And then they sent us a note late last week with an ultimatum: Either sign their letter or not."

The letter called for testing by Tox 21, an emerging technology that allows robots to analyze products for thousands of toxic chemicals. It's a tool, Orgain said, "that couldn't be farther from ready to deploy."

Implementing Tox21 before it is ready would hinder, not advance, reform, Orgain said.

Seventh Generation officials said they've spoken with human health experts, including Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and the Breast Cancer Fund, and had been advised that the technology shouldn't be utilized until it was fully ready.

Orgain added that Tox21 is about two decades away from being ready for use in labs.

Replogle believes PETA has targeted Seventh Generation for its involvement in Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition, a group of 180 companies - including Stonyfield, Patagonia, and Annie's - that lobbies for toxic chemical policy reform. Specially, the coalition has focused on pushing for updates to the Toxic Chemical Safety Act, which has not been updated since it was amended in 1976.

"We have tried unsuccessfully to explain to Seventh Generation officials the serious and deadly implications of their campaigns, to provide them with information on alternatives that promote good science and good ethics, and to work with them to help ensure that any legislation passed includes language minimizing animal use," PETA said in a letter to supporters.

Seventh Generation does advocate for increased regulation of toxic chemicals, Orgain said, noting that it's not realistic to "jump to the immediate conclusion that this will increase animal testing."

"This (environmental friendliness and animal and human welfare) is our shared objective," Orgain said. "But it is not going to happen in the short term. And for us to have meaningful reform, we need to take a step now."

Seventh Generation has been responding to customer complaints, Replogle said, and "working to get our side of the story out."

"We're always conscious of making sure that our principles and practices are in line with our core values," he said.


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