The US based Cargill corporation burns large areas of rainforest to prepare for soya plantations.
International giant Cargill is one of a relatively small number of powerful corporations that control the global agricultural system. Cargill, among those with the widest and deepest influence, describes itself as an “international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services. With 158,000 employees in 66 countries, the company is committed to using its knowledge and experience to collaborate with customers to help them succeed.” Still in family hands, Cargill is the largest privately owned company in the world. Its grain division is the number one source of grains and oil-seeds in North America for domestic use, as well as exporting, and it is a major player in the beef and poultry industries.
With so many business sectors, operating divisions, and locations across the globe, keeping tabs on the specifics of Cargill is difficult. But in general, the Minneapolis-based company markets, processes, packs, distributes, transports, and trades agricultural, food, industrial, and other products and services. It is a leading grain processor and a top U.S. meat packer, but more importantly, it greatly influences – and some analysts would say it controls – both markets. Cargill deals with wheat, corn, and oilseeds; meats, poultry, and fish; industrial products such as biofuels, oils, lubricants, and salts; health and pharmaceutical products; and agricultural services such as animal feed and fertilizers.
In short, Cargill sells farmers many of the inputs they need, and buys much of their output for trading and processing. The corporate behemoth has created a worldwide agricultural system in which it is both buyer and seller, and as a result has reaped massive profits. It reported profits of $2.34 billion for the 2007 fiscal year. Unfortunately, Cargill has not been as successful in protecting the rights of consumers, workers, or the environment as it has been in adapting profitable business strategies.
Cargill threatens the environment in both the United States and abroad. It has spilled toxic waste into the San Francisco Bay, violated the Clean Air Act with harmful emissions, and deforested key habitats for endangered species in South America.
And Cargill treats people no better than it does the environment. Its operations are known to pay their workers low wages, expose them to dangerous pesticides, and renege on critical promises made to the community by a corporation it acquired. It is even alleged to force children to labor under hazardous conditions. Cargill shortchanges American farmers by transferring production overseas.
Because Cargill’s loyalty lies in profits, it does not hesitate to use new and potentially dangerous food technologies if they may bring in revenue. Cargill pushes genetically modified products, invests in irradiation, and lobbies for the right to use carbon monoxide to artificially imbue red meat with the look of freshness long past its expiration date.
This report, Cargill: A Corporate Threat to Food and Farming, will show that Cargill’s vast influence on global agricultural trade threatens the health of consumers, family farmers, the environment, and even entire economies and governments.
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