The owners of agriculture and food

The owners of agriculture and food

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A report from German organizations shows how a few corporations run the planet's food system. Agribusiness and the complicity of governments. The Argentine case: the fumigated towns and the expulsion of Monsanto from a Cordovan town.

A handful of companies in the United States, Europe and China decide what the world's agriculture produces, how the population feeds and, at the same time, how it becomes sick and impoverished. These are some of the definitions of "Agribusiness Highs", an investigation by German foundations that denounces with their own names the actions of companies and the complicity of governments. The work also demolishes the myth of the agricultural multinationals: "Agribusiness (of transgenics and pesticides) cannot conserve the environment or the subsistence of producers, and neither can it feed the world."

The investigation denounces the actions of agricultural companies, cereals, food multinationals and supermarkets. From Germany they point to the actions of Bayer and Basf; from the United States to Bunge, Cargill, Coca Cola, Dow, DuPont, Kraft and Monsanto. From Great Britain to the multinational Unilever; from Franca to Danone and Carrefour; from China to ChemChina and Cofco; from Switzerland to Glencore, Nestlé and Syngenta; from the Netherlands to Louis Dreyfus and Nidera. From Argentina appear the companies Los Grobo, Don Mario, Biosidus and Cencosud (Vea, Jumbo and Disco), among others.

The work was carried out by the foundations Heinrich Böll, Rosa Luxemburg, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Oxfam Germany, Germanwatch and Le Monde Diplomatique. It syndicates the agribusiness model as "the modern latifundio", which from the end of the 20th century advanced with the so-called industrial agriculture, of monocultures (mainly oil palm, corn and soybeans).

It targets four companies that dominate the seed and pesticide market: Bayer (which in 2018 closed the purchase of Monsanto), ChemChina-Syngenta, Brevant (Dow and Dupont) and Basf. In 2015 they had a turnover of 85,000 million dollars and, according to Bayer projections, they will reach 120,000 million in 2025.

He questions that the companies in the sector have assumed little responsibility for the consequences of their actions, which had an impact on "hunger, climate change, sustainability, disease and injustice."

The investigation has a chapter entitled "The United Republic of Soybeans" (based on an advertisement by the multinational Syngenta, which named Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil). “Argentina's role in promoting the transgenic industrial agricultural model was crucial. It represented the head of the beach of this expansion for the global agrochemical and seed industry ”, he affirms.

He explains that the governmental axis played a key role. He denounces the complicity of the National Biotechnology Commission (Conabia), the Food and Agriculture Health and Quality Service (Senasa), the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA). After more than 20 years to approve the first transgenic soybeans, the same organisms still bless transgenics and pesticides based on studies of the same companies that produce and sell them.

The work also denounces the role of "technical pseudo-organizations" that publicize the benefits of the model but hide the consequences. It points to the Association of Direct Sowing Producers (Aapresid), the Association of Regional Consortiums for Agricultural Experimentation (Aacrea) and the Fertilize and Produce Conserving foundations. He affirms that the current agricultural model is a "mining agriculture" that extracts nutrients from South American countries and generates enormous environmental impacts.

It specifies the role of companies that tend to go unnoticed in the global agriculture debate: exporters or, as journalist Dan Morgan called, "grain traffickers." Four transnationals dominate the sector: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus. Together they are known as the “ABCD Group”. Its share of the world market is 70 percent. In recent years, the Chinese Cofco joined the group.

The food market is also in very few hands: 50 business groups invoice half of world sales. The top ten (not including the beverage sector) are Nestlé (Switzerland), JBS (the world's leading meat supplier, from Brazil). From third to sixth place are US companies: Tyson Foods, Mars, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez. They are followed by Danone (France), Unilever (Great Britain) and the Americans General Mills and Smithfield.

“With the expansion of multinational consortia, eating habits change. Low-processed foods are replaced by ultra-processed ones. Overweight, diabetes and chronic diseases are just some of the consequences ”, warns the investigation, which was presented in Europe, Brazil and Argentina, and had the local participation of the Group of Landscape Ecology and Environment (Gepama) of the UBA.

It also highlights the urgent need to strengthen agroecology through public policies (a model without GMOs or pesticides, with a leading role for peasants, indigenous people and small producers) and highlights two historical actions against multinationals: the global boycott against Nestlé (between 1977 and 1984 ) for their misleading advertising of powdered milk for babies and the struggle of the fumigated peoples of Argentina, which are living proof of the impacts of pesticides on health and at the same time promote production models without poisons. It recalls the epic of the town of Malvinas Argentinas (Córdoba), which after four years of resistance drove Monsanto out of its territory.

The "Atlas of Agribusiness" assures that food systems influenced by transnationals "have failed" to guarantee safe food. “The hunger was not eliminated. There are still almost 800 million undernourished people in the world. The problem is related to the unequal distribution of food, which in turn is linked to poverty and social exclusion. Rather, industrial food systems have aggravated this inequality rather than solving it, ”he highlights. He also warns that the agribusiness model overexploits ecosystems. As an example, it specifies that more than 20 percent of agricultural areas suffer soil degradation and that evil is advancing at the alarming rate of twelve million hectares per year.

  • By Darío Aranda. Article published on March 4, 2019 in the newspaper Página12.

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