Corporations

GRAIN’s central focus is to support social movements across the world in their resistance to the growing corporate control over food production, markets and trade. We undertake research on how corporations – including agribusiness, large retail and the finance industry – displace millions of small-scale food producers and how trade and investment deals impose the legal conditions for it. 

Apart from our information work, we also support the efforts of partners and peoples’ movements to improve strategies, cooperation and popular action to challenge corporate power, and build capacity with them to achieve this.

Who will feed China: agribusiness or its own farmers? Decisions in Beijing echo around the world

China is now the world’s largest global food market. What Chinese people eat has repercussions on everyone, because of the increasingly global reach of how and where that food is produced. When China began importing soybeans as animal feed in the late 1990s to support the growth of its factory farms, it ushered in a dramatic agricultural transformation in both China and Latin America. Now Beijing is moving down the same path with maize, its other major feed crop, and global corporations and Chinese companies are scrambling to develop and control centers of supply for this potentially huge market. The fallout is already being felt around the globe: from rural exodus in China, to farmland grabs in Africa, to food inflation in Shanghai triggered by drought in the US. China can and should reverse course by shifting away from industrial meat production to small scale livestock farming based on local sources of feed.

China is now the world’s largest global food market. What Chinese people eat has repercussions on everyone, because of the increasingly global reach of how and where that food is produced. When China began importing soybeans as animal feed in the late 1990s to support the growth of its factory farms, it ushered in a dramatic agricultural transformation in both China and Latin America. Now Beijing is moving down the same path with maize, its other major feed crop, and global corporations and Chinese companies are scrambling to develop and control centers of supply for this potentially huge market. The fallout is already being felt around the globe: from rural exodus in China, to farmland grabs in Africa, to food inflation in Shanghai triggered by drought in the US. China can and should reverse course by shifting away from industrial meat production to small scale livestock farming based on local sources of feed.

The great milk robbery: How corporations are stealing livelihoods and a vital source of nutrition from the poor

Milk is taking on ever-greater importance in the livelihoods and health of the world's poor. Most of the dairy markets that serve the poor are supplied by small-scale vendors who collect milk from farmers who own just a few dairy animals. But such systems of "people's milk" are in direct competition with the ambitions of big dairy companies, such as Nestlé, and a growing number of other wealthy players that want to take over the entire dairy chain in the South, from the farms to the markets. A battle over dairy is under way that will profoundly shape the direction of the global food system and people's lives.  

Milk is taking on ever-greater importance in the livelihoods and health of the world's poor. Most of the dairy markets that serve the poor are supplied by small-scale vendors who collect milk from farmers who own just a few dairy animals. But such systems of "people's milk" are in direct competition with the ambitions of big dairy companies, such as Nestlé, and a growing number of other wealthy players that want to take over the entire dairy chain in the South, from the farms to the markets. A battle over dairy is under way that will profoundly shape the direction of the global food system and people's lives.  

Food safety for whom? Corporate wealth versus people's health

School children in the US were served 200,000 kilos of meat contaminated with a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria before the nation's second largest meat packer issued a recall in 2009. A year earlier, six babies died and 300,000 others got horribly sick with kidney problems in China when one of the country's top dairy producers knowingly allowed an industrial chemical into its milk supply. Across the world, people are getting sick and dying from food like never before. Governments and corporations are responding with all kinds of rules and regulations, but few have anything to do with public health. The trade agreements, laws and private standards used to impose their version of "food safety" only entrench corporate food systems that make us sick and devastate those that truly feed and care for people, those based on biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and local markets. People are resisting, whether its movements against GMOs in Benin and "mad cow" beef in Korea or campaigns to defend street hawkers in India and raw milk in Colombia. The question of who defines "food safety" is increasingly central to the struggle over the future of food and agriculture. Read the synopsis of this report here.

School children in the US were served 200,000 kilos of meat contaminated with a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria before the nation's second largest meat packer issued a recall in 2009. A year earlier, six babies died and 300,000 others got horribly sick with kidney problems in China when one of the country's top dairy producers knowingly allowed an industrial chemical into its milk supply. Across the world, people are getting sick and dying from food like never before. Governments and corporations are responding with all kinds of rules and regulations, but few have anything to do with public health. The trade agreements, laws and private standards used to impose their version of "food safety" only entrench corporate food systems that make us sick and devastate those that truly feed and care for people, those based on biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and local markets. People are resisting, whether its movements against GMOs in Benin and "mad cow" beef in Korea or campaigns to defend street hawkers in India and raw milk in Colombia. The question of who defines "food safety" is increasingly central to the struggle over the future of food and agriculture. Read the synopsis of this report here.

Big Meat is growing in the South

People in the South appear to be eating a lot more meat these days. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that per capita meat consumption in developing countries doubled between 1980 and 2005, while the consumption of eggs more than tripled. What happened? According to some, the main factor has been rising incomes in Asia. But the bigger factor is on the supply side. Agribusiness corporations, backed by massive subsidies and government support, have ramped up global industrial meat production to formidable levels over recent decades, with devastating consequences for people, animals and the environment. Much of this is now happening in the South, where a rising group of home-grown transnational corporations (TNCs) is joining ranks with the older firms from the North to push Big Meat into every corner of the planet.

People in the South appear to be eating a lot more meat these days. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that per capita meat consumption in developing countries doubled between 1980 and 2005, while the consumption of eggs more than tripled. What happened? According to some, the main factor has been rising incomes in Asia. But the bigger factor is on the supply side. Agribusiness corporations, backed by massive subsidies and government support, have ramped up global industrial meat production to formidable levels over recent decades, with devastating consequences for people, animals and the environment. Much of this is now happening in the South, where a rising group of home-grown transnational corporations (TNCs) is joining ranks with the older firms from the North to push Big Meat into every corner of the planet.

A food system that kills - Swine flu is meat industry's latest plague

Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia's bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.

Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia's bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.

Latin America's Free Trade Agreements with the European Union - An agenda for domination

The European Union is promoting “association agreements” or “cooperation agreements” with Latin American countries. These agreements appear weaker and more flexible than the equivalent agreements that the USA is signing with countries in the region. But behind this affable facade the EU is tough: it is insisting that the countries agree to extend periodically what has been agreed and to undertake an undefined number of legal, administrative, economic, technical and social reforms, the objective of which is to grant European countries ever more favourable conditions in all aspects of national life. This amounts to a new Conquest (as the 1492 European “discovery” of the Americas is often referred to). It will lead to transantional corporations taking control over communications, water, the banking system, oil, biodiversity, all kinds of raw materials and fishing, as well as being able to use Latin American countries as bases for exports. Eventually European companies will take the place of state companies and be responsible for establishing norms, certification and patents. Tariff barriers, taxes, phytosanitary standards, quality controls and any other regulation seen as a barrier to the expansion of Euopean companies and their trade will be swept away. If these agreements are negotiated in secret and their implementation becomes the responsibility of the executive branch of government, civil society and the parliaments of the countries involved will not be allowed to protest or to investigate properly what is going on. It is hoped that this briefing will promote disucssion about what is happening and help Latin American society to stand up to the new European invasion.

The European Union is promoting “association agreements” or “cooperation agreements” with Latin American countries. These agreements appear weaker and more flexible than the equivalent agreements that the USA is signing with countries in the region. But behind this affable facade the EU is tough: it is insisting that the countries agree to extend periodically what has been agreed and to undertake an undefined number of legal, administrative, economic, technical and social reforms, the objective of which is to grant European countries ever more favourable conditions in all aspects of national life. This amounts to a new Conquest (as the 1492 European “discovery” of the Americas is often referred to). It will lead to transantional corporations taking control over communications, water, the banking system, oil, biodiversity, all kinds of raw materials and fishing, as well as being able to use Latin American countries as bases for exports. Eventually European companies will take the place of state companies and be responsible for establishing norms, certification and patents. Tariff barriers, taxes, phytosanitary standards, quality controls and any other regulation seen as a barrier to the expansion of Euopean companies and their trade will be swept away. If these agreements are negotiated in secret and their implementation becomes the responsibility of the executive branch of government, civil society and the parliaments of the countries involved will not be allowed to protest or to investigate properly what is going on. It is hoped that this briefing will promote disucssion about what is happening and help Latin American society to stand up to the new European invasion.

Food safety - rigging the game

As the push toward neoliberalism advances, and quantitative measures to protect local markets, such as tariffs and quotas, disappear, industrial powers are turning to qualitative measures such as food safety regulations to further skew trade in their favour. In the food safety arena, both the US and the EU are pressing their standards on other countries. For Washington, even though its own food safety system is widely criticised as too lax, this means getting countries to accept GMOs and US meat safety inspections. For Brussels, whose food safety standards have a much better reputation, it means imposing high standards on countries that cannot meet them. Bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have become a tool of choice to push through the changes.

As the push toward neoliberalism advances, and quantitative measures to protect local markets, such as tariffs and quotas, disappear, industrial powers are turning to qualitative measures such as food safety regulations to further skew trade in their favour. In the food safety arena, both the US and the EU are pressing their standards on other countries. For Washington, even though its own food safety system is widely criticised as too lax, this means getting countries to accept GMOs and US meat safety inspections. For Brussels, whose food safety standards have a much better reputation, it means imposing high standards on countries that cannot meet them. Bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have become a tool of choice to push through the changes.

Food crisis - how do we get out of it?

Food prices - especially cereals, but also dairy and meat - had been rising throughout 2007, way out of synch with wages. By early 2008, grain prices were surging and riots had broken out in nearly 40 countries, instilling fear among the world's political elites. Obviously something is wrong with what's happening. This is clearly a time to turn things around, to mobilise around a new, creative vision that can not only bring short term remedies, but the kind of profound change that we truly need to get out of this food crisis. A video with GRAIN's take on the issue.

Food prices - especially cereals, but also dairy and meat - had been rising throughout 2007, way out of synch with wages. By early 2008, grain prices were surging and riots had broken out in nearly 40 countries, instilling fear among the world's political elites. Obviously something is wrong with what's happening. This is clearly a time to turn things around, to mobilise around a new, creative vision that can not only bring short term remedies, but the kind of profound change that we truly need to get out of this food crisis. A video with GRAIN's take on the issue.

Making a killing from hunger

The world food crisis is hurting a lot of people, but global agribusiness firms, traders and speculators are raking in huge profits. The fundamental cause of today's food crisis is neoliberal globalisation itself, which has transformed food from a source of livelihood security into a mere commodity to be gambled away, even at the cost of widespread hunger among the world’s poorest people.

The world food crisis is hurting a lot of people, but global agribusiness firms, traders and speculators are raking in huge profits. The fundamental cause of today's food crisis is neoliberal globalisation itself, which has transformed food from a source of livelihood security into a mere commodity to be gambled away, even at the cost of widespread hunger among the world’s poorest people.

Fighting FTAs: the growing resistance to bilateral free trade and investment agreements

This publication aims to do three things. First, it tries to provide a solid understanding of the "FTA frenzy" that so many governments are caught up in. Many people often do not understand bilateral FTAs very well until their government is on the path to signing one. Then again, there is are significant differences between a US FTA, a Japanese FTA and a South-South one. Part one of this document tries to dissect and make sense of all that. Secondly, it brings together people’s accounts of the struggle against FTAs in their own countries from different parts of the world. While there is a huge diversity in these struggles, there is a lot of commonality too, as will be seen across part two. Where accounts could not be shared in writing, we tried to pull together some audio interviews which are available through the publication’s website. Finally, part three tries to draw some learnings from people’s experiences to date, which might help those who have yet to engage in the fight against FTAs.

This publication aims to do three things. First, it tries to provide a solid understanding of the "FTA frenzy" that so many governments are caught up in. Many people often do not understand bilateral FTAs very well until their government is on the path to signing one. Then again, there is are significant differences between a US FTA, a Japanese FTA and a South-South one. Part one of this document tries to dissect and make sense of all that. Secondly, it brings together people’s accounts of the struggle against FTAs in their own countries from different parts of the world. While there is a huge diversity in these struggles, there is a lot of commonality too, as will be seen across part two. Where accounts could not be shared in writing, we tried to pull together some audio interviews which are available through the publication’s website. Finally, part three tries to draw some learnings from people’s experiences to date, which might help those who have yet to engage in the fight against FTAs.

Bird flu: a bonanza for 'Big Chicken'

The bird flu crisis rages on. One year ago, when governments were fixated on getting surveillance teams into wetlands and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was waving the finger of blame at Asia and Africa's abundant household poultry, GRAIN and other groups pointed out that large-scale industrial poultry farms and the global poultry trade were spreading bird flu -- not wild birds nor backyard flocks. Today, this has become common knowledge, even though little is being done to control the industrial source of the problem, and governments still shamelessly roll out the wild bird theory to dodge responsibility. Just a few weeks ago, Moscow authorities blamed migratory birds for an outbreak near the city -- in the middle of the Russian winter. A more sinister dimension of the bird flu crisis, however, is becoming more apparent. Last year, we warned that bird flu was being used to advance the interests of powerful corporations, putting the livelihoods and health of millions of people in jeopardy. Today, more than ever, agribusiness is using the calamity to consolidate its farm-to-factory-to-supermarket food chains as its small-scale competition is criminalised, while pharmaceutical companies mine the goodwill invested in the global database of flu samples to profit from desperate, captive vaccine markets. Two UN agencies -- FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) -- remain at the centre of this story, using their international stature, access to governments and control over the flow of donor funds to advance corporate agendas.

The bird flu crisis rages on. One year ago, when governments were fixated on getting surveillance teams into wetlands and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was waving the finger of blame at Asia and Africa's abundant household poultry, GRAIN and other groups pointed out that large-scale industrial poultry farms and the global poultry trade were spreading bird flu -- not wild birds nor backyard flocks. Today, this has become common knowledge, even though little is being done to control the industrial source of the problem, and governments still shamelessly roll out the wild bird theory to dodge responsibility. Just a few weeks ago, Moscow authorities blamed migratory birds for an outbreak near the city -- in the middle of the Russian winter. A more sinister dimension of the bird flu crisis, however, is becoming more apparent. Last year, we warned that bird flu was being used to advance the interests of powerful corporations, putting the livelihoods and health of millions of people in jeopardy. Today, more than ever, agribusiness is using the calamity to consolidate its farm-to-factory-to-supermarket food chains as its small-scale competition is criminalised, while pharmaceutical companies mine the goodwill invested in the global database of flu samples to profit from desperate, captive vaccine markets. Two UN agencies -- FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) -- remain at the centre of this story, using their international stature, access to governments and control over the flow of donor funds to advance corporate agendas.