Through lobbying, marketing, and proselytizing about cheap meat, the global meat industry is working hard to keep industrially produced meat on the menu, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

 

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The world faced many steep challenges in 2016. Corporations continued their assault on local food systems, farmer-controlled seeds, peasant lands and indigenous territories. And the communities and activists defending their lands and livelihoods continued to do so at great risk to their safety—often facing brutal and even deadly repression. But people’s movements are not backing down. In close collaboration with partners in the regions and at the international level, GRAIN worked to support these efforts through research and information work, outreach, alliance-strengthening and capacity-building. This activity report shares some of the year’s highlights and the challenges ahead.

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The latest edition of the Nyeleni newsletter is about so called free trade agreements and agriculture. GRAIN and bilaterals.org helped to pull this issue together. It analyses a number of prominent trade deals and the public resistance against them, and highlights testimonies from different struggles around the world.

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Corporations are trying to secure their profits in the high-stakes business of global farming. But unlike farmers, global food and agriculture companies have multiple resources at their disposal, which act as a safety net in the face of agriculture’s many inherent risks. One such resource is the World Economic Forum (WEF), which plays a critical role in helping corporations maintain and increase their profit margins.

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"Cashless" economy is a blow to small producers

Supermarket watch Asia bulletin | 06 February 2017 | Other publications, corporations & trade

Fresh markets sustain the economies and livelihoods of millions of people. Despite this reality, the governments of many Asian countries are systematically adopting policies that undermine local markets and the people who rely on them. From Hong Kong to Hanoi, governments are banning fresh markets or scaling back market interventions that once kept corporations and price volatility in check. In Indonesia, for instance, the government lifted commodity price regulations, eroding the food security of farmers, small traders and poor consumers.

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When we think of the big drivers of climate change, cars and air travel often come to mind. But transformations over the past century in the way food is produced and consumed have resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions than those from transportation. The biggest culprits? Industrial meat and dairy.

The most widely cited official estimate holds that the food system is responsible for up to 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some of these emissions are due to the growth of packaged and frozen foods, the increased distance foods are shipped and the rise in food waste. But the most important source of food system-related GHG emissions is the escalation of meat and dairy consumption—made possible by the expansion of industrial livestock and chemical-intensive feed crops. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says meat production alone now generates more GHG emissions than all the world’s transport combined.

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Skillful selection and nurturing of the seeds best suited to a particular location are at the heart of peasant farming and agroforestry systems. The resulting agrobiodiversity of hundreds of thousands of crop varieties and animal races found in peasants’ fields around the globe provides the corner stone of the world’s food system. Peasant farmers and the local varieties that they developed are still feeding the majority of us. By contrast, industrial agriculture dominated by a small number of transnational corporations has drastically reduced the agrobiodiversity of crop varieties grown. It has also encroached rapidly on the land that peasant farmers rely on to produce food and on peasants’ access to the diversity of seeds which forms the basis of peasant farming and agroforesty systems.

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Some of the world's largest food companies are rolling out a programme called Grow, promising to apply “market-based solutions” to poverty, food insecurity and climate change. Under a logic of public-private partnership, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Monsanto and other companies are fostering close ties with governments in order to increase their control over markets and supply chains.

While claiming to promote food security and benefit small farmers, Grow's focus on a few high-value commodities (potatoes, maize, coffee, palm oil, etc.) exposes the programme’s real objective: to expand the production of a handful of products to profit a handful of corporations. The impacts on communities, biodiversity, nutrition and the climate are potentially disastrous.

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Based on the video Together we can cool the planet! co-produced by La Vía Campesina and GRAIN in 2015, we have created a comic book to support training activities of social movements and civil society organisations around climate change. This comic book looks at how the industrial food system impacts our climate and also explains what we can do to change course and start cooling the planet.

We say loud and clear: it is peasants and small farmers, along with consumers who choose agroecological products from local markets, who hold the solution to the climate crisis. We must all rise to the challenge!

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Connecting smallholders to markets

Supermarket watch Asia bulletin | 17 November 2016 | Other publications, corporations & trade

In 2014, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) established a special work area or “work-stream” on Connecting Smallholders to Markets with the aim of exploring the relationships between markets, food security and smallholder agriculture. Organisations of small-scale food producers in the CFS’s Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) decided to participate in this work-stream because it offered an opportunity to recognise the contributions of small-scale food producers to global food security and nutrition.

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