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3 Jun 2019

Public Eye

Switzerland’s role as an agricultural trading hub raises serious human rights issues

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Nowadays, half of all grains, 40% of sugar and a third of cocoa and coffee traded globally are bought and sold through companies headquartered on the banks of Lake Geneva or in central Switzerland...

Their market power and profit maximization, however, lead to human rights violations in the countries that produce agricultural commodities such as soy, coffee, cotton and sugar. In reality, the trading houses determine what is produced, under which conditions and at what price, while the people who produce the commodities have no means of concluding contracts that provide fair conditions. This asymmetrical balance of power – reinforced by the extreme concentration in the sector – takes a heavy toll, leading to cases of forced and child labour, health risks linked to the use of pesticides, livelihoods being destroyed due to deforestation or land grabbing, aggressive fiscal practices and even corruption. Dozens of cases regarding agricultural traders headquartered in Switzerland have been brought to light by the media or NGOs...

Agricultural Commodity Traders in Switzerland: Benefitting from Misery?" [...] dissects the structure and activities of 16 of the world’s largest agricultural traders which have their headquarters or a significant trading arm in Switzerland. The multinationals benefit from the country’s lack of regulation around transparency and the protection of human rights abroad...