Child labor, deforestation, air and water pollution: The detrimental effects of big business are being felt all over the world. An American NGO took a closer look at one particular company – and has branded it the worst company in the world.
Whether food and energy giants or tobacco and big pharma: There are numerous corporations whose products and production conditions place them under constant public criticism. One of these corporations has proven worse than Nestlé, Monsanto, Shell and Co.: The American agriculture giant “Cargill”.
In an over 50-page report recently published by the American NGO “Mighty Earth”, the environmental group lays out their arguments for why precisely Cargill has earned the new title of “Worst Company in the World”. “We recognize this is an audacious claim“ the report states. “There are, alas, many companies that could vie for this dubious honor.“
Cargill has a Number of Noteworthy Customers: Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Walmart, McDonalds, Aldi
Cargill is the largest privately-owned company in the United States. The self-proclaimed company goal is as follows: “We work alongside farmers, producers, manufacturers, retailers, governments, and other organizations to fulfill our purpose to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, Together, we create efficiencies, develop innovations, and help communities thrive.“
The corporation has established a firm foothold in the cultivation and distribution of grain, oil-bearing seeds and cotton. Cargill is also directly involved in the production of animal feed, biodiesel, various food products and processed food ingredients such as enhancers and sweeteners. This is all in addition to their active role in the financial sector.
Cargill’s noteworthy customers include industry giants such as Nestlé, McDonalds, Burger King, Walmart, Kellogg’s, Unilever and Danone. In reference to Cargill, Mighty Earth writes: “Today, one privately-held company just may have more power to single-handedly destroy or protect the world’s climate, water, food security, public health, and human rights than any single company in history.”
Serious Accusations levelled against Cargill
So, exactly what sort wrongdoing has Mighty Earth accused the agriculture corporation of within their report? The list of misconduct is lengthy and difficult to summarize. The accusations reference government and court documents, reports from other organizations and their own organization’s research. Here are a couple examples:
- Slave and child labor on plantations: Mighty Earth cites examples in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, Uzbekistan und the Ivory Coast. On the Ivory Coast, children are reported to have been kidnapped from Mali in order to be put to work on cocoa plantations. Forced to work up to 14 hours a day without pay by the plantation overseers, the children were given very little to eat and had to endure beatings. If caught attempting to flee, they would have their feet slashed with a knife and be forced to drink their own urine. These cocoa beans were being produced for Cargill. Judicial proceedings against Cargill (and Nestlé) are currently being arranged.
- Land grabbing: Cargill is under accusation of having falsely appropriated land in Columbia and Kuala Lumpur – and this in Columbia by using a trick: The country has laws in place prohibiting the concentration of land ownership. Cargill reportedly founded 36 subsidiary companies in order to circumvent these regulations, thus enabling the corporation to purchase a grand total of more than 52,000 hectares of land.
- Environment pollution: In 2004, a Cargill plant disposed of 65 million gallons (246 million liters) of acidic waste into a river. This has repeatedly proven a not too uncommon occurrence in various regions of the United States. For instance, a toxic salt mixture found its release in a nature preserve and killed fish and plants. Cargill has already faced prosecution for air pollution violations.
- Violence against indigenous peoples: In order to free up land for soy plantations, producers and farmers regularly displace local indigenous communities from the forests they call home. Might Earthy visited one such community in Paraguay. The community members spoke of violence, intimidation and harassment by the plantation owners, planes spraying pesticides over the tops of their heads and children dying from the consumption of contaminated water.
Responsible Consumption is key
The report underscores the importance of informed everyday customer decision making. Avoiding Cargill products can prove even more difficult than those from Nestlé, Unilever and co.: The majority of Cargill products are implemented right at the beginning of the production chain. There’s simply no telling whether the wheat found in bread or sweetener used in drinks trace back to the agriculture corporation.
- Here’s what you can do: Support manufacturers who advocate using green products:
- Buy organic – at best from your local organic farmers market association.
- Avoid processed food products and cook or bake yourself with fresh ingredients – with regional organic products.
- Shop at farm stores and farmer’s markets: There you can always ask where the food you buy comes from.
- Drink tap water and make your own lemonade or juice yourself.
Here you can find the complete report by Mighty Earth.
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This text was translated from German into English by Evan Binford. You can view the original here.