Prestwich-born activist takes Oxfam’s plight against sugary drinks company ‘land grabs’ to Coca Cola HQ

By David Aspinall 

A Prestwich-born activist took Oxfam’s campaign against drinks companies’ destructive ‘land grabs’ in their thirst for sugar to Coca Cola’s UK headquarters yesterday. 

As a volunteer with Oxfam Gemma Seddon is helping to lobby major food and drink companies to reconsider their purchasing of sugar produced on land which has been unfairly taken from communities. 

Ms Seddon, who now lives in Tottenham, believes corporations like Coca Cola and Associated British Foods (ABF) are not doing enough to ensure that the sugar they use isn’t grown on land that has been ‘grabbed’. 

She said: “Large corporations must take responsibility to ensure that their goods are not tainted by this scandal happening in remote places many miles from the board room.” 

CAMPAIGN: Activist Gemma Seddon and boyfriend Sammy Bitten outside Coca-Cola HQ

The 32-year-old Community Engagement Officer for the charity Forest Recycling Project confirmed the protest had been peaceful and that a spokesperson from Coca Cola invited people in to the headquarters to discuss ways in which they could change their food production policies.

After confirming that Coca Cola is the world’s largest buyer of sugar she added: “They have the power to help transform the wider food and drink industry supply chains so that they respect land rights.” 

Last year 176million tonnes of sugar was produced globally, worth around £29billion, and the food and drink industry accounts for half of its use. 

This crusade follows a report published yesterday by Oxfam called ‘Nothing sweet about it: How sugar fuels land grabs’.

The findings show that since 2000 33million hectares of land, equivalent to four Portugals, have been sold as part of large scale deals, with sugar accounting for 4million hectares of the land purchased. 

Oxfam are concerned that as nearly half of the land purchased has been in Africa, where land governance is weak in many countries, this could have an immense detrimental affect on families whose livelihoods depend on their land. 

The report is part of Oxfam’s wider GROW campaign which launched ‘Behind the Brands’ earlier this year. 

This means they track ten of the biggest food and beverage companies, ‘The Big Ten’, which includes Nestle, Unilever and Mars, who collectively earn $1.1billion revenue per day, and assess how they can improve their food production practices. 

Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said: “They (‘The Big Ten’) are in a prime position to stamp out land grabs by ensuring that the sugar they use is not grown on land that is taken against the wishes of the community.” 

To read the report and the recommendations suggested please visit

Picture courtesy of Mr Mlk, with thanks.

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