G7 and the corporate agenda in food systems

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The world’s most powerful nations are bent on perpetuating hunger and inequality by accelerating plunder & destruction of the planet. Rural peoples struggle to break free from their imperialist grip.

PAN Asia Pacific

Before the G7 Hiroshima Summit in Japan on May 19-21, the group held several ministerial meetings, including an Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on April 22-23.

The International Group of Seven or G7 is an intergovernmental political forum comprising the traditional centres of global monopoly capitalism – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).

Their annual summit is a high-profile venue where these powerful countries discuss and coordinate their actions on major global issues. Ministerial meetings are organised to lead discussions and build unity among G7 members on a range of issues before the actual summit.

Thus, to understand the agenda of the G7 on the issue of food and agriculture, one must look at the outcomes of their Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting. These outcomes are summarised in the “2023 G7 Agriculture Ministers’ Communiqué”and its annex, “Miyazaki Actions”.

It must be noted how, in these documents, the G7 framed what is causing the global food crisis today and, in the process, extricated from accountability their big agribusiness corporations and the agri-food programs and policies they imposed on the world.

First, they blamed, in their words, the “illegal, unprovoked, and unjustified” Russian invasion of Ukraine for its devastating impact on global food security. While there is something to be said about the real roots of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the G7’s role, especially of the US, hunger and food insecurity have already been worsening under neoliberal agri-food restructuring that the G7 countries and the institutions they control perpetrated in the past four decades.

Second, the G7 noted the longer-term challenges facing global food security, particularly climate change and biodiversity loss. Again, like the wars and conflicts and neoliberal globalisation that the G7 countries inflict upon the world for their imperialist agenda, the climate crisis and destruction of the planet are mainly due to the wanton plunder of the earth’s resources by the monopoly corporations driving the G7 economies.

For obvious reasons, the G7’s agriculture ministers, representing big agribusiness interests and the finance oligarchs that bankroll them, will not look at the global food crisis from the lens of the plundered, impoverished, and ruined communities. Thus, predictably, the actions the G7 vowed to undertake would expand and consolidate corporate monopoly control over global food systems, perpetuating hunger and food insecurity, the climate crisis, and biodiversity destruction.

The G7, for instance, emphasised the need to achieve more resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems through, among others, building on the results of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 (UNFSS). Rural peoples’ movements and food sovereignty advocates have roundly criticised the UNFSS for peddling the corporate agenda in food systems, the same policy direction the G7 is also pursuing, as evidenced in their agriculture ministerial meeting outcomes.

In their communiqué, the G7 agriculture ministers reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to food and agriculture liberalisation under the World Trade Organization (WTO), supposedly for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food security and sustainability.

Established through the efforts of G7 countries and their monopoly corporations, the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) systematically dismantled the capacity of many poor countries to produce food for their people’s needs.

Based on Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data, the food trade deficit of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) has increased seven-fold under the WTO (1995 to 2020).In the past 25 years, the LDCs’ food trade deficit has grown by almost 10% annually.  This indicates how the poorest nations have become too reliant on food imports at the expense of their food security. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa imports 85% of its food requirements.

The neoliberal restructuring of food and agriculture under the WTO and other imperialist schemes, such as agriculture Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), have perennially underpinned food insecurity in the Global South, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the ever-worsening climate crisis.

Taking a cue from the UNFSS and other global platforms dominated by the G7’s corporate monopoly interests, like the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its New Vision for Agriculture, the G7 agriculture ministers doubled down on selling the false narrative that the key to transforming food systems amid the climate crisis necessitates innovation and investment led by the corporate sector.

Several big business innovations and investments that the G7 specifically endorsed, such as nature-based solutions (NBS) and agriculture digitalisation, are causing further displacements and marginalisation in rural communities worldwide. While promoted as climate actions, NBS projects and investments are, in fact, land grabbing in nature’s name. Digitalisation, meanwhile, is a more high-tech way of expanding and consolidating corporate monopoly control over agri-food systems, with the world’s largest technology firms conniving with agribusiness.

The G7, as a collective of the world’s leading imperialist powers, will actively push for a further multistakeholder global governance approach to food systems transformation, like how the UNFSS was conceived and implemented. Part of the communiqué read –

“There exists a growing momentum in the private sector to contribute to the transformation of agriculture and food systems. We need to catalyse this momentum, and we commit to further enhance collaboration between the government, the private sector, farmers, and all other actors… encourage the private sector’s involvement with its knowledge and expertise in the local communities’ efforts towards the transformation of their agriculture and food systems.” 

Such a multistakeholder scheme further erodes the sovereignty of nations and peoples to determine their food systems while legitimising corporate monopolies’ increased role and influence in global governance bodies like the UN. When left unexposed and unchallenged, this will give big business even greater powers to determine the world’s development and future at the expense of the people and planet.

But there is hope as peoples’ movements, food sovereignty advocates, climate justice activists, and others fight back to counter the imperialist agenda in agri-food systems.

From the Global People’s Summit for Just, Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Food Systems to the Global Peoples’ Caravan for Food, Land, and Climate Justice, communities and movements of landless peasants, small farmers, indigenous peoples, poor fisherfolk, rural women and youth and other rural sectors, and those who support their rights and demands continue to mobilise and build solidarity for their shared struggles. (https://www.bulatlat.org)

Arnold Padilla is the coordinator of the Food Sovereignty program of PAN Asia Pacific

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