The Coca-Cola Co. has buckled to pressure from students in the US. The company has said it will examine its labour and business practices in India and Colombia after the University of Michigan made the move a condition of the renewal of its contracts with Coke.

The university said late last week that it would only renew its contracts, worth US$1.3m, if Coke performed an independent audit and put a corrective plan in place.

A complaint last year by Students Organising for Labour and Economic Equality at Michigan University accused Coke of draining the water table in India, causing farmers' crops to dry, distributing bottling plant sludge containing contaminants to Indian farmers as fertiliser, selling products that contain pesticides in India, and conspiring with paramilitary groups in Colombia to harass and harm union members.

"The main issue ... is that the university is pandering to corporate interests and not necessarily to its constituents, the students," said Saamir Rahman, a 19-year-old junior and member of the group.

Speaking to The Detroit News yesterday (20 June), Coca-Cola spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus said: "Although we believe the allegations that led to their decision will ultimately be proven to be untrue, we appreciate the manner in which the dispute review board has engaged with our company in researching the allegation."