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.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest infrastructure project ever embarked upon in world history. Launched in 2013 to better connect China with the rest of the world, the project currently involves some 90 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa, and is expected to cost more than US$1 trillion. BRI will also increase the concentration of global food production and distribution, potentially pushing small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, forest peoples and rural communities further to the margins.

This report looks at some of the key issues that are beginning to emerge from BRI-related projects in different Asian and African countries. These revolve around debt and threats to national sovereignty, land grabbing, displacement, human rights abuses in conflict zones, environmental impacts, public health concerns and labour violations.  


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Money from pension funds has fuelled the financial sector's massive move into farmland investing over the past decade. The number of pension funds involved in farmland investment and the amount of money they are deploying into it is increasing, under the radar. This unprecedented take-over of farmland by financial companies has major implications for rural communities and food systems, and must be challenged. Leaving it to the companies to police themselves with their own voluntary guidelines is a recipe for disaster.

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Africa's food systems are a final frontier for multinational food companies and retailers. Most Africans still consume a healthy diet of traditional foods, supplied by millions of small vendors and small farmers across the continent. But this is slowly changing as global food companies and retailers adopt new strategies to expand their presence on the continent, led by the aggressive actions of some multinational supermarket chains. The livelihoods of millions of small vendors and local farmers are at risk, as are people's health and the continent's diverse traditional food cultures. While African governments do little but facilitate this expansion of foreign supermarkets, small vendors, farmers and urban consumers are coming together to defend their local food systems.

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Land grabbing is now considered a crime against humanity, but few land grabbers end up in jail. Instead, if you search the specialised website for news about law suits, court proceedings, convictions or imprisonment related to land deals, what you will largely find are reports of local communities being accused of wrongdoing for defending their own territories against powerful companies! Yet the links between crime, corruption and those engaging in agricultural land deals are real.


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Harvard's billion-dollar farmland fiasco

GRAIN and Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos | 06 September 2018 | Land, Reports

One of the world's major buyers of farmland is under fire for their involvement in land conflicts, environmental destruction and risky investments. A new report by GRAIN and Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos presents, for the first time, a comprehensive analysis of Harvard University's controversial investments in global farmland.

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The new wave of free trade agreements, written by and for corporate interests, provides little or no benefits for workers, communities, or the environment. Provisions being laid in these new trade deals turn most developing countries into sources of cheap and unprotected labour for transnational companies. Labour rights are being redefined in a way that allows transnational companies to impose brutal working conditions. Once these agreements are signed and ratified, the only legal protection that will fully stand is the abolition of slavery. All other labour rights will be disposable at the companies’ discretion under a wide range of circumstances. 

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Since 2002, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have negotiated a reciprocal free trade agreement known as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). While it was marketed as the magic bullet towards the ACP countries’ industrialisation and development, it is in fact an unfair agreement that is anchored in a colonial framework.

Though not highly publicised, the EPA has faced continued opposition from across the ACP countries, not least because of its devastating effect on small scale farmers. The case of some African countries presented here is illustrative of the way communities are fighting to regain control over their resources and protect their markets from the flooding of cheap EU processed foods, along with pesticides and genetically modified organisms. 

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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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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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Land conflicts and shady finances plague DR Congo palm oil company backed by development funds

RIAO-RDC, AEFJN, Entraide et Fraternité, GRAIN, SOS Faim, UMOYA, urgewald, War on Want and WRM | 02 November 2016 | Reports, Land, Corporations & trade

European and US development funds are bankrolling palm oil company Feronia Inc despite land and labour conflicts at its plantations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). New information now raises questions as to whether the Canadian-based company misused millions of taxpayer dollars destined for international aid by way of companies connected to a high-level DRC politician.

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