Agri-groups are fighting anti-child labor bill, group warns

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture Adm

A US advocacy organization has accused commodity companies Archer
Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill of lobbying against a bill that
would protect against child labor practices in supply countries.

According to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), ADM and Cargill are against section 3104 of the Farm Bill, which was put forward in 2007. This particular section calls for the voluntary certification of child labor status in relation to agricultural imports, in an effort to stamp out the practice. However, the ILRF claims that ADM and Cargill have started "an aggressive lobbying effort"​ in the House of Agriculture for the bill not to be passed. ADM was unable to comment when contacted by, while Cargill did not respond to requests for information in time for publication. The accusation is likely to gather attention worldwide, particularly from ethical shoppers, as ADM and Cargill both pledge sustainable labor practices in their corporate literature. For example, both are members of the World Cocoa Foundation, which supports cocoa farmers in countries like Ghana and the Cote D'Ivore. However, Bama Athreya, ILRF executive director, told that the lobbying by the two companies means that they do not want to be held accountable for these sustainability claims. "I believe that they are aware of forced labor problems in their supply chains but they are unwilling for these to be scrutinised,"​ she said. According to the ILRF, the bill is particularly relevant to firms such as Cargill and ADM as 70 per cent of the children laboring illegally work in the agricultural industry, and are "exposed to dangerous farm machinery and deadly pesticides". ​This is not the first time that ADM and Cargill have been mentioned in relation to dubious work ethics, as both firms were named in a report last year, which accused various companies of funding civil unrest in the Ivory Coast. According to Global Witness, both firms, along with others such as Barry Callebaut, may have bought cocoa in the country, the profits of which funded the warring government and the rebal group Forces Nouvelles (FN). Sustainability pledge​ In the past, ADM and Cargill have made promises to support sustainable sourcing and issues such as child labor and pesticide use. On its website, ADM says: "Our goal a sustainable cocoa supply china that brings value to cocoa farming communities as well as those further along the chain, in accordance with legally and socially acceptable practices." ​ADM is also a member of the International Cocoa Initiative and has signed Brazil's pact for the eradication of slave labor, launched in 2005 International Labor Organization Cargill makes similar claims on its website, stating that it is "concerned"​ about the safety of children that may be involved with excessive or forced work on farms. "We are committed to working towards a supply chain where no children are subject to those conditions,"​ the company said. Farm bill section 3104​ This section of the bill, which calls for voluntary certification of child labor status of agricultural imports, suggests a standard set of practices that will verify that agricultural imports brought into the US are not produced with forced or child labor. The bill puts forward several requirements, including traceability and inspection across the supply chain, stakeholder participation in the supply chain, and onsite inspection. The Department of Labor is also is compiling a list of imported goods believed to be produced using forced labor or child labor - conditions which violate international standards, the ILRF said.

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