In my previous article, I wrote about the ongoing GM rice scandal in Turkey from U.S. imports. Istanbul Technical University Molecular (ITU) Biology-Biotechnology and Genetic Research Center rice specific Real-Time PCR and DNA sequence laboratory analysis of samples revealed the presence of both (US-Bayer) LL601 and (Chinese) Bt63 GM rice in the same sample, a first-time worldwide occurrence.
WHERE DID THE GM RICE COME FROM?
Three companies – the ABC’s of agribusiness, ADM, Bunge and Cargill- control nearly 90% of global grain trade. The import documentations reveal that the rice was imported from the U.S. from two of these companies: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Rice and Bunge Ltd. According to USA Rice Federation, Turkey imported 147,757 metric tons of U.S. rice in 2012, valued at $63 million. Leaving Cargill aside because they are not involved in the scandal, let us take a brief look at ADM and Bunge Ltd.’s past and present records.
ADM RICE (2012 revenue: $89.038 Billion)
In the mid 1990’s, ADM and several senior executives were indicted on federal criminal charges for engaging in price-fixing in the international lysine and citric acid markets. In 1997, ADM was fined $100 million and in 1999, three top ADM officials were sentenced to federal prison to a total of 99 months. Both were record anti-trust fines in U.S. history at the time. Moreover, ADM was later fined almost $50 million by the antitrust authorities of Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The story was published by journalist Kurt Eichenwald in The Informant in 2000, and was later adapted into the 2009 Soderbergh film starring Matt Damon as the whistleblower ADM executive Mark Whitacre.
ADM has also been accused of conspiring to fix the price of high-fructose corn syrup. In 2004, after nine years of legal battle, ADM agreed to pay $400 million to Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and other customers to settle the federal antitrust lawsuit.
Patricia Woertz, ADM CEO since 2006, serves on the board of directors of Procter & Gamble Company and the U.S.-China Business Council. The last point is especially worth paying attention, considering that both US LL601 and Chinese Bt63 GM rice were detected in the imported rice in Turkey.
Let us also note that ADM has teamed up with Bayer (the patent owner of GM rice LL601) and German carmaker Daimler AG to explore and produce tropical plant Jatropha-based biodiesel fuel in 2008. Reuters reported that “ADM runs several biodiesel refineries worldwide, while Bayer CropScience plans to develop herbicides, insecticides and Jatropha plants.”
BUNGE LTD. (2012 revenue: $61.0 billion USD)
The White Plains, NY-based company was involved in a much publicized scandal in the 1970’s. On June 20 1975, Time Magazine reported that “Bunge plead no contest to a federal charge that it had for almost twelve years, until June 1973, short weighed ship cargoes […] The company also offered no defense against a charge that it used false invoices to market surreptitiously to U.S. companies every three or four months up to 25,000 bushels of the leftover grain -in effect stolen from foreign customers.” Bunge paid a small fine of $20,000 but “as part of an unusual plea-bargaining arrangement, Bunge agreed to allot $2 million to $3 million of its own money over a three-year period to hire more inspectors for its elevators, and pay for additional auditors, independent certified public accountants and an outside compliance consultant.”
More recent news includes Argentina suspending Bunge from the grain register because of unpaid income taxes since 2006. The nation is seeking a full payment with interest of $126.3 million from Bunge Ltd.
As for Bunge’s environmental record, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has being accusing Bunge “of disregarding human rights and the environment and accused Bunge-whose profits reached a record high last quarter-of benefiting from the global food crisis, using slave labor in Brazil, and causing deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and the adjacent Cerrado.” The largest soy exporter from Brazil, the company also uses native wood from the Cerrado to power its soy facility. Bunge, one of the companies behind the expansion of soy production and ethanol production in Brazil, is one the major contributors of deforestation and the displacement of indigenous and other small farming communities.
Part 3, will deal with the cover up efforts of the current scandal in Turkey and the U.S. hidden agenda behind these efforts.