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. 

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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Transnational food companies are taking over traditional distribution channels in the South and replacing local foods with cheap, processed junk food, often with the direct support of governments. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to their success. The case of Mexico provides a stark picture of the consequences for the world's poorest people.

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All around the world, the basic practice of saving seeds from one season to the next is being turned into a criminal offence, so that half a dozen large multinational corporations can turn seeds into private property and make money from them. GRAIN has just produced an updated dataset tracking how free trade agreements are privatising seeds across the world.

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Since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation added “feeding the world” to its objectives almost a decade ago, it has channelled an impressive three billion dollars towards agricultural projects, much of it to improve farming in Africa. But GRAIN analysed the foundation's agricultural grants records for the past decade and reached some sobering conclusions.

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