Cargill: size is everything
1st April, 2003
If you want to understand why globalisation is so destructive, you need look no further than the invisible food giant Cargill. By Brewster Kneen.
‘We are the flour in your bread, the wheat in your noodles, the salt on your fries. We are the corn in your tortillas, the chocolate in your dessert, the sweetener in your soft drink. We are the oil in your salad dressing and the beef, pork or chicken you eat for dinner. We are the cotton in your clothing, the backing on your carpet and the fertiliser in your field.’ (Cargill corporate brochure, 2001).
You don’t see its name on the products you buy. It’s doubtful you’ve even heard of the company. Yet you probably ate food it produced in the last week, if not the last 24 hours. The firm is Cargill – the largest privately owned company in the world, with sales last year in excess of $50 billion. Cargill is the world’s seventh largest food company; only Nestlé, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Philip Morris, Unilever and ConAgra are bigger, all of which (Con Agra apart) you’re probably entirely familiar with. The question is, then, how does Cargill get to be so big without anyone having heard of it?
The corporate leviathan
Until a decade or two ago Cargill was primarily a global trader (and speculator) in bulk...
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