Last updated: March 2013
Food, Justice and Corporate Power
The near-collapse of the global economy in 2007 exposed the fragility of our current food production and distribution system. In the years since, as food prices have risen across the world, so too have food riots. In the UK, the number of people using food banks has surged. But not everyone is worse off.
Food Bank in Newcastle, photo credit: Flickr.
A Reuters article in October 2011 declared:
“For the small club of companies who trade the food, fuels and metals that keep the world running, the last decade has been sensational... the global commodities boom has turbo-charged profits at the world’s biggest trading houses... Many amass speculative positions worth billions in raw goods, or hoard commodities in warehouses and super-tankers during periods of tight supply.”(1)
Despite an urgent need that is both moral and economic, governments have spectacularly failed to realign the economy in favour of people and the environment over profits. Meanwhile, the supply of our food becomes ever more concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer companies.
Just five corporations control a staggering 90% of the global grain trade: ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Glencore and Louis Dreyfus.(2) With the exception of ADM, these are not companies that appear in Ethical Consumer product guides because they don’t have consumer-facing brands. But their produce fills supermarket shelves.
In February 2013, Britain was in the middle of a scandal involving the content of packaged meat products. What began as an apparent isolated case of horsemeat in Tesco Value ‘beef’ burgers has gradually evolved into what has been described by the environment secretary as a possible “major international criminal conspiracy”.(3) Unlicensed, unregulated, potentially unsafe meat has been entering the food supply for an unknown amount of time. Something is seriously wrong.
But people are not only fighting for change but living it. In this issue we look at some of the problems and present the grassroots solutions.