Reports

Reports are substantial research reports, providing in depth background information and analysis on a given topic. GRAIN briefings are usually written by GRAIN staff, often in collaboration with other organisations or individuals.

Red alert! GMO avalanche in Mexico

GRAIN | 21 November 2012 | Reports

Mexico is the world centre of origin and diversification of maize, one of four crucial food crops in world agriculture. Now the future of this crop is being put at grave risk by the impending approval of commercial planting of genetically engineered (GE) maize on 2.4 million ha in Mexico. What is being prepared is nothing less than a frontal attack on a crop that is vital to the survival of humanity and on the peoples who have stewarded it for millennia. This report discusses the situation and it connections to ongoing struggles in Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.

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Food cannot be grown without water. In Africa, one in three people endure water scarcity and climate change will make things worse. Building on Africa’s highly sophisticated indigenous water management systems could help resolve this growing crisis, but these very systems are being destroyed by large-scale land grabs amidst claims that Africa's water is abundant, under-utilised and ready to be harnessed for export-oriented agriculture. GRAIN looks behind the current scramble for land in Africa to reveal a global struggle for what is increasingly seen as a commodity more precious than gold or oil: water.

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Milk is taking on ever-greater importance in the livelihoods and health of the world's poor. Most of the dairy markets that serve the poor are supplied by small-scale vendors who collect milk from farmers who own just a few dairy animals. But such systems of "people's milk" are in direct competition with the ambitions of big dairy companies, such as Nestlé, and a growing number of other wealthy players that want to take over the entire dairy chain in the South, from the farms to the markets. A battle over dairy is under way that will profoundly shape the direction of the global food system and people's lives.

 

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School children in the US were served 200,000 kilos of meat contaminated with a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria before the nation's second largest meat packer issued a recall in 2009. A year earlier, six babies died and 300,000 others got horribly sick with kidney problems in China when one of the country's top dairy producers knowingly allowed an industrial chemical into its milk supply. Across the world, people are getting sick and dying from food like never before. Governments and corporations are responding with all kinds of rules and regulations, but few have anything to do with public health. The trade agreements, laws and private standards used to impose their version of "food safety" only entrench corporate food systems that make us sick and devastate those that truly feed and care for people, those based on biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and local markets. People are resisting, whether its movements against GMOs in Benin and "mad cow" beef in Korea or campaigns to defend street hawkers in India and raw milk in Colombia. The question of who defines "food safety" is increasingly central to the struggle over the future of food and agriculture.

Read the synopsis of this report here.

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The soils of war

GRAIN | 09 March 2009 | Reports

In this Briefing, we look at how the US’s agricultural reconstruction work in Afghanistan and Iraq not only gives easy entry to US agribusiness and pushes neoliberal policies, something that has always been a primary function of US development assistance, but is also an intrinsic part of the US military campaign in these countries and the surrounding regions. Seen together with the growing clout that the US and its corporate allies exercise over donor agencies and global bodies – such as the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, which influence the food and farm policies adopted by the recipient countries – this is an alarming development. These are not unique cases born from unusual circumstances, but constitute a likely template for US activities overseas, as it continues to expand its “war on terror” and pursue US corporate interests.

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Nerica rice varieties, a cross between African and Asian rice, are being hailed as a "miracle crop" that can bring Africa its long-promised green revolution in rice. A powerful coalition of governments, research institutes, private seed companies and donors are leading a major effort to spread Nerica seeds to all the continent's rice fields. They claim that Nerica can boost yields and make Africa self-sufficient in rice production. But outside the laboratories, Nerica is not living up to the hype. Since the first Nerica varieties were introduced in 1996, experience has been mixed among farmers, with reports of a wide range of problems. Perhaps the most serious concern with Nerica is that it is being promoted within a larger drive to expand agribusiness in Africa, which threatens to wipe out the real basis for African food sovereignty-- Africa's small farmers and their local seed systems.

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Today's food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global landgrab. On the one hand, “food insecure” governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmlands as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural lands are becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global landgrab could spell the end of small scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.

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The European Union is promoting “association agreements” or “cooperation agreements” with Latin American countries. These agreements appear weaker and more flexible than the equivalent agreements that the USA is signing with countries in the region. But behind this affable facade the EU is tough: it is insisting that the countries agree to extend periodically what has been agreed and to undertake an undefined number of legal, administrative, economic, technical and social reforms, the objective of which is to grant European countries ever more favourable conditions in all aspects of national life.

This amounts to a new Conquest (as the 1492 European “discovery” of the Americas is often referred to). It will lead to transantional corporations taking control over communications, water, the banking system, oil, biodiversity, all kinds of raw materials and fishing, as well as being able to use Latin American countries as bases for exports. Eventually European companies will take the place of state companies and be responsible for establishing norms, certification and patents. Tariff barriers, taxes, phytosanitary standards, quality controls and any other regulation seen as a barrier to the expansion of Euopean companies and their trade will be swept away.
If these agreements are negotiated in secret and their implementation becomes the responsibility of the executive branch of government, civil society and the parliaments of the countries involved will not be allowed to protest or to investigate properly what is going on.

It is hoped that this briefing will promote disucssion about what is happening and help Latin American society to stand up to the new European invasion.

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Millions of farmers around the world practice organic agriculture and over a billion people get most of their food from these farms. Currently only a small portion of what they produce is labeled as certified organic, but the global market for such foods is growing. While some believe that certification is needed to create market opportunities for small farmers others fear that existing systems are doing the reverse -- setting the stage for agribusiness to take over. Now these tensions are coming to a head with seeds. Today, new regulations governing seeds in organic farming, more attuned to the needs of seed corporations than seed savers, are popping up everywhere, with potentially devastating consequences for farmer seed systems. This Briefing provides the first global overview of regulations concerning seeds in organic farming and assesses what such regulations mean to the future of organic farming and the millions of farmers who sustain it.

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A new Green Revolution for Africa?

GRAIN | 17 December 2007 | Reports

For some time now, there's been talk of a new Green Revolution for Africa – because "Africa missed the first Green Revolution" or because "the first Green Revolution missed Africa". Now a new project, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), is trying to put the concept into operation. This paper aims to describe what a Green Revolution really signifies, why such projects haven't worked before and why AGRA won't work either, in order to help people trying to take positions at the local, national and regional levels.

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