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. 

2017 went down as one of the deadliest years ever for land defenders. It was also a pretty bad year for several land grabbers. A significant number of big farmland deals collapsed, adding to a growing list of projects that have backfired over the past few years. While this is good news for affected communities, many of them are now left dealing with the fall-out and still struggling to get their lands back. We may have made some gains in stopping the projects, but have urgent work to do to address what happens when they fail.

 

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Daewoo's overseas agribusiness expansion

GRAIN, TANY Collective, Yayasan Pusaka | 16 May 2018 | Against the grain, Corporations & trade

Ten years ago, headlines around the world reported the shocking news that a subsidiary of Daewoo Logistics called Madagascar Future Enterprise Corp., was negotiating a 99-year lease with the government of Madagascar for 1.3 million hectares of arable land – almost half of the country’s arable land. Their plan was to grow corn and oil palm in four regions of the island for shipment back to South Korea to produce animal feed and biofuel respectively. Today, far from the 1999 bankruptcy of Daewoo Motors, South Korea’s Daewoo is one of world’s largest transnational conglomerates and continues to expand a business empire that extends from manufacturing and trade to natural resources like oil and gas, minerals and food. 

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In August 2017, a Mexican research team composed of members from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) published a study showing the presence of transgenes and the herbicide glyphosate in processed foods and tortillas made from industrial maize (corn) throughout Mexico.

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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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