Thursday 23 August 2012

Call to reverse farmland investment

A couple of months ago I said I had moral qualms about the trend towards agricultural investment.

Now there's an article from the same site (, looking at proposals to regulate the process somehow.

The writer doesn't buy it:

... the rules are always about making the project work for the investor. Local communities, soils, watersheds, local labour markets and even the domestic food security situation in the host country are treated as risk factors that need to be mitigated. The objective is to manage costs, including those connected to reputational risks, to ensure an acceptable return. The rules for responsible farmland investment are thus for the investor, for whom taking care of the fallout for local people becomes another cost of doing business -- and one that companies can make profits from to boot.

... Other sectors where this has been tried out -- sustainable cotton, sustainable soy, responsible palm oil, timber, banking and whatnot -- have a profoundly blotted track record.

... What we need is not responsible farmland investment, but divestment. By this we mean that rather than trying to make this new trend of financialising farmland work, these deals need to be stopped and undone, with the lands restituted to the communities that lived from them. And instead of promoting the growth of industrial agriculture, we need to strengthen family- and community-based food sovereignty approaches, across the world. Initiatives are being taken in these directions, aiming to choke capital flows into firms with a history of land grabbing or into funds specifically set up to peddle rights to farmland, bolstered by advocacy and political pressure to support small-scale family-based farming systems and local markets. While it is a huge and uphill battle, it's clear that we need to stop the financing of land grabs, not make it responsible.

Again and again, I feel that Big Corporation is not an alternative to Big Brother. For example, it's not so very long since Monsanto was trying for a scheme that would have economically enslaved farmers across the world: the "terminator gene" project, finally halted (or is it finally?) in 1999.

Lovers of liberty need to look over their right shoulder as well as their left.

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