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. 

Lack of access to land is one of the most serious problems facing rural women in Latin America and around the world—and is the cause of numerous other problems that are often “invisible” for society at large. Its consequences affect women everywhere, humanity in general and the planet. This issue of Against the grain explores the conditions of oppression and exclusion that rural women experience throughout Latin America and the impacts of patriarchy including the gendered division of labour, the invisibilisation of women’s work and the exploitation of both women and men. The piece also addresses women’s ongoing struggle for the right to land at a time when the role of women is increasingly recognised as central to the reproduction of peasant agriculture and to solving the problem of global hunger.      

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Since 2001, GRAIN has been tracking how so-called free trade agreements (FTAs), negotiated largely in secret, outside the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are being used to go beyond existing international standards on the patenting of life forms. In this report, we provide an update on the FTAs that are legalising corporate theft and threatening farmers’ ability to save, produce and exchange seeds around the world. The report includes two updated datasets on "FTAs privatising biodiversity outside the WTO" and the "Status of countries in terms of joining various seed-related treaties". 

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Eight years after releasing its first report on land grabbing, which put the issue on the international agenda, GRAIN publishes a new dataset documenting nearly 500 cases of land grabbing around the world. Over the past several years, GRAIN staff and allies in different regions have been tracking media and other information sources on a daily basis and posting reports on land grab developments to the open-publishing platform farmlandgrab.org. We used this website as the basis for constructing this dataset, which holds 491 land deals covering over 30 million hectares spanning 78 countries. This new research shows that, while some deals have fallen by the wayside, the global farmland grab is far from over. Rather, it is in many ways deepening, expanding to new frontiers and intensifying conflict around the world. We hope this updated dataset will be useful tool for movements, communities, researchers and activists fighting against land grabbing and defending community-based food systems.

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In February 2016, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial new trade agreement covering 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, was signed in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The result of a US-driven process, the agreement aims to boost trade and investment among a select group of countries—excluding China. The TPP will have a major impact on farmers’ access to and control over seeds. But there is another “mega” trade deal sneaking into Asia: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). In this report, GRAIN looks at what RCEP might mean for farmers’ seeds in the region, in the context of the recently signed TPP.

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The government of Argentina has announced with great fanfare the introduction of new GMOs allegedly different from the existing ones in three ways: 1) the transgenes do not code for herbicide resistance or production of the Bt toxin; 2) some of them are claimed to promise yield increases, and 3) they have not been developed by corporations but by universities and public research institutes. These, however, are pretexts under which to continue imposing the same agribusiness model on our country.

 

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Food security has always been a top priority for China's rulers. Up until recently that meant ensuring enough food was produced in China to feed the entire population, and this task fell almost entirely to China's peasant farmers. Over the past couple of decades, however, the government has embraced trade agreements that oblige China to import foods and implemented policies that favour the development of larger farms and massive agribusiness and food corporations.

 

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The climate talks in Paris in December this year are viewed as a last chance for the world's governments to commit to binding targets that might halt our march towards catastrophe. But in the countdown to Paris, many of these same governments have signed or are pushing a raft of ambitious trade and investment deals that would pre-empt measures that they could take to deal with climate change

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Rules on how to “responsibly” invest in farmland are popping up all over the place, from corporate boardrooms to UN meeting halls. But do they really help communities whose lands are being targeted or do they just help investors and the governments that are complicit with them? Where should we—as social movements trying to support communities—focus our efforts? Does it make sense to fight land grabbing by adopting rules on how to do it more responsibly? In this discussion paper, GRAIN aims to stimulate reflection and discussion on these important questions.

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World leaders are about to converge for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December, but there is only one major intergovernmental initiative that has emerged to deal with climate change and agriculture  and it is controlled by the world's largest fertiliser companies.

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Asia is a land of small farmers. But across the continent, governments are introducing changes to land laws that threaten to displace millions of peasants and undermine local food systems. The region is witnessing an agrarian reform in reverse.

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