Global food and farming set for “corporate tidal wave,” warns report - calls for 25-year ‘long’ food movement
- New report sounds alarm on control of food tech, farming data, and corporate takeover of UN multilateral agencies.
- Civil society and social movements can fight back, boosting post-pandemic resilience, slashing agriculture’s GHG emissions by 75%, and shifting $4 trillion to sustainable food and farming.
30 March 2021 - The future planned by agribusiness giants could accelerate environmental breakdown and jeopardize the food security of billions, according to a new report by IPES-Food and ETC Group.
"We are facing a corporate tidal wave. In only six months' time, the UN Food Systems Summit could rubber-stamp changes that force millions of people off the land and put our food security at the mercy of high-risk big data and AI-controlled farming," warned lead author Pat Mooney.
"But farmers, food workers and their allies are mobilizing in new ways to defend their spaces and livelihoods. In fact, the Summit could spark a quarter century of food system transformation - a “long food movement”.
The study warns of specific threats to farming and food security if agribusiness plans come to fruition:
- AI is re-engineering ecosystems, and robotic tractors and drones are being rolled out as fast as digital infrastructures allow. Millions of rural dwellers will be forced to migrate to urban areas.
- Food – and now food data – are valuable strategic assets. A new wave of land, ocean, and resource grabs is imminent.
- Powerful corporations and major governments are now moving to control food supplies across vast economic corridors. Long, complex global supply chains will be more vulnerable to pandemics, climate change, and critical 'chokepoints'.
- ‘Hyper-nudging’ is on the rise. Data from everyday transactions (digital wallets to automated food services) is increasingly combined with information harvested online to manipulate people’s eating habits in unprecedented ways.
“The keys of the food system are being handed over to data platforms, private equity firms, and e-commerce giants. This is the dystopian future of food and the planet, unless civil society fights back,” said Mooney.
Third World Network researcher and report contributor Lim Li Ching, added: "Civil society and social movements must think decades ahead. We must be ready for shocks on the horizon. Neither short-term actions nor long-term planning can wait. That’s why we need a “Long Food Movement”.”
The report lays out a series of strategies for a Long Food Movement to build sustainable food systems over the next 25 years. It estimates that, united, civil society could force a shift of up to USD 4 trillion from the industrial food chain to food sovereignty and agroecology. This includes USD 720 billion in subsidies going to big commodity production, and as much as USD 1.6 trillion in healthcare savings from a crackdown on junk food. The sum total of these actions could cut 75% of food system emissions.
Some of the key strategies include:
- Diverting funds from major commodity subsidies, research expenditures and ‘niche’ budget lines to small-scale food producers.
- Supporting short supply chains and territorial markets: By 2045, as much as 50% of food would be sourced from local and regional supply chains. Up to 80% of wealthier populations go flexitarian.
- Levying taxes on junk food, toxins, CO2 and the revenues of multinationals.
- Adopting emergency food security measures that supersede trade and intellectual property rules.
- Ensuring that famine, malnutrition, and environmental degradation are considered as criminal violations that can be internationally prosecuted.
- Defending multilateralism by completing reforms of the UN Committee on World Food Security.
The report is online: http://www.ipes-food.org/pages/LongFoodMovement
The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) is an independent panel of experts with a mission to promote transition to sustainable food systems around the world. ETC Group (the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) works to address the socioeconomic and ecological issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Media enquiries: Mathieu Carey Communications | IPES-Food Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +32 (0) 456 21 69 21
WHAT THEY SAID:
Million Belay (Ethiopia, AFSA):
“The report shows that our food system, our life, will be in the hands of agribusiness conglomerates if we, as a civil society, do not get our act together and work for an alternative scenario. It also shows what a better food system looks like and what civil society could do to make it happen.”
Lim Li Ching (Malaysia, Third World Network):
“The report challenges us in civil society to think long-term and act strategically to change current inequitable and unsustainable food systems. This in order to realise the food systems we want: rooted in agroecology, food sovereignty and human rights.”
Raj Patel (UK/US, University of Texas):
“The multiple crises of the industrial food system demand, and offer opportunities for, profound transformation. This report is a thoughtful and strategic answer to the question: ‘if we want the future to look different, what must we change today?’”
Mamadou Goïta (Mali, IRPAD /ROPPA):
“This report is timely and gives hope to millions of readers in understanding the current situation of food systems, in order to be prepared for more sustainable perspectives.”
Sue Longley (UK, IUF):
“This report doesn’t only expose the failure of current food systems built on the exploitation of workers in the food chain and small farmers. It forces us to think how we can organise to win future food systems built on ensuring the right to food and rights for workers.”
Jahi Chappell (US, Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network):
“A common critique of activists for positive change is that there is a lack of a long-term plan. Neoliberals, economic historian Philip Mirowski has reminded us, did not bumble into dominance but consciously planned for change at the level of decades. This report not only looks plainly at the dire consequences of the current path set for us by such planners, but advances the vital work of envisioning how civil society can work together for a sustainable, liberatory alternative way forward.”
Jennifer Clapp (Canada, University of Waterloo):
“The Long Food Movement report presents a powerful narrative for the need for long-term planning on the part of civil society to build more just, diverse and resilient food systems. The report lays bare the likely consequences of “agribusiness as usual” over the next quarter century and shows how careful forward planning by civil society can effectively counter the corporate takeover of food systems.”
Laura Trujillo (Mexico, University of Chapingo):
“This report opens up real possibilities for agro-food system changes, especially within the global pandemic context, because it is exposed naked. Who may die because of their health due to food-related conditions? Who's work feeds the world beyond their health, lack access to social security, and the importance of advocacy groups networking. It further exposes food corporations that prevail undercover in those scenarios and offers a challenging way to change it.”
Fabrice DeClerck (Belgium/US, EAT/OneCGIAR):
“Food systems are currently the greatest driver of poor health, and environmental degradation globally. Without action, food systems will be the greatest victims of that change. Without doubt however, food systems, from production to consumption offer the best bet at environmental regeneration, while celebrating and elevating the livelihoods of food workers. This decade must put food back on track.”
Steve Gliessman (US, ex-University of Santa Cruz):
“The vision for the future of food and farming systems presented in this report is clear and urgent. The path forward is equally grounded in agroecological practice and civil society collaboration.”