Posts Tagged ‘single term limits’

Royal Dutch Shell: The World’s Dirtiest Oil Company

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Royal Dutch Shell: The World's Dirtiest Oil Company

Part 1 of 3: Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

“[Royal Dutch Shell PLC a.k.a. Shell Oil Company a.k.a.] Shell is a corporate member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011.  G. Edward Pickle, Senior Government Affairs Counsel of Shell Oil Company, is Shell’s representative to ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force.  It was a ‘Chairman’ level sponsor of the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Conference, which in 2010, equated to $50,000.  Shell also sponsored the Plenary Session speeches on August 4th, 2011, by ALEC ‘scholars’ Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore…  ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group.  It is much more powerful than that.  Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line.  Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC.  Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve ‘model’ bills.  They have their own corporate governing  board which meets jointly with the legislative board.  (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.)  They fund almost all of ALEC’s operations.  Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovation – without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.  ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.  ALEC describes itself as a ‘unique,’ ‘unparalleled’ and ‘unmatched’ organization.  It might be right.  It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.  Learn more at

Part 2 of 3: The Oil Spill the World Forgot

“As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to dominate headlines around the world, public outrage is being focused more intensely upon BP and its gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward. But amidst this crisis, the public should not forget the atrocities committed by other massive oil companies. For example, Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling operations have been spilling oil into the Niger Delta in Nigeria since 1958. Because Nigeria is an impoverished nation and oil revenues fund a majority of government operations, Shell and other companies have been able to drill and pollute without serious oversight for all these years. It is estimated that 13 million barrels of oil have spilled into the delta, making life even more difficult for the region’s destitute residents. Shell blames the constant spills on attacks from “rebels,” who are in fact minority ethnic groups who feel they have been exploited and displaced by foreign oil companies. But Shell would never consider pulling out of the region or finding ways to avoid ethnic strife. Instead, Shell has proceeded with business as usual, and spilled a record 14,000 tons of crude oil into the delta last year [2009].”

Part 3 of 3: Shell’s Big Dirty Secret: Insight into the world’s most carbon intensive oil company

“This new research paper rates the carbon intensity of the top international oil companies, revealing that Shell is now the most carbon intensive oil company in the world based on its total resources.  This report documents Shell’s record investment in dirty forms of energy, and it illuminates the corporate strategy and lobbying for regulations that indicate it intends to profit from that position for a long time to come.  Our key conclusions are:

* Shell holds more carbon in its resources, per barrel of future oil equivalent, than any other major international oil company. Shell is therefore the world’s most carbon intensive oil company;

* The average carbon intensity of each barrel of oil and gas Shell produces is set to rise dramatically, increasing 85 per cent on today’s figure;

* This sharp increase is caused by Shell’s move into oil sands, its reliance on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and its continued gas flaring in Nigeria;

* Shell continues to expand investments in oil sands and oil shale, relying on the dirtiest technologies to establish itself as a leader in the industry;

* Shell has stopped its investments in renewables, except for biofuels, which pose a whole new set of environmental problems;

* Internal documents obtained in the discovery process of Wiwa v. Shell reveal that although Shell could have ended gas flaring in the early ’90’s, it decided it was more profitable not to;

* Shell continues to flare gas in Nigeria at levels which, according to its own figures, are only 12% less than those of 1999 after accounting for the reductions due to community unrest;

* Because of all of the above, Shell is more vulnerable to carbon pricing and subject to greater carbon risk than its peers.

* Therefore, Shell is leading industry lobby efforts in Washington, Brussels, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to weaken and neuter legislation and regulation to tackle climate change.”

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Koch Industries, Keystone XL and Killer Kleptocracy

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Koch Industries, Keystone XL and Killer Kleptocracy

Koch (pronounced like “Coke”) Industries is a private corporate conglomerate controlled by two brothers – Charles G. and David H. Koch – each of whom own 42% of the company.  Diversfied in chemicals and refining along with consumer products and commodity trading, the company’s subsidiaries and brands include many household names such as Georgia-Pacific (Dixie Cups and Tableware) and Invista (Stainmaster Carpets).  With over 70,000 employees and over $100 billion in annual revenues, Forbes ranks Koch Industries as the second largest privately-held company in America:

Worth an estimated $25 billion each, the Koch Brothers share the #4 position on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people in America.  Their individual net worths are exceeded only by those of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Larry Ellison.  Forbes also ranks Charles Koch and David Koch among the world’s 68 most powerful people:

The Koch Brothers have wealth, power and an insatiable appetite for more of both.  And what they cannot earn through free enterprise, they acquire through other means.  Each year they pour millions of dollars into the financing of several “Astroturf” grassroots organizations, and a complete list of the politicians they bankroll at both the national and state level might read like a Who’s Who of American politics, e.g.:

The Koch Brothers play to win.  If they can’t win by the rules, then they elect politicians willing to pass (or block) the legislation they need to change the rules.  And if they still don’t win, then they just ignore the rules.  This shocking 3 October 2011 Bloomberg exposé entitled “Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales” shows just how far they are willing to go to complete their agenda – which has absolutely nothing to do with making the American people more prosperous, or making our nation a better place to live:  < – THIS IS A MUST READ

A major item on the Koch Brother’s agenda is garnering all the approvals needed for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which if built would increase the import of heavy oil from Canadian oil sands to the U.S. by up to 510,000 barrels a day.  A 10 February 2011 Reuters release entitled “Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved” disclosed the following:

“Proponents tout [the proposed Keystone XL pipeline] as a boon to national security that would reduce America’s dependence on oil from unfriendly regimes.  Opponents say it would magnify an environmental nightmare at great cost and provide only the illusion of national benefit…  A SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, shows that Koch Industries is already responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports…   A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers…  Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline…  Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil!
sands-focused exploration company also based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.”

“[All] eyes had been on Hillary Clinton and the State Department, which is officially weighing the pipeline permit.  The application was cruising toward a swift and barely noticed approval early last year, but the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico provoked a closer look as environmental security became a national concern…  The 1,959-mile pipeline would cut through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas, and crisscross the Ogallala Aquifer, which [millions of] Americans living in the Midwest rely on for fresh drinking water as well as irrigation…  Last July, the EPA rolled up its sleeves and called a time out.  The agency deemed the State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone project as ‘inadequate,’ the lowest possible ranking.  EPA raised concerns over a potential oil spill over the Ogallala aquifer.”

According to Wikipedia, “The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States.  One of the world’s largest aquifers, it covers an area of approximately 174,000 sq mi (450,000 sq km) in portions of the eight states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas…  About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the United States overlies this aquifer system, which yields about 30 percent of the nation’s ground water used for irrigation.  In addition, the aquifer system provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within the aquifer boundary.”

There is no such thing as an oil pipeline that won’t leak.  And when the Keystone XL pipeline starts releasing its toxic contents into our heartland’s lifestream, it will be too late for the American People to say they’d prefer water to Koch.

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Cargill Inc.: Corporate Greed Threatens World Food Supply

November 25, 2011 1 comment

Cargill Inc.: Corporate Greed Threatens World Food Supply

“Control the oil and you’ll control the nations; control the food and you’ll control the people.” – Henry Kissinger

Part 1 of 5: Cargill: A Threat to Food and Farming

“How does the largest privately owned company in the U.S. impact you?  Plenty.  You may not realize how much you buy at the grocery store has been imprinted by the agribusiness giant Cargill, but Cargill ingredients are everywhere in your supermarket. There isn’t any Cargill-brand food but its hidden food products are probably on your dinner table tonight.

Cargill’s dominant role in the food system can affect your nutrition, the safety of your food, and the sustainability of food production.  Here’s why Cargill matters to shoppers :

* Recalls: Cargill has recalled more than 20 million pounds of beef and poultry products tainted with E. coli and Listeria bacteria, respectively since 2000. This recalled meat has been linked to foodborne illness outbreaks, miscarriages, and several deaths.

* Unsustainable Practices: Cargill has turned a blind eye to environmental destruction and labor abuses taking place as a result of its operations around the world.

* Food Stranglehold: In 2008, high prices for the food that Cargill exported worldwide coincided with low prices for the tropical crops that Cargill purchases – benefiting Cargill – and making the ability to purchase food beyond the reach of many rural communities in developing countries.

Know who has an invisible hand in your food. Read the full report:”

Part 2 of 5: Big Food Recalls Once Again Reveal the Hidden Costs of our Big Food System

[4 August 2011]  “Cargill, the third largest turkey processor in the United States, is recalling the turkey products because of a strain of bacteria called Salmonella Heidelberg, which has sickened 76 consumers and caused one death.  The fact that Salmonella Heidelberg is antibiotic-resistant certainly reinforces the need for ending the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production.

Tracing the contamination back to its source – no easy task when you’re talking about 36 million pounds of processed food distributed to 26 states – has been the task of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conjunction with USDA and state health agencies.  In case you’re wondering how long it takes to figure out where food contamination originated, in this case it took five months since the first reported case of food illness was reported until they linked the public health threat to Cargill’s ground turkey.

Food recalls like this one have become typical in an age of consolidation in agriculture and food – when 58 percent of the poultry market is controlled by the top four firms.  Big firms like Cargill brag about their market share in their quarterly reports, but this type of marketplace domination is putting consumers at risk and farmers out of business.  There are hidden costs to doing business this big, and one of them is public health.  And, we can only rely so much on our federal agencies to provide food safety if their budgets are being cut.  They are strained now; what will their challenges be like next year if they have less funding and more responsibility?”

Recalled products include Cargill brands plus private labels like HEB and Kroger:

Part 3 of 5: Cargill Meat Recall Heightens Fears Budgets Cuts Will Weaken Oversight, Threaten Public Health

“More than 3,000 people die a year from food poisoning in the United States, and millions more get sick.  Food safety advocates say this latest outbreak shows how budget cuts have hampered the ability of federal and state health agencies to effectively protect public health.  We speak with Patty Lovera, assistant director of the food safety group, Food & Water Watch.  ‘As Congress comes back this fall…in budget-cutting mode [where] nothing is really sacred, we need to be telling them food safety inspections…are not acceptable places to find these savings,’ Lovera says.”

Part 4 of 5: Food for Thought – Who Controls Our Food?

3 Companies Control 90% of the Beef Industry:  Cargill, JBS Swift and Tyson.

4 Companies Control 66% of the Pork Industry:  Cargill, JBS Swift and Smithfield, Tyson.

4 Companies Control 60% of the Poultry Industry:  JBS Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, Sanderson Farms and Tyson.

3 Companies Control 90% of the Corn Market:  Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill.

Part 5 of 5: No Less Than 23 Cargill Employees Sat on No Less Than 20 Federal “Advisory” Committees

Department of Agriculture: 13 people on 9 committees
Department of Commerce: 5 people on 4 committees
Agency for International Development: 1 person on 2 committees
Department of Energy: 2 people on 2 committees
Department of Health and Human Services: 1 person on 1 committee
International Development Cooperation Agency: 1 person on 1 committee
National Science Foundation: 1 person on 1 committee
Department of State: 1 person on 1 committee

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ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love

November 25, 2011 1 comment

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love

There may be some Americans who have never heard of ConAgra, but there are few of us who don’t eat food processed by ConAgra every day.  Here is a partial list of their brands, which include among many others Chef Boyardee, Hebrew National, Peter Pan, Slim Jim and even Wolf Brand Chili:

ConAgra Foods, Inc. is a diversified international food company headquartered in Omaha Nebraska.  It is one of America’s 200 largest publicly-traded corporations in terms of revenue, but might not rank so high in terms of veracity:  A Google search on the phrase “conagra fraud” suggests that perhaps for this global conglomerate misrepresentation is not an uncommon practice, and paying multi-million dollar settlements when they get caught is just a cost of doing business:

Its competitors may find ConAgra’s alleged patent fraud despicable, and its investors may consider ConAgra’s alleged financial fraud deplorable, but for millions of unsuspecting consumers the recent allegations of ConAgra’s label fraud should be far more disturbing.  This recent report from Food Safety News explains why:

ConAgra Sued Over GMO ‘100% Natural’ Cooking Oils
by Michele Simon | Aug 24, 2011

If you use Wesson brand cooking oils, you may be able to join a class action against food giant ConAgra for deceptively marketing the products as natural.

These days it’s hard to walk down a supermarket aisle without bumping into a food product that claims to be “all-natural.”  If you’ve ever wondered how even some junk food products can claim this moniker (witness: Cheetos Natural Puff White Cheddar Cheese Flavored Snacks – doesn’t that sound like it came straight from your garden?)  the answer is simple if illogical: the Food and Drug Administration has not defined the term NATURAL.

So food marketers, knowing that many shoppers are increasingly concerned about healthful eating, figured: why not just slap the natural label on anything we can get away with?  That wishful thinking may soon be coming to an end if a few clever consumer lawyers have anything to say about it.

While various lawsuits have been filed in recent years claiming that food companies using the term natural are engaging in deceptive marketing, a suit filed in June in California against ConAgra could make the entire industrial food complex shake in its boots.

The plaintiff claims he relied on Wesson oils “100% natural” label, when the products are actually made from genetically modified organisms.

GMOs Not Exactly Natural, So Says Monsanto

Ironically, the complaint cites a definition of GMOs by none other than Monsanto, the company most notorious for its promotion of the technology.  According to Monsanto, GMOs are: “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

The complaint also quotes a GMO definition from the World Health Organization: “Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”

Four Wesson varieties are implicated in the case: Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, and Best Blend. And it’s not just on the label that ConAgra is using the natural claim, but also online and in print advertisements.  (Additional silly health claims on the website include “cholesterol free” – vegetable oils couldn’t possibly contain cholesterol anyway.)

The complaint describes the extent of ConAgra’s deception, alleging the “labels are intended to evoke a natural, wholesome product.”  And further:

The “100% Natural” statement is, like much of the label on Wesson Oils, displayed in vibrant green.  The “Wesson” name is haloed by the image of the sun, and the Canola Oil features a picture of a green heart.

A green heart – you just can’t get any healthier than that.  However, as registered dietitian Andy Bellatti told me: “These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which in excessive amounts are actually bad for your heart.”  Guess they left that part out of the green heart icon.

Supermarkets Chock-full of GMOs

But what makes this lawsuit especially intriguing is its potentially far-ranging impact.  According to the Center for Food Safety: “upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves – from soda to soup, crackers to condiments — contain genetically-engineered ingredients.”  While it’s unclear how many of these products also claim to be natural, given all the greenwashing going on these days, it’s likely to number in the thousands.

Specifically, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans, both extremely common ingredients in processed foods. Numerous groups including the Center for Food Safety have been calling attention to the potential hazards of GMOs for years. From their website:

A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment.  Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.

Not exactly the stuff that green hearts are made of.  The legal complaint also notes that on its corporate website (“but not on the Wesson site that consumers are more likely to visit”), ConAgra implies that its oils are genetically engineered.  The company concludes: “Ultimately, consumers will decide what is acceptable in the marketplace based on the best science and public information available.”

But by being told the oils are “100% natural,” consumers can no longer make an informed decision as they are being misled.

Which reminds me of a great quote from Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser: “If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.”

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, and research and policy director at Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group.

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Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and the Criminal Insanity of Ethanol Subsidies

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and the Criminal Insanity of Ethanol Subsidies

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “Subsidies to companies that blend corn ethanol into gasoline, coupled with a mandate to market billions of gallons of that gasoline annually, cost taxpayers $6 billion a year.  Using corn for fuel leads to higher prices for corn and foods with corn ingredients – all for a program without significant environmental benefit.”

But according to Straight Dope columnist Cecil Adams, the CSPI was incorrect in saying ethanol is “without significant environmental benefit” because it actually offers no environmental benefit at all:  “The capper … is the claim that it takes more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than you get by burning it.  One of the most vocal proponents of this view is Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel.  In an analysis published in 2001 in the peer-reviewed Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology, Pimentel argued that when you add up all the energy costs – the fuel for farm tractors, the natural gas used to distill corn sugars into alcohol, and so on – making a gallon of ethanol takes 70 percent more energy than the finished product contains.  And because that production energy comes mostly from fossil fuels, gasohol isn’t just wasting money but hastening the depletion of nonrenewable resources.”

And according to Energy Tribune writer Robert Bryce, the actual cost for taxpayers to subsidize ethanol is almost triple the CPSI’s $6 billion figure:  “Last year, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the cost to taxpayers of using corn ethanol to reduce gasoline consumption by one gallon is $1.78.  This year, the corn ethanol sector will produce about 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol, the energy equivalent of about 9.1 billion gallons of gasoline.  Using the CBO’s numbers, the total cost to taxpayers this year for the ethanol boondoggle will be about $16.2 billion.  In short, ethanol subsidies are nearly four times as great as those provided for oil and gas, even though the domestic drilling sector provides about 36 times as much energy to the U.S. economy.”  (As if oil companies should be taxpayer-subsidized either!)

So who are you and I – American taxpayers – annually gifting (what “subsidizing” really means) this $16 billion ethanol corndoggle to?  The biggest beneficiaries are of course the major corn ethanol producers like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who along with Monsanto and other Big Ag (Big Corn) cronies contributed heavily over the past several years to many members of this bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators who last November signed a letter demanding an extension of these economically and ecologically unjustifiable government giveaways:

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Sen. Christopher ‘Kit’ Bond (R-Mo.)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

ADM’s share of the corndoggle take is substantial, and it’s only part of the corporate welfare ADM’s been been receiving from Uncle Sam – you and me – for many years.  According to a 1995 article by James Bovard of the Cato Institute, “At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government.  Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30.”

In an outstanding article entitled “Starvation, Obesity, and Corporate Welfare: Archer Daniels Midland and U.S. Policy”, Charles Krakoff of gives us the rest of the story:

“ADM has exerted a strong influence on U.S. agricultural policy for at least 40 years.  In 1973 Earl Butz, President Nixon’s Agriculture Secretary, engineered a shift away from the New Deal policies of farm price supports, which included limiting production of corn and other major commodities, to encouraging farmers to produce as much as they could, regardless of price.  The government henceforth would pay direct subsidies to farmers to make up the difference between the market price and what it considered an appropriate floor price … providing a windfall to major corn processors…  Except it wasn’t precisely a windfall, since ADM had done a great deal to engineer this outcome.  During the Watergate investigation, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox indicted then-ADM CEO Dwayne Andreas for giving $100,000 in illegal contributions to Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 Presidential campaign.  But Andreas was nothing if not bipartisan.  Richard Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods testified that during Nixon’s 1972 campaign Andreas handed her an envelope containing $100,000 in $100 bills.  Between 1975 and 1977 Andreas gave $72,000 in ADM stock to the children of David Gartner, senator Humphrey’s chief of staff at the time, whom President Jimmy Carter in 1977 named to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (he was later forced to resign when the details of the ADM gift came to light)…”

“ADM continues to lavish huge sums on candidates for high office.  During the 1996 Presidential campaign ADM gave $100,000 to Bob Dole’s Better America Foundation, provided numerous free rides on ADM’s corporate jets to Senator and Mrs. Dole, and gave over $1.5m in soft money to the Republican National Committee.  Though Bob Dole lost his Presidential race he remained highly influential as a Senator and helped arrange the 54-cent per gallon ethanol tax credit of which ADM, producer of more than 60% of America’s corn-based ethanol, is the main beneficiary.  ADM also contributed to Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s campaigns.  Although Barack Obama apparently has received no direct campaign contributions from ADM – ADM was, however, a major sponsor of the 2008 Democratic National Convention – as a Senator from ADM’s home state of Illinois Mr. Obama was one of several farm-state Senators who staunchly opposed a Bush Administration proposal to lower the prohibitively high import duties on Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane.  During his Presidential campaign Mr. Obama vigorously defended the corn ethanol subsidy, and as President he has kept the policy firmly in place…”

“If rigging U.S. agriculture, trade, and energy policies to its advantage weren’t enough, ADM has also conspired with other agro-processing giants such as Cargill and Ajinomoto to fix prices for lysine, citric acid, and corn syrup.  It paid a $100m fine in 1996 for lysine price-fixing in a plea bargain that led to two-year prison sentences and $350,000 fines for Michael Andreas, Dwayne’s son and heir apparent, and Terence Watson, another ADM executive.  At around the same time, ADM, Cargill, and the British sugar company Tate & Lyle were indicted by the U.S. government for conspiring to fix the price of high-fructose corn syrup.  Though they were cleared of criminal charges in 1999, they subsequently settled a lawsuit brought by U.S. food and beverage manufacturers, Cargill paying $24m, Tate & Lyle $100m, and ADM $400m…”

“The funneling of taxpayer dollars into ADM’s bottom line continues unabated…  Then there is the effect of ethanol subsidies on world hunger.  You may remember the commodities price boom in the first half of 2008, before the housing market crash, when the oil price hit $147 a barrel, the corn price went to $7.65 a bushel, and more than 30 countries, including Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Senegal, suffered widespread and deadly food riots.  The spike in the corn price was caused largely by the diversion of roughly a third of America’s corn crop to ethanol production.  This had a knock-on effect on wheat and rice prices.  Numerous grain exporting countries, including Argentina, India, Vietnam, and Russia, imposed export bans, which contributed to shortages and price rises in countries dependent on food imports.  The same phenomenon may be about to repeat itself…”

“You can’t blame ADM for hot weather in Russia.  But if you had to identify one principal cause of what seem to be recurring food shortages and price shocks, you’d have to look at U.S. agricultural policy, and if you look at U.S. agricultural policy you have to look at ADM.  Ethanol subsidies and tariff protection divert cropland from food production to energy production.  It’s as if you cut down a corn field to put in a power plant, except a power plant has a much smaller footprint than the thousands of acres of corn fields needed to produce an equivalent amount of energy.  The competition for cropland intensifies, food prices shoot up, and the world becomes much less stable.  Starvation abroad and obesity at home, ADM is one corporation with a lot to answer for.”

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Bunge: How the Soybean Industrial Complex is Killing People for Profit

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Bunge: How the Soybean Industrial Complex is Killing People for Profit

Part 1 of 5:  Fat Like Us: Europe’s Diet Becoming Americanized Thanks to Soy Feed Imported by Bunge Et Al

“‘International trade rules have created a soybean industrial complex that is fattening both livestock and humans in Europe, just like it has in America,’ says Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.”

“Trade rules have made soy a cheaper alternative to domestic feed, helping transform pig and poultry holdings in Europe into factory farms like their U.S. counterparts. With this shift to cheaper feed comes more processed, industrialized, fast food. In 2009, McDonald’s actually earned more revenue from Europe (41 percent) than the United States (35 percent.) Now, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil made largely from soybeans is a key shortening in processed desserts and frozen foods as well, adding even more soy to European diets…  In the past several decades, these changes have helped broaden waistlines.  The obesity rate in the U.K. more than tripled between 1980 and 2007, and France’s nearly doubled between 1990 and 2006.  Almost half of Germany’s population was obese or overweight in 2005.”

“Four international firms dominate the global oilseed trade: U.S-based Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge [pronounced BUN-ge with a soft e], Cargill, and the French company Louis Dreyfus.  These firms were four of the top six exporters of soybeans from Argentina in 2009…  Bunge operates 56 oilseed-processing plants worldwide, processing more than 13,000 metric tonnes (28.7 million pounds) each day in Argentina alone.”

Part 2 of 5:  ADM, Bunge, Cargill: the ABCs of Rainforest Destruction

“Today, the Rainforest Action Network turned up the heat on US Agribusiness giants ADM, Bunge, and Cargill. Early this morning, when employees arrived at the Chicago Board of Trade, they were met with a massive banner, reading: ‘ADM, Bunge, Cargill: the ABCs of Rainforest Destruction.’  We’re stepping it up and we want these companies to know how serious we are.  Yesterday Chicagoans opened the Tribune to find our full page ad, calling out ADM, Bunge, and Cargill for profiting from false solutions to our climate crisis.  By promoting industrially produced soy and palm oil as biofuel, these companies are diverting our resources and attention away from truly renewable energy.  Our newly-launched Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign is letting these companies know that destroying the world’s rainforests for profit won’t fly…”

Part 3 of 5:  The Space Between Bunge’s Rhetoric and Bunge’s Actions

“They talk about feeding the world and had a whole packet enumerating their values of integrity, citizenship and environmental stewardship.  Mr. Weisser spoke at length about working with local growers in South America and investing in social projects.  I’m all for a business culture that values “integrity and citizenship”.  The problem lies in the space between Bunge’s rhetoric and Bunge’s actions.

* While Bunge insists it is working to curb greenhouse gas emissions; it has continued to expand its operations in Brazil, which has become the fourth largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world with deforestation accounting for three quarters of its emissions.  Soy expansion by companies like Bunge is the leading cause of deforestation.

* While Bunge talks about funding social programs in communities, it is still responsible for the human rights disaster of displacing Indigenous peoples throughout its South American operations

* While Bunge stresses a commitment to farmers and its employees, the expansion of soy forces small farming communities off their lands, providing just one job for every 11 subsistence farmer it displaces.”

Part 4 of 5:  Bunge Funds Brazilian Communist Front Tied To Killing Forests and Environmentalists

“On May 24th, environmentalist Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria [image link below], were gunned down near Maraba, Para, where the couple worked in a sustainable extractive reserve.  Only three days later another prominent activist was killed. The leader of the Amazon Peasants Association, Adelino Ramos, was murdered in front of his family in Vista Alegre do Abuna, Rondonia.  Both Ramos and da Silva were vocal opponents of deforestation in the Amazon.  The deaths of these activists are being compared to the murder of American nun Dorothy Stang in 2005 and rubber trapper Chico Mendes in 1988, considered martyrs by many.”

“Some have linked the high-profile killings in part to proposed revisions to Brazil’s Forest Code, the country’s primary law addressing deforestation.  The revisions have incited tension between those in favor of allowing further clearing in the Amazon and environmentalists who support the original code, drafted in 1965.  The revisions, now passed by Brazil’s lower house, loosen restrictions on clearing forests along riverbanks and on hilltops. In addition, under the original law, landholders were required to maintain 80 percent of their lands in forest, and technically could be required to reforest cleared property, however the revised Forest Code would require only 50 percent of land to be preserved, and reforesting will not be required.”

“Aldo Rebelo, the head of Brazil’s Communist Party, has led the charge against the Forest Code. He argues that existing forest requirements keep small farmers in poverty, however critics say Rebaldo’s claims to represent the rural poor are misleading. Rebelo’s coalition, the “ruralists”, is comprised of industrial agribusiness interests, including the National Agriculture Confederation (CAN).  According to Brazil’s Center of Environmental Studies (CEA), Rebelo received R 70,000 ($44,200) from Bunge Fertilizers, an immense multinational agricultural conglomerate based in New York and one of the principal agribusiness firms in Brazil.”

Part 5 of 5:  Bunge North America Spends $3,725,000 Lobbying, Lands 73 Federal Contracts

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Wal-Mart: Greed and the High Cost of Low Price

November 25, 2011 1 comment

Wal-Mart: Greed and the High Cost of Low Price

With $421.8 billion in revenues and $16.4 billion in earnings last year, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (branded Walmart in 2008) tops the 2011 Fortune 500 list.  Doing business under 55 different names with 8,500 locations in 15 countries, it is considered to be the world’s largest private (i.e. publicly traded) corporation.  And with much of its growth based on the selling (and buying) of cheap imported goods at low prices, some estimate the success of Wal-Mart (and the “savings” of its customers) has been at the expense of thousands of small business closures and millions of American jobs exported.

“[The] contributions of the Wal-Mart Stores political action committee to federal candidates and other political committees has grown rapidly during the past decade as new stores continue to be built across the country.  In recent years Wal-Mart Stores was most active [in the opposition of] clean energy, taxes and consumer safety initiatives, as well as the Employee Free Choice Act legislation of 2009.”

“In 2010, Wal-Mart and its affiliated companies spent more than $6 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies…  The company also exercises considerable pull through large campaign contributions.  During the 2010 election cycle alone, Wal-Mart, through its employees and political action committees, donated more than $1.6 million to federal candidates, with Republican and Democratic candidates receiving approximately equal shares of this money.”

The impact of this greed global giant on America’s politics and people has become so pervasive that the company has not only its own Wikipedia criticism page…

…but also its own watchdog website,, whose summary assessments are as follows:

“Community Impact:  Walmart passes on significant costs to many of the states and communities where it operates because so many of the company’s Associates and their families participate in publicly-funded health care and other public assistance programs because of lack of affordable health care from Walmart.  At the same time, Walmart sends much of its revenue out of local communities, while local businesses keep more consumer dollars in the local economy.  Walmart has created a new kind of blight by leaving vacant, abandoned stores throughout the country.”

“Corporate Responsibility:  Because Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, it sets industry standards for wages, benefits and corporate responsibilities that impact millions of retail workers, their families and communities.  As Walmart’s influence continues to grow at home and abroad, policymakers, media and others are asking questions about the impact of Walmart in our community.  Unfortunately this impact all too often includes lowering of standards that hurt communities and families.”

“Environmental Record:  In recent years, Walmart has begun efforts to become a more environmentally responsible company. The company marks this initiative as one of their flagship efforts.  But these efforts do little to counteract Walmart’s basic formula of large format stores combined with imports from overseas.”

“Impact On Other Businesses:  From small businesses to major chains, all grocery and retail establishments that compete with Walmart are impacted by the company.  Competitors are often forced to lower wages and standards.  By using a model based on low-wages, high-efficiency transportation, and imported goods, Walmart has a history of destroying once thriving downtowns across rural America.  Because Walmart has saturated rural and suburban America, the company’s new growth area in the U.S. is urban communities.  Additionally, Walmart’s scale gives it unprecedented control over how suppliers do business.  Therefore, the company’s policies have repercussion across the entire supply system.”

“Political Power:  Walmart has a sophisticated and massive lobbying effort to influence policy makers at every level  Walmart and organizations directly affiliated with Walmart have sought to advance goals such as school vouchers, entering urban communities, restricting tariff protections, limiting port security, eliminating the estate tax, oppose strong worker protections, and obtaining lucrative subsidies.” also discloses that Wal-Mart is a board member of the American Legislative Exchange Council:

‘Wal-Mart is on the corporate (“Private Enterprise”) board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Maggie Sans, Vice President of Public Affairs at Wal-Mart, represents Wal-Mart on the corporate board as of 2011.  It was a “Chairman” level sponsor of 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Conference, which in 2010, equated to $50,000…  ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that.  Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line.  Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC.  Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills.  They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board.  (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.)  They fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. Participating legislators … then b!
ring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations – without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.  ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization.  It might be right.  It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.  Learn more at:’

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Walmart: The High Cost Of Low Prices



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