How much do your food snacks and beverages hurt the poor?

Have you ever wondered to what extent that can of Pepsi or Coke - or the quasi-potato-chip Pringles or that quasi-chocolate Snickers bar - hurts the poor? No? Well, Oxfam and its Behind the Brands campaign staff would like you to wonder about that. And they would like to then go check out the anti-poverty advocacy organization's colorful online interactive chart that will tell you in quantifiable terms just how well, or badly, the top 10 food companies do when it comes to displacing poor farmers from their land, or otherwise undermining their rights and well-being.

Have you ever wondered to what extent that can of Pepsi or Coke – or the quasi-potato-chip Pringles or that quasi-chocolate Snickers bar – hurts the poor?

No? Well, Oxfam and its Behind the Brands campaign staff would like you to wonder about that.

And they would like you to then go check out the anti-poverty advocacy organization’s colorful online interactive chart that will tell you in quantifiable terms just how well, or badly, the top 10 food companies do when it comes to helping the poor or displacing poor farmers from their land – or otherwise undermining their rights and well-being.

The latest salvo on Oxfam’s ongoing campaign aimed at encouraging the food industry to ensure workers and poor farmers are not exploited by their practices is focused on sugar and ‘land grabs.’ Here’s the official report and, in case you are like most of us and prefer YouTube to a lengthy text report, here’s Oxfam’s video.

In the news:

The Independent Oxfam accuses Coke and Pepsi of taking land from the poor

Bloomberg Sugar trade spurs land grabs in poor countries, Oxfam says

Food Magazine Associated British Foods rejects Oxfam’s land grab accusations

IRIN Global sugar demand leaves Cambodian farmers landless

If you actually read Oxfam’s report, it’s clear that some of these mega food companies are, in fact, trying to improve when it comes to worker rights, environmental protection, water, women and other issues. Nestle scored highest in total for seven categories of rankings. Coke did better than Pepsi and Associated British Foods scored the worst, by Oxfam’s tally.

The campaign is aimed at pressuring the corporations to change, or for these powerful firms to pressure others to change. Much of the displacement of poor farmers — the land grabs — in the developing world is being done by their own governments and under the guise of improving agriculture.

Oxfam America’s CEO Ray Offenheiser wrote for Huffington Post about the latest report, by making this personal and describing one Cambodian village where a poor farming community was displaced in order to create a large, industrial sugar plantation:

Keo Chhorn, 63, is a father-of-six in south-western Cambodia. He and his wife worked the seven acres of land that have been in their family for 30 years to grow watermelon, rice and cashews, earning more than a thousand dollars a year and putting food on the table. That’s until the bulldozers came to clear out his land.

“The villagers banded together and tried to stop the bulldozers clearing the land but we didn’t succeed,” he told Oxfam researchers recently. “We lost our land and now it’s very hard to find work to support the family, to feed them and to send my children to school.”

Nearly 500 families from three villages lost land in the clearing operations. While some villagers were offered some compensation, no one knocked on Keo’s door to offer him any money.

“Our land was taken and our complaints were rejected,” he said. “We are joining together and raising our voice to fight. I won’t stop fighting to get my land back.”

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.