The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Nestlé have a serious romance going on. The WSJ has taken to regularly interviewing Nestlé executives about food and water issues and granting Nestlé the opportunity to opine about solving world problems in a way that enhances their bottom line. Whether its Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe Brabeck-Letmathe or CEO Paul Bulcke, who better to offer solutions to world hunger and water shortages than the chairman and CEO of the second largest international processed food company with posh headquarters in Switzerland?
Nestlé executives have offered their opinions in big WSJ articles or op-eds three times in less than one year. What is so interesting to WSJ that they keep devoting time and space to what Nestlé thinks about their role in the world’s food and water supply?
Most recently, WSJ’s Brian M. Carney devoted his Weekend Interview spot to a fluff piece with Brabeck-Letmathe, where the Nestlé executive answered the question, “Can the world still feed itself?” According to Brabeck-Letmathe, the answer is yes, but only if we embrace the ideas of (and offer full financial support to) genetic engineering and charging market prices for water. Isn’t it just a little ridiculous to him seriously? ‘Take away the emotion of the water issue,” Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe argues. “Give the 1.5 percent of the water [that we use to drink and wash with], make it a human right. But give me a market for the 98.5 percent…” I think we know where his interests lie.
For World Water Day last March, the WSJ gave Brabeck-Letmathe the opportunity to write about the best way of supplying water to world’s poor: making sure there’s a price on it. He offered, “For universal access to clean water, there is simply no other choice but to price water at a reasonable rate. The poor should receive targeted subsidies, which could be of many types—for example, 20 liters of free water, as in South Africa.” What a great idea: Nestlé gets to secure guaranteed sales of bottle water and the governments of nations with struggling economies get to figure out how to provide the subsidies.
There was also an article where CEO Bulcke got to lay out his vision to “seize the opportunity that lies in the gap between food and pharmaceuticals.” In “Nestlé chief looks to science to make healthier profits,” maybe they should just take out the words “to science”. Nestle seems to have a reliable partner in the WSJ for rolling out their corporate plans masked as idealism about making the world a better place.
Things aren’t always what they seem. When WSJ interviews a Nestlé’ executive about food and water issues, just remember that they are not experts on feeding the world’s poor or solving a water crisis. They are businessmen.
Rich Bindell is a senior writer and outreach specialist at Food & Water Watch.