Corporations & trade

GRAIN’s central focus is to support social movements across the world in their resistance to the growing corporate control over food production, markets and trade. We undertake research on how corporations – including agribusiness, large retail and the finance industry – displace millions of small-scale food producers and how trade and investment deals impose the legal conditions for it. Apart from our information work, we also support the efforts of partners and peoples’ movements to improve strategies, cooperation and popular action to challenge corporate power, and build capacity with them to achieve this.

 

In June 2017, Amazon, the world’s third largest e-commerce company, announced its acquisition over Whole Foods Market for US$ 13.7 billion. Amazon’s move seems to follow the footsteps of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company that invested US$ 1.25 billion in buying the Chinese online food delivery service Ele.me in late 2015. 

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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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Hundreds of people gathered in Hyderabad, India, between 22 and 26 July 2017, in opposition to the 19th round of negotiations of the 16-nation Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 

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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional trade deal being negotiated among 16 countries across Asia-Pacific. If adopted, RCEP will cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food. RCEP is expected to create powerful new rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. Several RCEP countries are also part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another mega-regional agreement setting some of the most pro-big business terms seen in trade and investment deals so far. While the fate of the TPP is uncertain, these two agreements may have to co-exist and there is pressure to align them on numerous points. What will this mean for food and farmers in the region?

 

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A new report exposes the devastating consequences of land grabs for indigenous communities in Preah Vihear province, in northern Cambodia. The report reveals how Chinese companies, attracted by the Cambodian government to invest in local agro-industry, have been violating the fundamental rights of communities and destroying livelihoods and ecosystems over the past six years. The report is a joint collaboration between Community Network in Action (CNA), Ponlok Khmer, GRAIN, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

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Concerns about food safety and hygiene have underpinned some governments’ decision to ban street vendors and close down fresh markets in recent years. Bangkok’s street vendors are the latest victims of this ban as the city government announced it will clean out all street vendors by the end of 2017.

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Asia’s rapid economic growth and industrialisation are coming at an extremely high price for local communities, their environments and economies. Across the region, ‘development’ is characterized by large-scale investment, at the heart of which are the control and exploitation of land, forests, water, nature, minerals and labour. An article by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South in the latest issue of the World Rainforest Movement Bulletin.

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Through lobbying, marketing, and proselytizing about cheap meat, the global meat industry is working hard to keep industrially produced meat on the menu, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

 

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The latest edition of the Nyeleni newsletter is about so called free trade agreements and agriculture. GRAIN and bilaterals.org helped to pull this issue together. It analyses a number of prominent trade deals and the public resistance against them, and highlights testimonies from different struggles around the world.

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Corporations are trying to secure their profits in the high-stakes business of global farming. But unlike farmers, global food and agriculture companies have multiple resources at their disposal, which act as a safety net in the face of agriculture’s many inherent risks. One such resource is the World Economic Forum (WEF), which plays a critical role in helping corporations maintain and increase their profit margins.

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