The future planned by agribusiness giants could accelerate the environmental breakdown and jeopardize the food security of billions, according to a new report by IPES-Food and ETC Group.
“We are facing a corporate tidal wave. In only six months’ time, the UN Food Systems Summit could rubber-stamp changes that force millions of people off the land and put our food security at the mercy of high-risk big data and AI-controlled farming,” warned lead author Pat Mooney.
“But farmers, food workers and their allies are mobilizing in new ways to defend their spaces and livelihoods. In fact, the Summit could spark a quarter-century of food system transformation – a “long food movement”.”
The study warns of specific threats to farming and food security if agribusiness plans come to fruition:
- AI is re-engineering ecosystems, and robotic tractors and drones are being rolled out as fast as digital infrastructures allow. Millions of rural dwellers will be forced to migrate to urban areas.
- Food – and now food data – are valuable strategic assets. A new wave of land, ocean, and resource grabs is imminent.
- Powerful corporations and major governments are now moving to control food supplies across vast economic corridors. Long, complex global supply chains will be more vulnerable to pandemics, climate change, and critical ‘chokepoints’.
- ‘Hyper-nudging’ is on the rise. Data from everyday transactions (digital wallets to automated food services) is increasingly combined with information harvested online to manipulate people’s eating habits in unprecedented ways.
“The keys of the food system are being handed over to data platforms, private equity firms, and e-commerce giants. This is the dystopian future of food and the planet unless civil society fights back,” said Mooney.
Third World Network researcher and report contributor Lim Li Ching, added: “Civil society and social movements must think decades ahead. We must be ready for shocks on the horizon. Neither short-term actions nor long-term planning can wait. That’s why we need a “Long Food Movement”.”
The report lays out a series of strategies for a Long Food Movement to build sustainable food systems over the next 25 years.
It estimates that united, civil society could force a shift of up to USD 4 trillion from the industrial food chain to food sovereignty and agroecology. This includes USD 720 billion in subsidies going to big commodity production and as much as USD 1.6 trillion in healthcare savings from a crackdown on junk food. The sum total of these actions could cut 75% of food system emissions.
Some of the key strategies include:
- Diverting funds from major commodity subsidies, research expenditures and ‘niche’ budget lines to small-scale food producers.
- Supporting short supply chains and territorial markets: By 2045, as much as 50% of food would be sourced from local and regional supply chains. Up to 80% of wealthier populations go flexitarian.
- Levying taxes on junk food, toxins, CO2 and the revenues of multinationals.
- Adopting emergency food security measures that supersede trade and intellectual property rules.
- Ensuring that famine, malnutrition, and environmental degradation are considered criminal violations that can be internationally prosecuted.
- Defending multilateralism by completing reforms of the UN Committee on World Food Security.