Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a ginormous US industrial agribusiness conglomerate, is one of the more evil corporations on the face of the planet. Founded as linseed crushing business by George A. Archer and John W. Daniels in 1902, incorporated in 1927, and headquartered in Decatur, Illinois, ADM doesn't really actually grow much of anything itself, but gains its annual $70 billion in profit by inserting itself as a middleman between farmers and consumers as part of its numerous food processing, transportation, and storage businesses, and by leeching government subsidies out of the pockets of American taxpayers.

Along with another US agribusiness conglomerate, Cargill, ADM is part of a global food duopoly. Together, the two companies control 75 percent of the world's grain supply and equally high percentages of numerous other food categories. Do these corporations use their huge market share to fix prices? The answer is: yes, whenever they can. In the early 1990s, for example, ADM was part of a massive worldwide conspiracy to fix the price of lysine, a crucial animal feed additive, which succeeded in driving up the price of lysine by over 70 percent in less than a year. During the same period, ADM concocted a scheme to fix the price of citric acid, another common food additive. When the schemes were finally uncovered by the FBI in 1993, ADM was forced to pay a federal antitrust fine of $100 million, the largest such fine ever levied up to that time, and several of its executives were sent to federal prison for 10 days each.

But price fixing is only one of the lesser forms of evil practiced by ADM. Where the company really wreaks havoc is in the environmental sphere. ADM has been the subject of hundreds of pollution complaints and lawsuits, particularly the air pollution produced by its over 270 food processing plants worldwide. ADM has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars over the years for deliberate violations of the US Federal Clean Air Act, but complaints seem to keep cropping up, presumably because it remains more profitable to continue to pollute, despite the fines, than to upgrade the plants to conform to the law. All told, ADM is the 10th largest air polluter among all US corporations.

Archer Daniels Midland is also largely responsible for maintaining numerous wasteful US farm subsidies, which not only cost US taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars annually, but also directly contribute to high food prices and starvation in the third world. According to a 1995 report by the Cato Institute, which is actually a right-wing think tank:

"ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM's annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM's corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30."
Indeed, ADM was almost singlehandedly responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the US federal goverment's incredibly wasteful ethanol subsidy, which it conceived of and successfully lobbied for beginning in the 1980s. Under the guise of "reducing dependence on foreign oil" and "creating the clean fuel of the future", the ethanol program uses massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the expensive and wasteful process of turning corn into fuel for use in cars, a process whereby more energy (from oil or other sources) is actually used to make the fuel than is used by the cars that burn the ethanol. The ethanol subsidy also drives up the worldwide price of food by incentivizing farmers to grow far more corn than is actually needed for food, at the expense of other crops.

ADM has also recently come under fire for profiting off the destruction of rainforests. Although ADM does not actually chop down rainforests itself, several of its subsidiary corporations are actively involved in converting rainforest in Indonesia and Brazil into farmland to grow soy and palm oil.

On top of environmental destruction, ADM has also been accused of being aware of human trafficking and slavery. In 2005, the company was served with a round of class action lawsuits on behalf of African children who had been kidnapped and forced into slave labor on Cocoa plantations. And most recently, in 2008, ADM made news when a survey of American corporations by the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign rated Archer Daniels Midland as tied for the worst company in America when it came to having a hostile work environment for gays and lesbians.


SOURCES:

Archers Daniels Midland North America Homepage. http://www.admworld.com/naen/
Cato Institute. "Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare." http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-241.html.
Coop America. "Archer Daniels Midland Comany." http://www.coopamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/company.cfm?id=187
Greenpeace. "Eating up the Amazon." http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/MultimediaFiles/Live/FullReport/7555.pdf
Human Rights Campaign Foundation. "Corporate Equality Index 08." http://www.hrc.org/documents/HRC_Corporate_Equality_Index_2008.pdf

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