Food security campaigners, gathered over the weekend in Penang for the Pesticide Action Network’s 25th anniversary, say they are more concerned than ever that farmers are becoming dependent on large multinational corporations.
Concern is being expressed over the predatory nature of corporate agriculture and its approaches to control the entire food production chain and in pressuring farmers to produce genetically engineered crops.
Pesticide Action Network brings together more than 600 participating non-governmental organizations, institutions and individuals from over 90 countries who are working to phase out hazardous pesticides and encourage ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.
Campaigners say one of the biggest challenges they face is the corporate takeover of agriculture through a process of ‘vertical integration’. This process aims to take over the entire food production cycle – from the development of proprietary strains of DNA, to the sale of seeds right through to the distribution and retain sale of food products.
Vertical integration is said to restructure the production process and lead to monocultures. Production and market arrangements see self-sufficient family farms and individual livelihoods become increasingly integrated and dependent on corporations.
Javier Souza Casadinho, of the Centre for Studies on Appropriate Technologies in Argentina, is deeply worried about vertical integration and recent developments in which just a few large companies are controlling the Argentinean market. The transnational companies, “are also entering into contracts with food producers (farmers) that will determine what is produced, how it is produced, for whom it is produced and at what price and quality,” Casadinho said.
Activists say new strategies are needed to counter these changing power structures. ”Adapting sustainable/organic farming systems is necessary to stop the dependence on TNCs for inputs and regain control over the seeds and technology,” said Rafael Mariano, the national chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a nationwide federation of Philippine organizations of peasants, small farmers and farm workers and subsistence fisherfolk.