Nestle’s former CEO has not only come out in favor of genetically modified food and fought vigorously against the labeling of such food by corporations, he has also expressed favor with the idea of declaring water as just another foodstuff to be privatized, under corporate control, and doled out to the people for profit, rather than a human right and need.
Nestle, which is mostly known for its sweets, is one of the top 30 companies in the world in terms of size, and employs over 250,000 people worldwide. They are the largest food company in the world as well, at least in terms of their revenue. They are also becoming better known for their bottled water, which is distributed in many countries around the world and brought in from many sources. The water is purified using a multi-step process, and sold to consumers.
However, Nestle doesn’t always exercise much in the way of environmental or social responsibility when it comes to their water sources. According to Corporate Watch, Nestle is guilty of overpumping water sources in rural and underdeveloped areas in the world. In one area of Brazil, they completely pumped out a spring and demineralized the water, which is illegal in that country. They continue to pump, however, as they appeal Brazil’s ruling against them.
In developed countries like the U.S., many communities have already found their water supplies turned over to private corporations, who then raise rates through the roof in their insatiable search for higher profits.
Privatizing the water supply inevitably results in monopolies, because there is no choice of service. Water is pumped from the ground and distributed through treatment plants and existing infrastructure that the private company simply takes over. Furthermore, privatization removes the community’s voice regarding their water service. When a local government controls water service, if the citizens are dissatisfied with it, they can voice that dissatisfaction at town meetings, with letters and phone calls, and at the ballot box if it becomes necessary. With private organizations, the community doesn’t have that ability, and they’re stuck with high prices and deteriorating quality of service.
Conservative economist Peter Morici, in discussing problems with Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget, quite correctly says that there are times when the market just doesn’t work. Public utilities is one of those areas. Despite conservative circles claiming that the private market knows best and is most efficient, there are times when the opposite is true. A company has its profits and dividends to put first. They’re concerned with their customers’ needs when they’re concerned that they’ll lose market share for having lousy customer service. However, a company that doesn’t have to worry about losing market share by hiking prices and cutting corners to help inflate profits, will inevitably do so. The water market has extremely low competition and it will likely remain that way (look at the electric companies), so there’s no buffer there to help ensure customers continue to get quality service at reasonable prices.
Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three people worldwide lives without adequate water today, and the problem is getting worse, not better, as the world’s population grows. The WHO says that one of the major problems involves water distribution, even in areas where rainfall or other sources of water are plentiful. A company with profits to consider is not likely to spend a lot of money bringing water to areas where they think they’ll have trouble recouping that cost. Indeed, they’re more likely to pump water out of that area instead, particularly if it’s in an underdeveloped area, and bring it to more profitable areas.
Also, almost one-fifth of the world’s population lives where there is a physical water scarcity. The poor water quality experienced by people who must rely on untreated water sources, such as rivers, streams and even canals, leads to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and even typhoid fever. The industrialized world got rid of these diseases by cleaning up their water supplies, but much of the world still finds itself without that luxury.
Scarcity also leads to outbreaks of dengue fever, malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, since scarce water supplies leads people to store water in open containers in and around their homes.
None of that touches on increased water usage for energy production. The International Energy Agency predicts that water usage for that alone will double between now and 2035, straining already-stretched water resources around the world. Increasing coal energy production and biofuel production are primarily responsible for this trend.
Straining water supplies further by allowing private corporations to control the water supply will also ultimately strain the food supply, since agriculture depends on water. Most people with a junior high school level of education know how drought affects food prices, and how it can lead to famine in countries that are entirely dependent on their own agriculture. Privatizing water will not just drive up the price of water, it will also drive up the price of food.
In 2010, the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring clean drinking water and basic sanitation as necessary to the realization of all human rights, therefore making clean water and sanitation a basic human right. To listen to people like Nestle’s former CEO, it’s easy to believe that we still live in Ayn Rand’s world where some people matter and others don’t.
To privatize the entire world’s water supply, to treat it like other foodstuffs, which are grown and replenished via agriculture in the developed world, would make the world’s water situation significantly worse, not better. To say nothing of the fact that many people, at least in the industrialized world, can grow their own food. Giving control of the world’s water to private corporations would take away people’s options to grow their own food and sink their own water wells, giving human life entirely over to corporate greed.
Nestle’s former CEO was interviewed in August of last year; here’s the video:
|Rika Christensen is an experienced writer and loves debating politics. Engage with her and see more of her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her blog, They Need To Go.|