Our Global Food System

To many of us who live in industrialised cities, farming seems like an anachronistic way of life. Food comes from supermarket shelves, not from seeds, soil and human labor. And yet, despite the global economic and political pressures on small- and medium-scale farmers, 70 percent of the world’s population still earns a living by producing food.

Agribusiness is a term used to describe a global industry that is involved in all aspects of food production, processing and distribution. Some agribusiness companies sell seeds, machinery, fertilizers and pesticides; others process and transport grains; some convert raw materials into processed foods; and several companies have a hand in every step. In recent decades, there has been a rapid consolidation of agribusiness companies that sell seeds and fertilizers and those that buy, sell and transport grain.

The increasing concentration and expansion of the global agribusiness industry poses a threat to food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right of individuals, communities and countries to define their own food, agriculture, fishing, labor and land policies. Biodiversity, sustainable food production, and the livelihoods of small family farmers are also threatened as agribusiness consolidates more power.

You can see two versions of our ‘work in progress’ Who Controls our Food chart which explores the companies who are main players here in Australia and in the global sphere. V 1V 2 (flash).  Please note these have not been updated since 2011.

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Food Sovereignty – what can you do?

alternativesIn the light of this daunting trend of corporate concentration, it is worth noting that 85 per cent of global food is still consumed close to where it is grown — much of it outside the formal market system. Three-quarters of the world’s farmers still routinely save seed from their harvest and grow locally-bred varieties.

Food sovereignty is the right of individuals, communities and countries to define their own food, agriculture, fishing, labor and land policies. Powerful movements around the world are fighting to make food sovereignty a basic human right.

“There is vast and growing resistance to the dislocation and devastation caused by the agro-industrial food system. In the global struggle for Food Sovereignty, the playing field isn’t level, but the scope of resistance is massive – peasant farmers, fisher people, pastoralists and allied civil society and social movements are fighting for locally controlled and socially just food and health systems.”

Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group

Campaigns combined with consumer action are a powerful tool for bringing about corporate responsibility. Recent victories include Nestlé, General Mills, Unilever and Kraft (now Mondelez) pledging to clean up their palm oil supply chains, and Kimberly-Clark promising to reduce its use of native forest pulp in their products.

» You can become an online activist. Sign petitions and write to companies asking them to stop exploitative practices. See our Campaigns page to get involved.

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