Global Policy Forum

Agribusiness Companies

Picture Credit: Butner
Huge companies like Cargill, Nestle, Monsanto, ConAgra, and Archer Daniels Midland dominate the world's food system.  They control very large shares of the international markets for grains, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, and they are involved in the food system from the farm to the supermarket.  Farm equipment manufacturers, such as giant Deere & Company, are also influential, as are the big food retailers.  Hedge funds and other investment firms are rapidly creating a global market for agricultural land, bringing other powerful actors into the food system.  These companies shape government food policy.  They squeeze out small farmers, promote energy-hungry industrial agriculture and create an unsustainable system of production and distribution.


UN Documents

Is the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutritions suitable for combating poverty? (July 18, 2013)

A new policy paper published by the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development argues that the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa will not be able to combat hunger and food insecurity in Africa. On the contrary, the paper, to which Global Policy Forum contributed, points out that the New Alliance is mainly focused on providing multinationals with opportunities to reap profits through the creation of environments conducive to investment. Thus, the paper calls for either a radical reform of the New Alliance or its abolishment. (German NGO Forum on Environment and Development)

African Civil Society Groups Protest GMO Agriculture (July8, 2013)

This article published by IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis website affiliated with the UN, refers to a letter written by a group of African civil society organizations to the head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which aims to spread the use of genetically modified crops on the continent. The article points to the dangers associated with GMO crops, the extent to which their benefits have been overstated and why this is the wrong approach to generate food security. (IRIN)

Fourth Largest German Bank Backs Out of Food Speculation (May 13, 2013)

Germany's fourth largest bank, DZ Bank, and its subsidiary Union Investment, have announced that they will no longer engage in speculation with agricultural commodities, according to the NGO foodwatch. DZ Bank confirmed this through a letter sent to foodwatch. DZ Bank is the latest of a number of institutes which have announced their decision to stop the process of food speculation. (Foodwatch)

Addressing Concentrations in Food Supply Chains (December 2010)

Disproportionate buyer power in global food supply chains harm small-scale farmers. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, asserts that competition law can address the abuse of dominant buyer power by global agribusiness firms. Competition law can designed to protect the right to food, so that global food supply chains can reduce rural poverty.

Agribusiness and the Right to Food (December 2009)

This report by the Special Rapporteyur on the Right to Food analyses how the agribuisness sector impacts the right to food. It ends with 10 recommendations to States and the agribusiness sector to suggest how a transformation of the food chain can contribute to the realization of the right to food.


2013 l 2012 l 2011 | 2010


Biofuels Industry strong-arms Governments at UN Food Security conference (October 15, 2013)

Civil Society movements accused governments for protecting the interests of the biofuels industry rather than the interests of people pushed into hunger by biofuel policies at the Committee on World Food Security. (FIAN)

G8's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa - Whose Alliance? (May 2013)

CIDSE, an alliance of 17 Catholic development agencies, recently published a briefing about its concerns around the G8’s "New Alliance of Food Security and Nutrition in Africa". The New Alliance aims at enhancing food security by increasing private investments in the agricultural sector and market orientation. Even as it welcomes the New Alliances efforts to alleviate hunger, CIDSE expresses concerns about the vision and approach behind the G8 agenda. In the article “Whose Alliance? The G8 and the Emergence of a Global Corporate Regime for Agriculture” CIDSE raises questions about the coherence, sustainability, legitimacy and inclusiveness of the New Alliance policies.

Sierra Leone Farmers Evicted for Sugarcane Biofuel Plantations (March 5, 2013)

In Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, the livelihoods of thousands of subsistence farmers are being threatened as a result of land-grabbing. Addax Bioenergy, a Swiss energy company, has acquired mass areas of productive land to grow sugarcane in order to produce ethanol for exportation to Europe. The government has leased 57,000 hectares of land to the corporation for a period of 50 years. The state promotes industrial farming as a measure to tackle the country’s severe food insecurity, through the increase of production and private investment. However, locals have been pushed deeper into poverty as a result of these measures. Addax’s promises of building schools and medical facilities for the community have not been met, and compensation offered for the land is minimal. (Corpwatch)

Ethiopia Dam Project is Devastating the Lives of Remote Indigenous Groups (February 6, 2013)

Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia is a Unesco world heritage site that has stayed largely unaffected for thousands of years and is known for its remote cultures and tribes. Now, human rights violations are rife in the area, as communities are displaced by the Ethiopian government to make way for foreign-owned large industrial farms. Soldiers have been bought in to oversee the transformation and are reported to be killing and imprisoning local people. The Omo river, which is the life-source for many of the tribes, is being redirected to the commercial farms through the building of a large dam, leaving communities with no water resources.  The devastation of the land brings with it threats of famine and poverty. (Guardian)

Empty Words Won't Fill Hungry Stomachs (January 26, 2013)

In preparation of the G8 summit, the “Enough Food for Everyone If” campaign has bought world hunger on to the international political agenda. The annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos has also taken up the issue of food security.  A recent report, “New Vision for Agriculture,” has been released in conjunction with the meeting and claims to place small-hold farmers at the center of the food system- an interesting position for a group that gathers the world’s largest corporations. The report recognizes the global importance of the world’s 500 million smallholders who produce food for nearly 70% of the population. It emphasizes the necessity for “collaborative action" between corporations and smallholders in order to engender food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability. However, the power dynamics of a “dialogue” between large agribusinesses and small-scale farmers are in reality unlikely to weigh in the latter’s favor, particularly with debates over land rights. (Al Jazeera)


GM Maize in Mexico: An Irreversible Path (November 23, 2012)

The Mexican government is about to approve the large-scale release of genetically modified maize for commercial production. Agribusiness giants Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and others have requested the government to plant 2.4 million hectares of genetically engineered maize. This decision would have an irreversible impact on Mexican maize, and is a threat to food security in Mexico and globally. It will be impossible to maintain maize diversity when large corporations privatize and control the maize seed market. The Mexican Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS), GRAIN and other international organizations have put together a report urging the Mexican government to change track and protect the diversity of maize. (GRAIN)

Mali’s Lush Wetlands Drained by Foreign Agribusiness (November 30, 2012)

A Malian government agency is diverting Niger River water to foreign agricultural development schemes. This threatens the livelihoods of many Malians. The foreign companies are constructing concrete dams and canals. During dry season up to 70 percent of the river’s flow could soon be used for the irrigation of these new projects.  Nearly two million Malians live in the Niger delta, where most people get their livelihoods from farming and fishing. The government of Mali is determined to increase foreign investment for its agriculture and refuses to acknowledge the damage the water withdrawals will do to the delta. Jane Madgwick, head of Wetlands International argues that these projects will greatly decrease food security in the country. (National Geographic)

Who Will Feed China: Agribusiness or Its Own Farmers? Decisions in Beijing Echo Around the World (August 4, 2012)

The rising meat consumption by the Chinese urban population is impacting domestic and foreign agriculture due to China's growing dependence on imports of animal feed. China's opening of its market to cheap maize imports will push millions of Chinese households out of maize production and convert them into cheap laborers, displace communities and destroy local food systems in foreign countries to make way for exports. This decision is another example of China's shift to industrial agriculture, which further strengthen a global corporate food system at the detriment of smallholder farmers. (Grain)

Investors Seek to Boost Biofuel Production in Cameroon (June 13, 2012)

Investors in bio-energy have taken a strong interest in Cameroon because of the availability of land and rich soils for the cultivation of palm trees, cassava and jatropha, which are important materials for biofuel production. In particular, the French-owned Bollore Group has gained control of more than 80 percent of palm-oil production of this Central African country, mostly for export. The government of Cameroon says it views large-scale biofuel production as a means to reduce the national energy deficit and address climate change; however, pressure from investors may have played a part. Local communities are likely to face the risks of land dispossession, hunger and environmental damage as biofuel production increases. (AlertNet

On Aid, Obama Sells Out Poor Countries to Big (May 25, 2012)

Giant agribusinesses such as Cargill, Monsanto and Yara take the center in “The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition,” a new food-aid effort for Africa launched at the recent G-8 summit in May. These companies have pledged $3 billion in new agriculture investments for the continent, most of which will be spent on building a foreign-owned fertilizer production facility. Instead of promoting for a sustainable food production, this initiative reinforces the power of agribusinesses to make profits at the expense of small-scale African farmers and local biodiversity. (Mother Jones)

China Looks Abroad to Satisfy Growing Appetite (January 17, 2012)

Steady erosion of arable land due to rapid industrialization has prompted China to acquire land abroad to grow crops. About 8000 sq. kilometers of farmland worldwide have been snapped up by Chinese companies. But China is not the only nation looking to secure its food security by investing in foreign land. The US, the UK, Australia, India, and Saudi Arabia are all part of this larger trend. (Sydney Morning Herald)


Another Shady Land Deal in Africa, This One Assisted By the US Ambassador to Tanzania (December 30, 2011)

US-based company AgriSol Energy plans to “benefit and contribute” to Tanzania’s food needs by commercially developing a refugee resettlement area, which is home to more than 160,000 people. Alfonso Lenhardt, US ambassador to Tanzania, is in full support of the plan and claims that the land deal is in the best interest of the local population. However, the Oakland Institute, the leading think tank on land grabbing, argues that the deal will only generate significant profits for AgriSol. It will divert scarce public resources from small farmers to agribusinesses and adversely displace thousands of Tanzanians. (Treehugger)

Karuturi Sets Sight on Sugarcane Crushing Factory (December 19, 2011)

Indian company Karuturi Global operates on 100,000 hectares in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Known for it cut flower exports, the company is looking to expand to agri-business and plans to erect a sugarcane factory with the capacity to crush 7,000 tons of cane per day. The investment comes at a time when bioethanol production from sugarcane is being marketed as a “green solution.” (Oromiya Government)

UNIDO and QUINVITA Join Forces on Novel Bio-Energy Development (November 3, 2011)

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and global crop technology firm QUINVITA have signed an agreement to develop new industrial bio-energy crops that will be planted in developing countries. UNIDO says energy crops will be key to sustainable development. However, scientists dispute the “benefits” of bio-energy and argue that the diversion of food crops into biofuel production results in high food prices. This agreement is part of a growing trend of public-private partnerships at the UN. (UNIDO)

UK Firm’s Failed Biofuel Dream Wrecks Lives of Tanzania Villagers (October 29, 2011)

Sun Biofuels came to the Kisaware district of Tanzania with the promise of 700 jobs and financial compensation, but left villagers jobless, landless and without compensation when the company folded. To meet the EU and the UK’s rising biofuel targets companies from the global North are buying substantial amounts of African land to grow plants that can be processed into biodiesel. According to The Observer at least 30 biofuels projects—like Sun Biofuels—have been abandoned in 15 African countries in recent years. (The Observer)

Karuturi Global Plans $500 million Investment in Tanzania Food Production (August 18, 2011)

Amidst the worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa, foreign investors are continuing to harvest tons of crops for export, decreasing food supply in the region. A delegation of 35 investors are currently visiting Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia in hopes of expanding their already large land holdings. Karuturi Global Ltd, the world’s largest rose grower with operations throughout India, Ethiopia and Kenya is seeking to acquire land in Tanzania: 200,000 hectares for palm oil, 20,000 hectares for sugar cane and 150,000 for cereals. In an effort to compete with China, Indian companies like Karuturi are trying to strengthen economic ties with Africa and see huge potential in the agricultural sector of East Africa. (Bloomberg)

Biofuels Boom in Africa as British Firms Lead Rush on Land for Plantations (May 31, 2011)

A Guardian investigation has revealed that 11 British companies led by Crest Global Green Energy have acquired more land in Africa than firms from any other country. Officials in the UK allege that only 0.1% of biofuel is grown on African soil; however, this number is expected to rise as oil prices continue to increase. Biofuel developments offer small, if any, incentives to local residents, and cause food prices as well as greenhouse gas emissions to rise. (Guardian)

Glencore: Profiteering from Hunger and Chaos (May 9, 2011)

Although millions of farmers produce food, a select few companies, such as Glencore, control the global commodities market. With control over hundreds of thousands of hectares of land,  Glencore has immense market power and direct access to information about food production and distribution. This knowledge of the markets allows the trading giant to illegally manipulate food prices and drive some of the world's poorest further into poverty. (Al Jazeera)

Ethiopia at Centre of Global Farmland Rush (March 21, 2011)

According to the Ethiopian government, thirty-six countries including India, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have leased farm land in the Gambella region for long periods at low rates. Karuturi, one of the largest international agribusiness companies, will export sugar, palm oil, rice and other foods to world markets. Land grabs like this deprive local farmers and villagers of access to land and displace entire villages. Local government officers denied claims that people are forcibly moved to make way for foreign companies.  (The Guardian)

Caught in the Food Pirate's Trap (March 4, 2011)

uring the global food crisis of 2008, 37 countries faced riots against rising prices. Since 2010, spiraling food prices have resulted in political uprising and the toppling of governments, like in Egypt and Tunisia. Meanwhile, leaders from 17 private companies at the World Economic Forum in January 2011 introduced initiatives to increase food production, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce rural poverty.  These initiatives, supported by the US Agency for International Development, promote an industrial takeover of global agriculture, which drives out small farmers and creates an unsustainable system of production and distribution.  (Share the World's Resources)

From Food Crisis to Food Sovereignty: The Challenge of Social  Movements (February 22, 2011)

Subsistence farmers have limited access to land and water and they cannot compete in global markets, but have a large proportion of the world's poorest people. This article examines the divide between food and producers and policymakers. The authors argue that institutions such as the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization have a mandate from capital to mitigate hunger, defuse social unrest, and reduce peasant producers worldwide. They act to avoid change in the basic structure of the world's food systems.  (Alternet)

In Corrupt Global Food Systems, Farmland is the New Gold (January 13, 2011)

High food prices are caused by market speculation in a corrupt global food system. Growing concern over access to food creates a new geopolitics around food security, with many countries buying farmland and banning food exports. One billion people cannot afford to buy enough to feed themselves and their families. Seventy percent of those hungry people are farmers, herders and other food producers who could feed themselves if they had access to land and markets.  In recent months the world's largest agricultural commodities trader, Cargill (based in the US), announced a tripling of profits. (IPS)


Seed Savers (September 1, 2010)

Today three giant chemical corporations, Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer, have the control over almost half of the worlds' crop-seed market. Their genetically modified seeds are protected by patents under US law, making it illegal for peasants to grow the resistant seeds without buying them from the companies. To a large extent, corporate technologies have taken the place of traditional agricultural knowledge, making sustainable agriculture less profitable. Peasant farmers around the world must regain control over the land they work. For countries to accomplish that, land reforms are absolutely necessary. (New Internationalist)

The World’s People Reject Genetic Pollution of Food and the Environment (August 17, 2010)

The US government is pushing hard for global acceptance of GM foods.  The American Farm Bureau is calling for stronger sanctions against the EU for banning GM crops. Governments are using trade agreements to circumvent citizens and farmers on the issue and siding with corporations while knowing the harm that GMOs cause. From the burning of Monsanto's seeds in Haiti to the destruction of vineyards in France, people are taking matters into their own hands and more direct action likely. (Global Research)

The US Ploy to Promote Genetically Engineered Seeds and Pesticides to Poor Mexican Farmers is Impoverishing Their Communities (August 6, 2010)

Subsistence farmers in Mexico are easy prey for the world's agribusiness giants. Desperately seeking betterment for their families and with limited livelihood alternatives, many farmers have been easily persuaded that genetically engineered seeds and agrochemicals will offer a clear route out of poverty. Yet the reality is proving very different. And while traditional, sustainable production techniques, developed over generations, are replaced with industrialized agriculture, environmental degradation, health problems and dependency on expensive fertilizers and pesticides are taking hold. (AlterNet)

Brazilian Court Suspends Release of Bayer's GM Maize (July 28, 2010)

The Paraná Federal Court has ruled that Bayer's Liberty Link maize cannot be sold in Brazil. Failure to suspend marketing, sowing, transportation and even disposal of the seeds will result in a daily fine. Authorization to release the GM crop was revoked because Bayer had not conducted studies on the crop's impact on regional biomes and had no post-release monitoring mechanisms in place. The decision is a landmark ruling and demonstrates how legislation can be used to protect citizens and hold agribusiness companies accountable. (ASPTA)

Haitian Marmer's Leery of Monsanto's Largesse (July 6, 2010)

In a bid to defend traditional agriculture, Haitian farmers are resisting western aid which fails to respect local cultural values of environmental protection. Industrial hybrid corn seed donated by US agro-technology giant Monsanto conflicts with the Haitian peasant-agriculture ideology that runs at the heart of group cultural and spiritual identity. At best the seed from Monsanto reflects donor error and at worst an attempt to exercise economic control. Yet Haitian farmers stand firm, campaigning for international aid to be channeled into culturally sensitive programmes of effectual sustainable development. (IPS)

Superweeds Hit Farm Belt, Trigger Arms Race (June 4, 2010)

Hardy superweeds immune to Monsanto's genetically modified herbicide system is prompting farmers to use greater amounts of even harsher chemicals. Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" crop, whereby GM seeds unaffected by an accompanying herbicide, make up for 90 percent of the soybean and 80 percent of the corn grown in the US. The rise of Roundup more than a decade ago eclipsed herbicides of other agrochemical companies, but now the invasion of evolved superweeds is sparking a bioengineering race to enable more powerful chemicals - a trend that can only lead to a more precarious food system. (Wall Street Journal)

The Hard Sell on Salt (May 29, 2010)

In the face of experts' increasing understanding of salt's ill effects on public health, the American food industry is working behind the scenes to stave off government attempts to curb its excessive presence in processed foods. Major companies like Cargill, ConAgra, Kellogg's and Campbell employ strategies to "delay and divert" official action on salt. The industry depends heavily on salt as a low-cost way to create tastes and textures. The industry first sponsored research to cast doubt on the link between salt and hypertension in 1978, making the history of this food lobby date back more than 30 years. (NY Times)

Patents Trump Public Interest in Monsanto's Agri-Empire (April 13, 2010)

Findings by Robert Kremer, a US government microbiologist, raise fresh concerns about Monsanto's products and the Washington agencies that oversee them. Many experts note that US government regulatory bodies are ill equipped to address longer-term health concerns resulting from GM crop consumption. As well, patent laws interfere with health studies because independent research on biotech seeds cannot proceed without company approval. (Reuters)

Down With the Clown (April 12, 2010)

McDonald's Corporation is a pioneer of the world food system. It has fashioned the way food is grown, subsidized, processed and eaten around the world, and by targeting children as an advertising strategy McDonalds is now a $32 billion brand. The success of McDonald's raises questions as to why junk food is cheaper than healthier food, and why there is no real choice in the US diet? The answer partly lies at the feet of the world's largest agribusiness companies. (AlterNet)

Agribusines and the Food Crisis: a New Thrust at Anti Trust (March 22, 2010)

The world's largest agribusiness companies squeeze the agriculture system from both the supply and demand side, threatening food security. Seed prices overall have risen 146 percent in the last decade as many farmers in the US and worldwide have no choice but to buy seeds from Monsanto, the world's largest GM seed company. As well, agribusiness mergers in the last two decades have concentrated the industry's buying power in the hands of a small number of corporations, threatening farmers to "get big, or get out." (Triple Crisis)

Large Agribusiness Hurting Small Landholders, says UN Rights Expert (March 5, 2010)

The global food sector is dominated by transnational corporations and as a result small landowners and farmers are suffering, says Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rappotteur on the Right to Food.  De Schutter says that smallholders in developing countries are suffering hunger and poverty because of the tremendous market influence of the companies.  He proposes that governments use tax incentives, legal protection of rights of agricultural workers, and action against foreign suppliers that abuse the rights of local producers.(UN News Centre)





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