A core problem of the industrial and increasingly globalised food system is the concentration of power in the hands of a few transnational corporations (TNCs). This has resulted in their boundless influence over consumer decisions and public policies, and increased exploitation of nature, food producers and workers. It has also created a huge imbalance between the scale of incentives and subsidies received by agribusiness and those received by the billions of small-scale food producers.
TNCs have strong control over every part of the agrifood system, with sales of commercial seeds, pesticides and fertilisers controlled by corporate oligopolies, along with food trade, distribution and retail. Mega-mergers and acquisitions since the 1980s have led to this unprecedented concentration of power, and now TNCs are finding new avenues to further boost their power and control of profits. These include:
- Direct participation in UN decision-making processes, moving from ‘multilateral’ policy-making led by States, to ‘multistakeholderism’, a parallel decision-making structure in which TNCs and philanthropic foundations rule.
- Financialisation, digitalisation, and new digital technologies and algorithmic processing of big data.
- Greenwashing the agro-industrial model by co-opting peoples’ solutions to the food crisis, and turning them in to false solutions, such as ‘Nature Based Solutions’.
The concentration of corporate power is a major obstacle to achieving agroecology and Food Sovereignty. Friends of the Earth International is fighting to dismantle corporate power in the food system, fighting the corporate capture of agroecology and food system governance, and lobbying for a legally binding international treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.