A team from Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) recently produced the “Power in Agriculture” report for this year’s Oxford Farming Conference. The report details the distribution of power in the agricultural sector in terms of economics, demographics, politics and natural resources.
The report says ongoing consolidation through takeovers and mergers has seen trans-national corporations becoming increasingly dominant in every aspect of the agricultural supply chain.
Some findings from the report:
- Four companies account for somewhere between 75% and 90% of the global grain trade
- 10 companies have captured over 40% of the global retail market
- Just seven companies control virtually all fertiliser supply
- Five companies share over two-thirds f the world’s agrochemical market
- Three companies control almost half of the proprietary seeds market
… and in some cases, the same companies feature in more than one of the above.
It’s a risky business allowing so few companies to control so much of the nature and quality of our sustenance and consequently, related environmental impact.
All that money, all that control over markets being so concentrated also creeps into politics and how we are governed says the report. Trans-national corporations spend big on lobbying activities to try to ensure that political power is used to support business interests.
“At the corporate level, examples of political power may be the use of a corporate entity’s political connections to influence public policy decisions, e.g. a ban of Genetically Modified (GM) foods.”
Buying organic, buying fair trade, using heritage and heirloom seeds to grow your own vegetables, questioning the safety of and resisting genetically modified crops all help to claw back a little of the power and control over the future of food and our planet.
How it will all pan out though is anyone’s guess – it’s really now become a David vs. Goliath battle.
You can read the full Power in Agriculture report here (PDF).