The global fight against Cargill

[img_assist|nid=160|title=Cargill silo in Alto Paraná|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=150|height=113]Summary of the lecture of Andrea Samulon at the conference ‘The global fight against Cargill: the experience of the United States, Brasil and Paraguay’. (Translated by Jolien Verweij) My name is Andrea Samulon and I work with the Rainforest Action Network, at the office in San Francisco, California (U.S.A.) Rainforest Action Network (RAN) wants to protect the forests of the Earth and other important ecosystems and supports the Human Rights of the inhabitants by offering education and organizing the indigenous people to take direct actions without using violence. RAN fulfils it’s mission by organizing dinamic campaigns with great impact, that help to make business en state politics be in accordance with the general popular feeling that is in favor of the preservation of our environment and respect for the human rights. RAN works together with environmental and human right groups all over the world, including indigenous people, rural movements en non governmental organisations. Today I will talk to you about Cargill, its role in the world and the resistance that exists against this big multinational. October last year our organisation launched a campaign against three big American companies in the field of agricultural trade, ADM, Bunge and Cargill. At the end of my lecture I will tell you a bit more about this campaign.


Although Cargill is the most prominent agricultural and trading company in food products in the world, few people know the role it plays in this kind of business. Despite the fact that Cargill is a American company, with its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the majority of the Americans doesn’t know what or who Cargill is. Furthermore, Cargill is a private enterprise. The author Brewster Kneen described Cargill as the ‘Invisible Giant’. Cargill was founded in 1865 and since then it has been increasing and expanding its business. It has a large investment in Mosaic, one of the most powerful companies in artificial manure in the world. Cargill is a big promoter of free trade policies and it bases its position firmly on neoliberal economic principles. The people from Cargill are always looking to do business and they will do business wherever the tariff barriers are very low. Consequently their product costs less and this garantees that more people will buy their brand. Here are some more facts to make you understand how far Cargills influence reaches: In 2007, Cargill reported for tax purposes receiving of 88,3 trillion dollars and a revenue of 2,34 trillion dollars.
  • It is responsable for 25 % of the whole export of grain from the United States.
  • It supplies about 22 % of all the meat consumed in the domestic market of the United States.
  • A little more than 158.000 people work at Cargill at 1.100 locations in 66 countries.
  • Cargill is the biggest exporter of Argentinian products.
  • It’s the biggest breeder of poultry in Thailand.
  • All the eggs used at McDonalds in the United States come from one of Cargills companies.

Cargill has problems all over the world

July 2005, the International Labour Rights Fund presented a case against Cargill, Nestlé and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) for the Federal Court of Los Angeles (California), representing a group of children from Mali, victims of trafficking from Mali to Ivory Coast. They were forced to work twelve to fourteen hours a day without getting paid, without food and while they were frequently beaten. The three children that represented a the whole group of children, were doing so anonymously, out of fear for vengeance by the owners of the plantations where they were working. The charge implied trafficking, torture and slavery of children that cultivate and harvest cocoa for companies that import products from Africa. The Environmental Justice Foundation mention Cargill as the biggest buyer of cotton from Uzbekistan, that is produced mainly by workers that don’t get paid and whose human rights are being violated. Cargill claims that it has no knowledge of this case. In 2005 Cargill came to an agreement with the government of the United States to pay 130 million dollar as a fine for having underestimated the toxic emissions of its 27 plants that process corn, soy and other products that are used for food, combustibles and ethanol. November 2007 Cargill, one of the biggest meat producers in the world, announced that it would take off the market more than one million pounds of minced meat because there was the possibility that it was contaminated with bacteria E. Coli. October 2007 Cargill had again to withdraw eighthundred pounds of minced meat, and for the same reason. In 2008 a debate is started about Cargills proposal to dry out a salt lake and a wetland, Bay Area Salt Ponds, that are situated in the bay of San Francisco. The local people are against this project.

Cargill’s evolution, from food to combustibles

Cargill’s motto is: ‘Nourish ideas, nourish people’. For over more than a century, Cargill concentrated exclusively on the production, transport and trade of grains for food production. But nowadays, Cargill is going more and more in the direction of the production of agrocombustibles. For them, the agrocombustibles mean a very important new source of income, the ‘green gold’. Cargill is one of the most important players in het field of soy production in the world and it also plays an important role in the production of the African oil palm in Indonesia and in Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. The soy and the palm that are being harvested industrially, serve to feed the insatiable hunger for ‘fast food’, animal proteins, and nowadays for the agrocombustibles. Our organisation, Rainforest Action Network, started to investigate Cargill and its role in het expansion of these plantings (soy and oil palm) more than two years ago. We realized that Cargill, in its eagerness to enlarge its agroindustrial empire, is operating with a total indifference towards the environment and human rights. In Papua New Guinea, where Cargill started only a few years ago, they came to an agreement with the government in order to be able to buy farming land. In Papua New Guinea 97% of the land belongs to the native people, and is not yet in hands of big companies or the state. However, suddenly a process of large scale deforestation has started up in large parts of Papua New Guinea in order to make space for palm plantations and they are using poisonous agrotoxics like paraquat. Friends that work in Papua New Guinea have told us that a lot of rivers are contaminated and that the people can’t use their water. In Brazil Cargill plays an important role, especially in the soy production. A few years ago, Cargill decided to build a harbour in the town of Santarem, in the region of the Amazone, right next to the river the Amazon. The construction of this harbour was completely illegal. Cargill didn’t get the proper, essential environmental licences to build the harbour in this place, but the Brasilian government allowed them to keep the harbour open. This, in spite of the fact that the Brazilian Supreme Court had started a case against Cargill for having built the harbour without the licences required by law. Different studies show an increasing deforestation in the region and the appearance of more soy plantations as a result of the construction of Cargill’s illegal harbour in Santarem. And now Cargill wants to build another harbour in Asunción. The soy production in Paraguay keeps increasing and Cargill owns about 40% of the total soy production in the country. A lot of groups in Paraguay have been fighting against the construction of the harbour for reasons that include, threats to the public health, the danger of contaminating all the drinking water for more than one million people living in Asunción and it’s surroundings, more vehicular traffic and contamination as a result of the trucks that will deliver the soy in the harbour, and not to forget the destruction of the river Paraguay. Our organisation supports all the associations en civil movements groups that have rejected Cargill’s new harbour (Puerto Unión de Zeballos Cué). We don’t agree with this project and we are very aware of the negative consequences it will have on the communities around this area and on the environment. The possible impacts on the drinking water of the city are very clear as well. When we knew about the proposal for building the harbour, our network of activists sent more than eighty thousand letters through e-mail to the different offices involved here in Paraguay, to officially register our opposition. The health of the human being and the protection of the environment have to have priority over the interests of a multinational that is focussed on one thing only, earning money. Agrotrading. Defending the forests, the Campaign of RAN against Cargill, ADM and Bunge. Campaign against the agrarian families and our climate! This is the slogan of the most recent campaign of RAN, directed against the agroindustry of the United States, considering the role it is playing in the expansion of the plantations of soy beans and the oil palms in the wholo of South-America, the Southeast of Asia and the Pacific. As I said before, the soy beans and oil palms are invading the tropical ecosystems, that were already threatened, rapidly and in doing so, they create environmental chaos, are contributing to the abuse of human rights and intensifying the climate change. This whole invasion is carried out by the huge agricultural companies of the United States, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill. The Campaign against the Agrotrading in the Tropical Forests, started by the Rainforest Action Network, defends the forests, the farmers and the climate. In association with the communities and the farmer organisations affected by the expansion of the soy and oil palm plantations, we demand a change from the responsable people of the agricultural industry in de United States. We claim that these companies bring to a halt the environmental, social and climatological destruction that they are causing. The Campaign against the Agrotrading from the Rainforest Action Network is broadly supported in the United States, in order to make these agroindustries responsible for the damage they are causing to the people and the ecosystem. Together with the indigenous communities, small farmer families and local groups in the regions that are mostly affected, we present the following demands:
  • Stop de deforestation and loss of ecosystems that take place in order to make room for the soy and oil palm plantations.
  • Respect the land rights. The indigenous local communities will freely give their consent to whatever industrial activity takes place on their lands.
  • Fight slavery work. Proper and secure conditions for all the workers.
  • Put a stop to the use of dangerous insecticides.
  • Respect the sovereignty in food and the right of people to define their own nutrition and agriculture.
  • Not propagate nor promote the use of genetically modified plants.
  • Not produce nor promote the use of industrial agrocombustibles, especially the ones produced in tropical ecosystems.
  • Not violate the law. Follow all the local, national and international environmental, labor and agricultural laws.


    Rainforest Action Network will continue to challenge the North American companies that violate human rights and destroy the environment all over the planet. We will continue to support the communities, the militants and activists and the NGO’s from all over the world that are confronting Cargill and other companies in agrotrading. These companies play an fundamental role in the expansion of monocultivating of goods, especially the monocultivation of oil palms and soy, and are thus having huge effects on the world population, the environment and the climate.
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