The latest from GRAIN

New trade deals legalise corporate theft, make farmers’ seeds illegal

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". 

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". 

Agribusiness, a step towards increased food dependency in Africa

The village of Yalifombo, on the banks of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was an essentially agricultural community. In this village it is possible to observe how the local economy, which revolved around traditional cultivation of oil palm, has collapsed from the dramatic increase in industrial plantations. Throughout the Congo Basin sub-region, whether in Mundemba (Cameroon) or Mboma (Gabon), we see agribusiness increasingly competing with local agricultural economies. The system that certain public policies promote today is destroying systems that have been beneficial to peasant communities for a long time.

The village of Yalifombo, on the banks of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was an essentially agricultural community. In this village it is possible to observe how the local economy, which revolved around traditional cultivation of oil palm, has collapsed from the dramatic increase in industrial plantations. Throughout the Congo Basin sub-region, whether in Mundemba (Cameroon) or Mboma (Gabon), we see agribusiness increasingly competing with local agricultural economies. The system that certain public policies promote today is destroying systems that have been beneficial to peasant communities for a long time.

DRC: Communities mobilise to free themselves from a hundred years of colonial oil palm plantations

When the European colonizers invaded Central and West Africa during the nineteenth century, they came to understand (in a very narrow way) the possible wealth that could be generated from oil palm cultivation. They began taking over the local people’s large oil palm groves and tearing down forests to set up plantations. One of the pioneers of this effort was Britain’s Lord Leverhulme, who, through a campaign of terror against the local people, took over community palm groves and turned vast swathes of the Congo’s forests into slave plantations. His company’s oil palm plantations would eventually expand throughout West and Central Africa and then to Southeast Asia, and provide the foundation for the multinational corporation Unilever, one of the world’s largest food companies.

When the European colonizers invaded Central and West Africa during the nineteenth century, they came to understand (in a very narrow way) the possible wealth that could be generated from oil palm cultivation. They began taking over the local people’s large oil palm groves and tearing down forests to set up plantations. One of the pioneers of this effort was Britain’s Lord Leverhulme, who, through a campaign of terror against the local people, took over community palm groves and turned vast swathes of the Congo’s forests into slave plantations. His company’s oil palm plantations would eventually expand throughout West and Central Africa and then to Southeast Asia, and provide the foundation for the multinational corporation Unilever, one of the world’s largest food companies.

Land grabs expand the frontier of industrial agriculture, says GRAIN in new research

In 2015, the planet reached “alarming” and “unprecedented” rates of climate change, according to the United Nations—and 2016 is set to be another record-breaking year. Severe droughts, for example, triggered devastating food and water shortages in India, the Pacific and Eastern and Southern Africa. But another factor, notes the organisation GRAIN, is amplifying both climate change and its impacts: the persistent and deepening scourge of land grabbing. Building on 2008 research that helped put land grabbing in the global spotlight, GRAIN’s new dataset documents nearly 500 current land grab deals across the globe. The cases span 78 countries, around US$94 billion in farmland investments and over 30 million hectares (an area roughly the size of Finland).

In 2015, the planet reached “alarming” and “unprecedented” rates of climate change, according to the United Nations—and 2016 is set to be another record-breaking year. Severe droughts, for example, triggered devastating food and water shortages in India, the Pacific and Eastern and Southern Africa. But another factor, notes the organisation GRAIN, is amplifying both climate change and its impacts: the persistent and deepening scourge of land grabbing. Building on 2008 research that helped put land grabbing in the global spotlight, GRAIN’s new dataset documents nearly 500 current land grab deals across the globe. The cases span 78 countries, around US$94 billion in farmland investments and over 30 million hectares (an area roughly the size of Finland).

The global farmland grab in 2016: how big, how bad?

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.

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.

ADM’s offshore links to Wilmar, world’s worst environmental offender

The Panama Papers leak has focused global attention on tax havens. While most of the initial stories have been about politicians, attention is slowly turning to corporations, by far the biggest users of tax havens. The top 50 US corporations alone are said to have hidden about US$1.4 trillion in tax havens. Food companies like Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM) and Wilmar are heavy users of offshore company structures.

The Panama Papers leak has focused global attention on tax havens. While most of the initial stories have been about politicians, attention is slowly turning to corporations, by far the biggest users of tax havens. The top 50 US corporations alone are said to have hidden about US$1.4 trillion in tax havens. Food companies like Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM) and Wilmar are heavy users of offshore company structures.

Protesters occupy Bolloré shareholder meeting in Paris over African land grabs

On Friday 3 June, African citizens, organisations and unions will disrupt the shareholder meeting of the Bolloré group at its headquarters in Puteaux, just outside of Paris, France. The protestors represent a movement composed of thousands of farmers who have been displaced from their lands by industrial oil palm and rubber plantations. Since Wednesday, this movement has also been occupying factories and plantations in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  

On Friday 3 June, African citizens, organisations and unions will disrupt the shareholder meeting of the Bolloré group at its headquarters in Puteaux, just outside of Paris, France. The protestors represent a movement composed of thousands of farmers who have been displaced from their lands by industrial oil palm and rubber plantations. Since Wednesday, this movement has also been occupying factories and plantations in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  

“SOCFIN shareholders: stop land grabbing!” Citizens demand that SOCFIN respect the rights of local communities

On Wednesday 1 June at 10:00 CET, citizens and representatives of Belgian, French and Luxembourgish organisations are calling out to the shareholders of SOCFIN, a Belgian-Luxembourgish group, during their annual meeting. They have carried out a protest action in solidarity with communities in Africa and Asia affected by the agroindustrial company’s land grabs. After several attempts to reach out to the company’s management, the groups and citizens are now calling on the company’s shareholders to respect the fundamental rights, including land rights, of the local communities. Similar actions have also been held  by the communities in several of the group’s plantations.

On Wednesday 1 June at 10:00 CET, citizens and representatives of Belgian, French and Luxembourgish organisations are calling out to the shareholders of SOCFIN, a Belgian-Luxembourgish group, during their annual meeting. They have carried out a protest action in solidarity with communities in Africa and Asia affected by the agroindustrial company’s land grabs. After several attempts to reach out to the company’s management, the groups and citizens are now calling on the company’s shareholders to respect the fundamental rights, including land rights, of the local communities. Similar actions have also been held  by the communities in several of the group’s plantations.

New leaked chapter of Asia trade deal shows RCEP will undercut farmers’ control over seeds

Ever since the ink dried on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), people have become aware of another mega-trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors in the Asia-Pacific region. Like the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) threatens to increase corporate power in member countries, leaving ordinary people with little recourse to assert their rights to things like land, safe food, life-saving medicines and seeds.

Ever since the ink dried on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), people have become aware of another mega-trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors in the Asia-Pacific region. Like the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) threatens to increase corporate power in member countries, leaving ordinary people with little recourse to assert their rights to things like land, safe food, life-saving medicines and seeds.

West African women defend traditional palm oil

A new video provides a window onto the reality of women-led artisanal palm oil production, a reality often rendered invisible in narratives of global industrial palm oil. This model is under threat by the rapid advance of industrial plantations, free trade agreements and corporate-controlled value chains at the expense of community-based food systems.  

A new video provides a window onto the reality of women-led artisanal palm oil production, a reality often rendered invisible in narratives of global industrial palm oil. This model is under threat by the rapid advance of industrial plantations, free trade agreements and corporate-controlled value chains at the expense of community-based food systems.  

The Mama Pasar movement in Merauke, Indonesia: claiming space for indigenous women small traders

Numerous Papua indigenous women travel daily from surrounding areas, bringing vegetables, fish and forest products to sell in the town of Merauke. But they face difficulties due to the other traders who do not wish to give them space to trade in the markets. In 2013, the Advocacy Group for Women (eL_AdPPer) and the Secretariat for Justice and Peace of Merauke’s archdiocese (SKP KAME) started to organise and advocate for these women.

Numerous Papua indigenous women travel daily from surrounding areas, bringing vegetables, fish and forest products to sell in the town of Merauke. But they face difficulties due to the other traders who do not wish to give them space to trade in the markets. In 2013, the Advocacy Group for Women (eL_AdPPer) and the Secretariat for Justice and Peace of Merauke’s archdiocese (SKP KAME) started to organise and advocate for these women.

GRAIN in 2015: highlights of our activities

2015 was a prolific year for GRAIN. We produced a large number of high impact research reports and databases that became reference points for many groups and individuals working on land, food, seed and climate-related issues—including many who don't necessarily agree with us. At the same time, we worked with partners on the ground, supporting their capacity and strategy building efforts and helping to mobilise international solidarity for their causes. We look forward to another great year of work helping to build stronger movements for diverse, community-based food systems around the world. 

2015 was a prolific year for GRAIN. We produced a large number of high impact research reports and databases that became reference points for many groups and individuals working on land, food, seed and climate-related issues—including many who don't necessarily agree with us. At the same time, we worked with partners on the ground, supporting their capacity and strategy building efforts and helping to mobilise international solidarity for their causes. We look forward to another great year of work helping to build stronger movements for diverse, community-based food systems around the world. 

Mundemba declaration and statement of solidarity: women, communities say NO to oil palm expansion

We are 40 participants who have united in Mundemba, Cameroon, for an international workshop on the tactics and strategies of oil palm companies, from 28 to 31 January 2016. We have gathered to share our experiences from Cameroon, West and Central Africa, Asia and South America, and to understand the realities of the local communities in Ndian Division, Southwest Region of Cameroon. We share the concerns of local communities regarding the growing interest in community land for corporate oil palm plantations.   

We are 40 participants who have united in Mundemba, Cameroon, for an international workshop on the tactics and strategies of oil palm companies, from 28 to 31 January 2016. We have gathered to share our experiences from Cameroon, West and Central Africa, Asia and South America, and to understand the realities of the local communities in Ndian Division, Southwest Region of Cameroon. We share the concerns of local communities regarding the growing interest in community land for corporate oil palm plantations.   

Growing organic produce in China's emerging e-commerce supply chain

Hundreds of greenhouses stretch as far as you can see in Shunyi district, on the outskirts of Beijing. It is winter time and snow is falling heavily but inside the greenhouses you can see rows of tomatoes, eggplants and other types of summer vegetables. These new greenhouses are part of China's strategy for feeding its growing urban population.

Hundreds of greenhouses stretch as far as you can see in Shunyi district, on the outskirts of Beijing. It is winter time and snow is falling heavily but inside the greenhouses you can see rows of tomatoes, eggplants and other types of summer vegetables. These new greenhouses are part of China's strategy for feeding its growing urban population.

Stop the criminalization of environmental and human rights defenders! Free Ethiopian political prisoners!

One year after their arrest on 15 March 2015, three food, land, and human rights defenders continue to languish in an Ethiopian jail. After several court hearings, the prosecution has yet to present any evidence to support the spurious charge of “terrorism” under Ethiopia’s controversial counterterrorism law. A 1 March hearing was once again adjourned and rescheduled for 15 March, due to the failure of witnesses to appear in court. 

One year after their arrest on 15 March 2015, three food, land, and human rights defenders continue to languish in an Ethiopian jail. After several court hearings, the prosecution has yet to present any evidence to support the spurious charge of “terrorism” under Ethiopia’s controversial counterterrorism law. A 1 March hearing was once again adjourned and rescheduled for 15 March, due to the failure of witnesses to appear in court.