Integrity-free soybean oil
By Jim Hightower
Can you have your hypocrisy and eat it, too?
I don’t think so. But Cargill Inc. is doing its damndest to invalidate the old admonition that eating your cake today means not having it tomorrow.
As a leading producer and user of ingredients that contain genetically manipulated organisms, the food conglomerate with $136.7 billion in yearly sales faces a marketing problem: By huge margins, consumers here and around the world don’t want Frankenfoods on their families’ tables.
So Cargill, the largest privately held company in our country, ferociously opposes every state law and ballot initiative that would mandate the labeling of any product containing these genetically modified foods.
Better that families be kept in the dark about what they’re buying and eating, Cargill says. Better for its profits, that is.
Indeed, the chairman of Cargill’s board also belongs to the executive committee of the industry lobbying front that goes all out to kill every right-to-know provision for consumers. Any such label, he scolds, would be “misleading.”
But — whoa — what’s this?
Fortress Cargill issued a surprising press release earlier this summer. The company is proudly marketing a new soybean oil that — ready? — announces on its label that the product is free of genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Has the Big Ag behemoth had a change of heart?
Excuse me, but corporations don’t have hearts. They have bottom lines, period. And the bottom line is that Cargill’s terminally hypocritical honchos see dollars lying on the ground that they’re not getting.
“Despite the many merits of biotechnology, consumer interest in food and beverage products made from non-GM ingredients is growing,” explains Ethan Theis, a Cargill man with the cumbersome title of food ingredients commercial manager. These consumers are “creating opportunities and challenges for food manufacturers and food service operators,” he added.
That’s the clearest expression you’ll ever get of corporate integrity.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.