Follow us on  Icon-rss Icon-twitter Icon-facebook

Against the grain

Against the grain is a series of short opinion pieces on recent trends and developments in the issues that GRAIN works on. Each one focuses on a specific and timely topic. 

Mali, like several other countries in West Africa, recently went from being a net rice exporter to being a major importer. Now the government has embarked on a multimillion-dollar national rice initiative that is supposed to restore self-sufficiency by helping the country’s farmers to produce more.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

In FTAs little attention is paid to clauses like the following one: "... no Party may adopt or maintain any prohibition or restriction on the importation of any good of another Party or on the exportation or sale for export of any good destined for the territory of another Party...". In other words, governments know that they are renouncing their right to control food exports and imports when they sign FTAs.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

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.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

The "Global Seed Vault" buried in a frozen island in Svalbard, Norway, is sadly the latest move in a wider strategy to make ex situ (off site) storage in seed banks the dominant approach to crop diversity conservation. The Vault gives a false sense of security in a world where the crop diversity present in the farmers' fields continues to be eroded and destroyed at an ever-increasing rate and contributes to the access problems that plague the international ex situ system.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

The carnage of poultry, in which 3.7 million birds were culled, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal is a striking testament to the failure of the global response to the bird flu crisis. In a flash, one of the world’s most dynamic areas of poultry farming has been practically ruined, a priceless stock of biodiversity wiped out, and the livelihoods of millions of poor families pushed to the brink. This has been caused not so much by bird flu as by the response to it.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

IRRI Inc.

GRAIN | 29 November 2007 | Against the grain

Consultative Group's rice research institute goes into business. On November 9, 2007, in the midst of the Asian Seed Congress, IRRI announced the formation of its Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium. This lays the foundation for a direct relationship between IRRI and private seed companies: IRRI supplies the parent lines and corporations, who gain exclusive rights to the varieties, handle the marketing.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

Japan is increasingly using free trade agreements (FTAs) to tighten corporate control over seeds and other forms of biodiversity that are crucial to food, agriculture and medicine. Two such deals, sealed this month with the Chilean and Indonesian governments, put Japan in the big league of nations using bilateral trade deals to make seed-saving on the farm a thing of the past.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

For the past two months, the Latin American press has been inundated with news of a fresh offensive by Monsanto in several Latin American countries. The US transnational corporation appears determined to complete the invasion of GM (genetically modified) crops throughout the continent and to crush the resistance that has arisen in response to the company’s attempt to control and dominate Latin American agriculture.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

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.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]

Two leading US private charitable foundations – Rockefeller and Gates - have proclaimed a “new” Green Revolution for Africa. $150 million are to be poured into the continent in the form of new seeds, and in efforts to get small farmers to grow them. Yet none of this is new. It is the same recipe, using the same ingredients, and pushed by the same agency that perpetrated the original Green Revolution starting in the 1950s. It failed in Africa then because it failed to listen to – failed even to ask – the indigenous farmers, who had worked their land for generations.

[Read the full article] — [Download PDF Version]