54 Agribusiness Mega-Mergers’ Threat to World Food Security

Updates, Scenarios and How CFS can Respond

Organizers

  • Civil Society Mechanism
  • ETC Group

Abstract

Since the last CFS, consolidation in the Global Food Chain has been increasing and diversifying, with the most recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon. The three mega-mergers in seed and agrochemical are still under review by anti-competition regulatory authorities around the world. If they go through, it will allow only three companies to control 60% of global commercial seed sales and 71% of pesticide sales. The impact of the mega-mergers on developing countries – and smallholder producers – are not likely to be considered in either the home countries or major markets of the companies involved. The only opportunity that most countries and farmers will have to examine and express their views of the mergers and the potential threat to food security is through the Committee on World Food Security.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Opening Remarks:  H.E. Ambassador Amira Gornass, CFS Chair and Permanent Representative of the Sudan to the UN Agencies in Rome

Presenters:

  • Olivia Yambi, Co-Chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)
  • Pat Mooney, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group)
  • Reactors:
  • H.E. Hinrich Thölken, Ambassador of Germany, Permanent Representative to the UN Agencies in Rome
  • Ramona Duminicioiu,  La Via Campesina
  • Closing Comments:  Neth Daño, ETC Group, Philippines
  • Moderator:  Martin Drago, REDES, Civil Society Mechanism (CSM)

Summary

  • Current state of agribusiness concentration
  • Potential impacts on world food security
  • Possible responses at the national and global levels

Corporate concentration in the food and agriculture sector in the past three years has reached unprecedented level, requiring serious attention at the national and global levels. The CFS Chair challenged the inclusive intergovernmental platform to go out of its comfort zone and discuss controversial issues and find solutions to complex issues such as agribusiness mega-mergers.

“Too Big to Feed” is the third thematic report of IPES-Food as part of its analysis of key challenges and lock-ins in the global food systems. Pat Mooney, the primary author of the report, presented the state of recent corporate concentration and future prospects in seeds, agrichemicals, food retail and agricultural machinery sectors.  The current mergers are driven by control over Big Data and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, genome editing, etc. Big Data on seed genomics and managing DNA allows corporations to manage large amount of information, to develop algorithms for breeding crops and to customize chemical inputs to control pests and diseases.  This and maneuvers of finance companies are changing the configuration of the “Big Six” in seeds and agrichemicals, with the interest of giant agricultural machinery corporations that control the “box” that holds vital information on farms looming large in the horizon.

The German Ambassador subscribes that market concentration results to increase in prices, lowers consumer satisfaction and decreases drive for innovation, but trusts that competent authorities in relevant countries will address these concerns.  He agrees to have a very close look at market concentration globally and that a debate on this is timely and sees a role for the CFS in it. La Via Campesina stressed the role of peasants in the food system and the lack of recognition of peasant rights in contrast to the prominence of rights of corporation despite their more recent role in the global food system.  ETC Group presented data that peasants feed at least 70% of world population while industrial food chain only feeds less than 30% but use 75% of productive resources and cause costly damages to the environment and people.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Improve the capacity of governments and intergovernmental institutions to monitor corporate mergers and implications to world food security and to interfere when necessary.

Review and update competition policies at the national level to include potential impacts of proposed corporate mergers on the environment, consumers and livelihoods as key considerations.

Start a process towards an international treaty on competition to provide a global regulatory framework on corporate mergers that have cross-border implications.

Link the contribution of corporate actors to the 2030 Agenda and make them accountable for the impacts of their activities on the environment, health and livelihood.

For the CFS to look into ongoing deliberations on a charter for peasant rights at the UN Human Rights Council.

Develop the capacity of intergovernmental institutions, governments, civil society and social movements to evaluate the potential impacts of new technologies on the environment, livelihood and society.

Side Event - 54 - Agribusiness Mega-Mergers’ Threat to World Food Security