The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Cargill Sued Over Pesticide in Animal Feed

Two farms have brought suit against Cargill, Inc. for selling them contaminated corn.

Judge Donald O'Brien of the federal district court in Sioux City, Iowa last month awarded J & J Farms in El Reno, Oklahoma $158,005 in actual compensatory damages, which were caused by the presence of the insecticide dieldrin-aldrin in corn screenings (small pieces of corn used as feed) which J & J purchased from Cargill. Dieldrin is "a very persistent chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide which is in the same family as DDT," according to Jim Roeloff, a staff member in the Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide program. It was banned by the EPA in 1975 because it was found to contain cancer-causing agents.

As a result of the contamination, 950 cattle belonging to J & J were kept off the market for 30 days to undergo tests. They were placed back on the market after they were found to have levels of contamination below allowable government levels for meat, said Alan Jansen of J & J Farms. The $158,005 was awarded because of market loss and the expenses needed for testing.

Cargill's Public Relations Director Stuart Baird said Cargill was not appealing the decision to award actual damages to J & J, but said many questions about the case still have to be answered. "I'm not sure that our corn was contaminated. The source of the corn screenings is still a matter of some contention," he said.

J & J Farms, however, is appealing the decision, because Judge O'Brien rescinded the jury's award of a $1 million punitive damage award to J & J Farms. "I reversed that (decision) and said that the evidence did not show there had been enough maliciousness to Cargill's acts," O'Brien said, explaining that a punitive damage award, unlike an actual damage award, is given if the wrongdoing was intentional.

Another small farm, Bryant Beef, Inc. of Cherokee, Iowa, is suing Cargill for $25 million due to aldrin contamination of livestock and swine which led to market loss and testing expenses. In late February of last year, Bryant Beef quarantined 3,500 cattle and 35,000 hogs while the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted tests on them. The lawyer for the farm, Robert Eidsmo, said all the farm's feed-corn had been bought from Cargill and that as a result of the widespread contamination, Cargill ran tests on their corn products and found the corn screenings sold to Bryant Beef to "contain aldrin in levels 150 times over government-allowed levels. "

To allow the aldrin contamination to detoxify, all 3,500 cattle had to be held from slaughter for seven months while they were sent out to pasture in Wisconsin. The cattle, restricted from eating grain, which increases animals' fat tissue, were sent to "feed off the land," said Gerald Vince, Compliance officer for the Food and Drug Administration, and dispose of their residues of aldrin through normal body processes. Bryant Beef chose to destroy approximately 7,000 swine because by the time detoxification would be completed, the animals would have grown too large, making them less marketable. The younger ones went through tests administered over a period of approximately six weeks before being certified safe for human consumption.

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