Photo: Dr. AgPhoto: Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Rwanda's Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources from 2008 to 2014. Source: IFDC Website - Photo: 2020

How Agri-Business Corporations Influence UN Institutions

Viewpoint by Anuradha Mittal

The writer is the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute.

SAN FRANCISCO (IDN) – As Dr. Agnes Kalibata arrived in Rome on February 10, 2020 to meet with Dr. QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), her appointment as the UN Secretary-General Guterres’ Special Envoy to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit was rejected by over 175 civil society organizations from 83 countries.

By 2021, when the UN summit will take place, an estimated one billion people will be suffering from chronic undernourishment while climate crisis is already the defining issue of the century.

While strong political will is urgently needed to tackle this human made disaster, the appointment of Dr. Kalibata – President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – to lead, prepare, and design the Summit, hijacks yet another global forum to promote fossil-fuel based corporate industrial agriculture.

In order to measure the implications of this capture of a UN Food Summit by AGRA, it is essential to look at the history of the organization.

Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, AGRA has worked since its inception in 2006 to open up Africa—seen as an untapped market for corporate monopolies controlling commercial seeds, genetically modified crops, fossil fuel-heavy synthetic fertilizers and polluting pesticides.

Willfully ignoring the past failures of the Green Revolution and industrial agriculture, AGRA continues to promote the same – orienting farmers into global value chains for the export of cash crop commodities.

Its finance-intensive and high input agricultural model is dependent on constant subsidy, which is drawn from increasingly scarce public resources. Furthermore, AGRA’s model of fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture is laying waste to the environment.

Synthetic fertilizers are responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen from these fertilizers is poorly absorbed by plants, and subsequently leaches into water systems and escapes into the atmosphere in the form of nitrous oxide. Long distance transport adds carbon emissions.

As industrial monoculture plantations spread, family farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous communities, who are the stewards of the land and guardians of agricultural biodiversity, are marginalized and forced off their land.

It is not a coincidence that Dr. Kalibata also serves on the board of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). AGRA is after all a mouth-piece of agro-industrial corporations and their shareholders.

The influence of agri-business corporations over United Nations institutions has been growing in recent years. Speaking at the informal briefing to Member States, organized in Rome for Dr. Kalibata, FAO Director General Dr. QU Dongyu emphasized the imperative of strengthening partnerships with the private sector, describing it as “the most powerful engine of innovation and investment for food systems transformation.”

Dr. QU Dongyu seems to forget that the first investors and private actors in agriculture are the farmers themselves. FAO’s own data show that “Family farms occupy around 70-80 percent of farmland and produce more than 80 percent of the world’s food in value terms.”

In the face of climate crisis, Dr. QU Dongyu ignores that “family farmers preserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystems, and use production methods that can help reduce or avert the risks of climate change.”

And that according to FAO itself, “family farmers ensure the succession of knowledge and tradition from generation to generation, and promote social equity and community well-being.”

In the face of growing hunger amidst plenty and abundant scientific evidence, priority of any food summit should be to organize the transition of agriculture to a model of food production that reduces carbon emissions, soil degradation, and conserve biodiversity.

This requires a rapid shift from corporate-dominated industrial agriculture to family farms working in harmony with nature and maintaining diverse ecosystems.

Appointment of a wrong candidate to lead the UN Food Systems Summit is a deliberate attempt to silence the farmers of the world who feed, nurture, and protect the planet.

AGRA’s takeover of the summit will fuel global hunger and further compound the climate crisis.

Read the call to revoke AGRA’s Agnes Kalibata As Special Envoy to 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 February 2020]

Photo: Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources from 2008 to 2014. Source: IFDC Website

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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