Nestle Chairman – Biofuels Are Immoral

The Chairman of Nestle, who just so happens to sit on the board of ExxonMobil, Peter Brabeck-Latmathe, lambasted global leaders for their support of “immoral” biofuel policies that are starving millions around the world earlier this week. In particular, he attacked the Obama administration for promoting corn-based ethanol and reserved no kind words for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who he claimed is making “absolutely flabbergasting” claims for America’s ability to produce food, feed and fiber.

This beat-down occurred during his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York and was published by The Independent. During his presentation he said, “Today, 35 per cent of US corn goes into biofuel. From an environmental point of view this is a nonsense, but more so when we are running out of food in the rest of the world.”

Brabeck-Latmathe continued, “It is absolutely immoral to push hundreds of millions of people into hunger and into extreme poverty because of such a policy, so I think – I insist – no food for fuel.”

The fuel versus food debate has been raging for several years. For each report that debunks the theory, another is published that places primary blame on rising food costs at the feet of America’s corn and ethanol industries. Yet, scores of economists have publicly acknowledged while there are dozens of factors that affect food prices, the current spike is being driven by speculators, a global increase in demand for protein and the unrest in the Middle East to name a few reasons.

National Corn Growers President Bart Schott responded to Brabeck-Letmathe’s comments. “It is scandalous, ludicrous and highly irresponsible for the chairman of a global conglomerate that tripled its profits last year to talk about higher corn prices forcing millions into starvation. Perhaps if Nestle is so concerned about food prices, its board will consider putting more of their $35.7 billion in 2010 profits back into poor communities. Just their profits alone represent more than half the entire farm value of the 2010 U.S. corn crop.”

Schott continued, “It’s time for the food processing industry, which has been using higher grain prices to justify its price increases, to explain to hungry families why they have to eat less so those who can afford company stock can make more money. Profiteering off world hunger needs to end, and that is what is truly immoral. If there is a ‘food versus fuel’ crisis it exists because families are being forced to decide which of the two they can afford, gasoline from Big Oil or food from companies like these. That’s something I challenge Nestle to step forward and help alleviate. They certainly can afford it.”

Ironically, Nestle has its own brand problems – especially related to its use of water resources (Brabeck-Letmathe accused the biofuels industry of using too much water) and links to baby deaths in Africa and Burma as a result of its infant formula. In 2007, Brabeck-Letmathe was given the “Black Planet Award” for the company’s “irresponsible marketing of baby food contaminated by genetically manipulated nutrition, their tolerance of child labour and monopolisation of water resources.”

Today, Nestle is actively lobbying for European leaders to curb their biofuels policy even in the wake of many country’s commitments to reducing CO2 emissions.

So what lesson have we learned here? Maybe you should have a clean plate before you start throwing food at others.

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0 responses to “Nestle Chairman – Biofuels Are Immoral”

  1. When Nestle can start providing moral answers to the question “How will civilization cope when fossil fuels run out?” then maybe they can pontificate on the maize industry’s valiant attempt to solve that problem. To call it “immoral” is sheer hypocrisy.

    This isn’t just a food or fuel issue. It is about power – financial, military, industrial, and political. How many resource wars and economic recessions will it take before we recognize the linkage between our addiction to oil and the inability not only to feed the world but also shelter and clothe it?

    Worldwide hunger doesn’t exist because the U.S. doesn’t export enough corn (and DDGs). It exists because food is too expensive to distribute efficiently based on high energy prices and inefficiently structured markets.

    Transportation/distribution is overwhelmingly dependent on oil prices. There is plenty of food in the pipeline – it’s just the pipeline withers where fuel is too expensive. For us high fuel costs are inconvenient – for much of the world distribution is the difference between life and death.

    Maize ethanol is just the first commercial scale step in the weaning process. You would think that the president of Nestle would realize that we are not farming at capacity with or without ethanol.

  2. Well said, BIOblogger. I have to keep reminding myself that one doesn’t get to be head of a big corporation by being a “nice” guy.

  3. The readers need to Google and Youtube “Nestle infant formula baby deaths.” There are many articles and videos about the 4,000 BABIES PER DAY dieing because Nestle is marketing their infant formula in regions where water is unsafe, leading to dysentery and death. That is 1.5 MILLION BABIES DEAD PER YEAR. Also, this was first reported in the New York Times in 1981. These are regions where babies used to be nursed (providing natural nutrition and protection from disease), and now the majority are fed infant formula blended with local water.

    So there are 30 years or more of this (with Peter Brabeck-Letmathe at Nestle), adding up to 45 MILLION BABIES DEAD AT THEIR HANDS.

    Nestle has been sanctioned by UNICEF, faith organizations, and others for these facts, and yet they continue to do the same. Just last year, another article, this time from Indonesia, surfaced the same marketing tactics. Nestle made $35.7 billion in profits in 2010.

    Nestle’s new slogan: MORE MONEY, MORE DEAD BABIES.

  4. Infant formula is given to hospitals, where poor mothers begin feeding it for free to their infants in bottles. The babies grow accustomed to bottle feeding, and the mothers milk ceases. Thus the babies are hooked on infant formula. The infant formula is a big part of the family’s living expenses thereafter. Nestle has also been accused of sending out representatives, dressed in white like doctors, to encourage mothers to feed infant formula to their babies. All it takes is one batch of bad water, and the baby is sick and/or dies.

    We were given free infant formula at the hospital in an attractive carry bag. We didn’t use it. Water in the U.S. isn’t always 100% safe, and for a little infant all it takes is a few bugs in the water. Besides, formula is another expense. So are medical expenses. There’s no such thing as a free baby lunch. Nestle, with their $35.7 billion in profits in 2010, knows that.

  5. BTW–Did you the reader note that this guy is on the Board of Directors of ExxonMobil?

  6. Dear Peter Brabeck,

    You may not know, but 1 kg of aluminium – petfood, Nestea, packaging foils, Nespresso, needs 100’000 liters of water to be made.

    I guess, almost of the comments being so to the point, you might have forgotten that in a democracy, people are not as stupid as Nestlé does think or would hope.

    The time of big package food companies is over. There will be always specialty food companies. Nestlé is 90% unspecialty food. It will die, much before bioFuels.

    At your age, i.e. experience, one should have learned that normal consumers cannot be treated like babies and fed with “great sounding” but so oversimplistic and hypocritical statements.

    Life seems really to be a “full circle”, 2001 Space Odissey.

  7. Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says he cares about water exploitation, but really what he means is that “We can’t have farmers and others using the water, when we need it to produce our packaged products. The more scarce it becomes, the more it will cost us and our shareholders. So, make the farmers and general populace pay more for it, to decrease their use, and make more available for us.”

    If you really care about water and babies, how about packaging infant formula in developing countries for sale ONLY with an amount of safe bottled water to match what is needed for making the formula. All-or-nothing, since we know they can’t use their own water without the babies dying. Refuse to deliver the formula in those countries unless they are packaged and not available for sale without the safe bottled water. Better yet, to start making amends for the millions of dead babies, give that water for free for the next 30-some years…approximately the same amount of time the babies have been dying from Nestle’s infant formula blended with disease-causing local water.

    “Peter Brabeck: Yes, it is in the interest of our shareholders. If I want to convince my shareholders that this industry is a long-term sustainable industry, I have to assure that all aspects that are vital for this company are sustainable. And when I see, like in our case that one of the aspects, which is water, which is being needed in order to produce the raw materials for our company, if this is not sustainable, then my enterprise is not sustainable. So, therefore, I have to do something about it. So, shareholder interest and societal interest are common.”

  8. Dear Peter, do you really believe in what you are saying.

    A Napalm Co could say the same about “common interest”, so could anybody’s Co.

    Aluminum packaged Purina cat food need 100’000liter of water per Kg of Alu.

    I have difficulty to sort out your speech…sounds like the “snake oil” it seems to be. The US is a free Nation, You must have spend too much time in Switzerland, Chile, or Austria to remember true deeply rooted US values.

  9. In the US, there is the “sacred” notion of “perjury”. This notion does not exist in Europe.

    Basically, to tell the truth, and to be at risk if not telling the truth, is part of the fundamental spirit of the US. The US democracy is a transparent democracy where people retain from making statements which are false.

    Of course, our Constitution also has an article on “free speech”.

    This starts from a good intention, but unfortunately allow some not so scrupulous or closed minded people to say everything and anything.

    Your statements fall under the freedom of speech, the same way some an extreme right Party would have the right to state things which are false, at the condition that it does not disturb Public Order.

    It seems that your statements fall under the freedom of speech article.

    We will take them as such. It is true that they do not disturb Public Order, even though they have simply no intelligent meaning.

    President Obama is doing a superb job. In particular, he is totally honest.

    I guess, you are not used to that.