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Trade agreements block agroecology and food sovereignty, report finds

Trade Trade deals favour agribusiness - not agroecology (Photo: CC0)

The current trade and investment framework blocks the development of agroecology and food sovereignty by promoting and cementing the agribusiness model, says a new report released by Friends of the Earth International. The report finds that also the agreements currently under negotiation, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as some major aid programmes, undermine the sovereignty of states and hinder their ability to develop their own agricultural economies and food sovereignty. According to the authors, the main reason is profit: The objective of trade and investment agreements is to attract agribusiness investments and to generate profits by opening up new markets for agribusiness. This means that trade and investment deals include clauses to protect agribusiness’ profits, even when this comes at the cost of states and peoples welfare. “Agribusinesses are using the smokescreen of investment to rip apart domestic food security strategies as well as social and environmental regulations. In their obscene pursuit of profit, agribusinesses could even claim millions in compensation when States try to stop land grabbing or keep seeds free for farmers,” said Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Programme Coordinator for Food Sovereignty at Friends of the Earth International. In an article for The Ecologist, Chandrasekaran names public health as another example: Mexico, for instance, tried to tax high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sweetener linked with obesity, that was being dumped on the Mexican market by US agribusiness giant Cargill. She said the tax helped safeguard the Mexican cane sugar industry and thousands of jobs but Cargill challenged the measure under an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) for violating several provisions of the NAFTA trade agreement and won US$90.7 million. The report warns that under the TTIP agreement, which is currently being negotiated between the US and the EU, laws that make sure food is safe or that minimise the risk to people or the planet could be compromised if the deal goes ahead. Friend of the Earth points out that EU food production and many of the laws in Europe are stricter than in the US. However, “big business wants food products currently banned in the EU, but on sale in America, to automatically be allowed in Europe through TTIP”, warns the report. Martin Drago, Programme Coordinator for Food Sovereignty at Friends of the Earth International, highlights that trade and investment agreements are limiting the ability of states to promote and introduce sovereign domestic policies targeted at improving food security. “Its flies in the face of logic that trade and investment agreements prevent States from implementing policies intended to feed their people such as public stockholding or minimum prices.” An example cited in the report is that TPP would open up public procurement to foreign investors and forbid local food sourcing although the industrial food system is responsible for a huge share of greenhouse gas emissions largely due to intensive farming and emissions from transporting food around the globe. According to Drago, courageous state interventions are needed if we want to stop global warming and eradicate hunger. “We need to stand up to agribusiness control over our food and farming.” (ab)

Read our summaries of the main topics.

The Original Report

Agriculture at a Crossroads
The original version of the full report, five regional reports and the Synthesis Report in English, with a feature that allows you to make comments and/or add important information.


Donors of globalagriculture Heidehof Stiftung
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version