Through the eyes of Nestle, the world is their own.
In its most recent bid to monopolize nature, Nestle is attempting to patent the fennel flower, or better known as nigella sativa, a flower whose medical benefits date back to Biblical times. Scientifically proven to aid issues relating to everything from kidney and liver disorders to asthma, the herbal extract of the plant has been used for more than thousands of years.
Now, Nestle is claiming their scientists discovered the flower, motivated by extracts from the plant that can be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy.” Despite the use of the flower throughout history by these cultures, the alleged discovery made last year by scientists was not a breakthrough moment in the scientific community. The Nestle report simply mirrors what researchers in Pakistan and Egypt have already acknowledged.
So, what will happen if Nestle claims the plant is theirs?
The patent would give Nestle the ability to sue anyone who grows or sells the plant and its extracts without first receiving permission from the multinational corporation.
“We know Nestle doesn’t care about ethics,” a petition directed at Nestle states. “After all, this is the corporation that poisoned its milk with melamine, purchases cocoa from plantations that use child slave labor, and launched a breastmilk substitute campaign in the 1970s that contributed to the suffering and deaths of thousands of babies from poor communities.”
The move is anything but surprising for watchdogs of the company whose CEO has blatantly said it will go to great lengths to secure the the future growth of his corporation.
“I’m still of the opinion that the biggest social responsibility of any CEO is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise,” Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck said in an interview for the documentary, “We Feed the World.”
“For only if we can ensure our continued long term existence, we will be in the position to actively participate in the solution of the problems that exist in the world,” he said.
Advocacy groups take to the Internet to expose Nestle
An online petition directed at Nestle seeks to stop the company from moving forward with its fennel plant monopolization. As of April 23, it had 197,157 signatures, just shy of its 225,000 goal.
While the petition isn’t likely to halt Nestle in its tracks, the work of online activism directed at the company in the past has been effective. In 2010, a campaign launched by Greenpeace aimed to hold the company responsible for its practice of rainforest destruction to obtain palm oil.
A YouTube video posted by Greenpeace set off the wave of advocacy. Mimicking the Kit Kat commercial, owned by Nestle, it showed a young man working in an office who took a “Kit Kat Break” — rather than eating the chocolate candy, the man opened the wrapper and ate the finger of an orangutan, exposing Nestle’s destruction of the animals’ native habitats.
The campaign spilled over onto Facebook, prompting users to flood Nestle’s page with statements of concerns and a widespread “un friending” campaign. It generated attention from major news outlets, taking the cause from the grassroots level to the national spotlight.
As recognition of the campaign and this very issue grew, Nestle began to fire back.
Greenpeace justified the campaign by stating it had already attempted to petition Nestle to stop its association with Sinar Mas, a company responsible for clearing rainforests in Indonesia without proper permits from the government. Other companies, including Kraft and Unilever, severed ties with Sinar Mas as a result.
Nestle claimed to do the same, yet acknowledged that it continued to purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas by going through Cargill as the official supplier.
In the interview for “We Feed the World,” Brabeck blatantly admitted he favored the privatization of water, considering it a solution to the world’s water problems.
He touted his company as the largest foodstuff corporation in the world, worth $65 billion.
“It’s a question of whether we should privatise the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter,” he said. “The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution. The other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value.”
In 2009, Nestle came under fire in the U.S. over plans to drain aquifers to supply its bottled water product, which accounted for more than $4.3 billion worth of sales in the U.S. in 2007 alone. Residents of Salida, Ark., objected when the company proposed drawing more than 65 million gallons of water from its aquifer — it was a convenient and profitable move for Nestle, as the nearest bottling facility was located just 100 miles away in Denver.
Brabreck rounds up the interview by stating it’s the role of his company to painted “a positive image of the world for people.”
“And I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be positive about our future,” he said.
The people living in impoverished communities of Asia, where the fennel flower is used to treat a wide scope of illnesses, might disagree.