Careful what you tweet…especially if you’re a company kicking your suppliers in the face. Right as National Agriculture Week was starting in the United States, the giant agriculture company Cargill tweeted this gem:
“We work closely with the #NonGMO Project & hope to have even more Cargill ingredients verified in the near future” https://t.co/HPwXEQAez7 pic.twitter.com/3rQrl7smMh
— Cargill (@Cargill) March 17, 2017
Cargill deals with food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products and services worldwide. Most farmers are probably familiar with the company, as we are, because we sell our corn and soybeans to their local granaries. Yes, that’s right, we sell our GMO grain products to Cargill who, in turn, sells that grain to its suppliers. Cargill buys a lot of GMO grain. In fact, they will only accept non-GMO grain at certain facilities and farmers have to contract at least a year in advanced. So, the non-GMO is definitely a specialty product, not the usual that Cargill deals in.
As part of its non-GMO product line, Cargill has what is called its KnownOrigins process. The process gives food manufacturers that purchase grains from the company the ability to buy non-GMO options. In turn, when those food manufacturers create their end products, they can claim that the product, including those ingredients from Cargill, are verified non-GMO. Cargill promises that the KnownOrigins process uses stringent standards, including testing, segregation, and traceability back to the farmer.
While I may not personally like the non-GMO product lines, I understand that Cargill has customers that want to purchase non-GMO products and Cargill wants to sell those products. Cargill is in the business of making money and I will not fault them for meeting a certain market demand. Cargill’s KnownOrigins program sounds completely adequate to keep track of and monitor where those non-GMO grains come from so they can assure buyers of the product’s integrity.
The problem is that they have partnered with the Non-GMO Project to obtain certification of products. Why?
The vast majority of people are probably familiar with the Non-GMO Project because they’ve seen it on products throughout their grocery stores. You know, the little orange butterfly with the words “Non-GMO Project Verified” on it. The program works because Non-GMO Project contracts with its founding member Global FoodChain Advisors to provide verification and testing of products. The costs of this verification are borne by the company seeking it (here, Cargill).
Unfortunately, while the organization might paint itself as an innocent verification process for non-GMO products, its roots go deep into the anti-GMO movement and its current activities are decidedly against the technology. As you can imagine there is plenty of the usual anti-GMO drivel coming out of the organization. It is pretty clear that the aim of the organization is to end the use of biotechnology entirely, which we have seen from many in the pro-labeling movement. First you stigmatize it, then you label it, then you stop using it.
In case you’re wondering, some of the major donors of the Non-GMO Project include the following: Annie’s Organic, Nature’s Path, Earth’s Best Organic, Eden Organic, Nutiva, Silk, Kashi, SunRidge Farms Organic, Traditional Medicinals Wellness Teas, and Dr. Bronner’s. Not that any of those folks have a financial interest in anti-GMO rhetoric or anything…
So, the question really comes down to – why the heck is Cargill paying this organization and supporting its efforts?!
Cargill has all but declared the Non-GMO Project the gold standard of non-GMO verification. In the article the company so proudly tweeted Lea Buerman, Cargill’s Food Safety, Quality, and Regulatory manager is quoted as saying: “Non-GMO Project Verification remains the most trusted emblem for consumers seeking non-GMO food options. We continue to work closely with the Non-GMO Project and hope to have even more Cargill ingredients verified in the near future.”
By praising the company, by partnering with them, by paying them money, by making them seem legitimate, Cargill is actively promoting anti-GMO propaganda. Non-GMO Project and its ilk liken GMO farmers to the devil spreading poisonous crops into the world, destroying the environment, and making people sick. That Cargill would endorse this message is a complete slap in the face to all the farmers that are growing GMO crops and contract for sale of those crops to Cargill.
Not surprisingly, Cargill got called out by quite a few people on Twitter. Cargill’s response has been one of the weakest I have literally ever seen from a company that got caught red-handed turning its back on farmers.
Really?! I suppose when you’ve done something as indefensible as this, then something as stupid as that is pretty much the only response you will be able to give. You actively work with this organization. You promote this organization. You financially support this organization. You praise this organization. You brag about your affiliation. …But you don’t support that organization’s agenda?
Isn’t that precisely the definition of endorsing an organization??
If Cargill wants to sell non-GMO product lines, then it can use its KnownOrigins process. But the affiliation with Non-GMO Project needs to end immediately, or maybe farmers need to start considering other options when selling their GMO grain.
Cargill, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Kathy Baumeister says
I thought that Cargill was a company based on science. How can they partner with an organization that uses fear to drive people away from technology that is proving to improve food & the environment? Cargill needs to rethink their position.
Ann Niles says
Has Cargill decided that farmers are not their customer base? I can’t imagine why any progressive farmer would want to do business with a business who thinks this is a good idea.
Ugggh! How are we supposed to educate the general public when our agribusinesses contribute to the problem.
I tend to stay away from organic, non, and natural lables. In my experience they are over priced, under appetizing and misleading. As a farmer I have a a firm grasp on where my food comes from. I trust my friends and neighbors. It’s disheartening to think that those who haven’t a clue, are able to manipulate marketing to such a degree.
Kevin Folta says
If they want such a process they should spend the money and create their own. In fact, that’s a great idea. The NGP label has no offical sanction or verification. 90% of the stuff that is lableled doesn’t even have a GE equivalent. Time for an alternative, science-based label.
Cargill could use better bean counters and PR people. Maybe someone with better judgement and the ability to resist temptation. Because even the best spin doctors would be hard-pressed to put a positive spin on such clumsy and craven avarice.
Cargill customers required NonGM certification so Cargill worked with Project NonGMO to understand requirements etc. So basically it was to better understand what needed to happen to offer non GM products. Cargill isn’t endorsing what the org is promoting in any other way.
I think the relationship goes much, much farther than just “understanding” what they needed. And Cargill is promoting the organization by allowing its names to be shown together, by “proudly” partnering with them, and by financially supporting them. You don’t get to work with an organization and then pretend that you don’t really like them or what they stand for. If that’s the case, then don’t partner with them.