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article imageAre farming super-mergers affecting food security?

By Tim Sandle     Oct 16, 2016 in Environment
According to one environmentalist, proposed deals could put the majority of seeds, chemicals and genetically modified traits into the hands of just three companies. The effect would deepen poverty for small-scale farmers.
Writing in The Guardian, John Vidal (the newspaper’s environment editor) assesses the state of global agri-business. In this review of trends, Vidal notes that currently seven global agri-food businesses operate the world market for seeds and chemicals.
Whereas this situation might be seen as limiting competition the future looks bleaker. In front of European Union and U.S. regulators are plans for a series of so-called “mega-mergers” to take place. The net effect, Vidal explains, would be “just three companies will be left in control of nearly 60 percent of the world’s seeds, nearly 70 percent of the chemicals and pesticides needed to grow food and nearly all of the world’s GM crop genetic traits.”
The deals on the table are:
A $66 billion takeover of the U.S. seed, chemical and biotech company Monsanto by German company Bayer.
The proposal by the U.S. chemical company Dow to merge with the chemical conglomerate DuPont.
ChemChina’s plan to buy the large Swiss seed and gene group Syngenta (valued at $43 billion).
To add to the above, several fertilizer companies are in merger discussions and companies that make farming equipment are also coming together. Such mergers signify a reduction in competition and diversity.
At risk here is food security. Food security is an internationally recognized condition related to the supply of food, and individuals' access to it. This involves the complexities of food production and the global supply chain.
Worried by these moves, various consumer, environment and anti-trust groups, such as the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, argue that such mega deals will “concentrate political and financial power dangerously”, as well as forcing “more countries to adopt a single model of farming that excludes or impoverishes small farmers.”
Campaign groups hope to take these issues to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s committee, which is set to debate global food security this month.
In related food security news, Lee Rybeck Lynd from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth (U.K.) has raised new concerns about the use of these crops for biofuel production rather than food and the effect this has on impoverishing parts of the world where food supplies are already scarce, and acting as a block to self-sufficiency.
More about Food security, superfarms, Farms, Farming, agribusiness
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