Food security set to get worse unless corporate influence confronted

LEADING food systems experts have warned that efforts to tackle growing food insecurity, hunger and climate change are being hampered by deepening influence of giant agri-food corporations over decision-making at international, UN and national levels – while communities most affected by these decisions are excluded from participation.

Who’s Tipping The Scales?, a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), says that “corporations are increasingly shaping UN decisions on food systems, hampering efforts to confront growing food insecurity, hunger and climate change.”

The report was launched as part of this week’s 4th Global Conference of the UN’s One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme in Hanoi. It finds that, “from healthy diet initiatives to high-level advisory bodies and even the conception of UN summits – signs of corporate influence in food systems are now pervasive. It proposes solutions for the UN to reprioritise the voices of communities most in need.”

Sofía Monsalve Suarez, IPES-Food expert and secretary general of FIAN International said “Corporations have long influenced decisions around food, but we have observed that in recent years this influence has increased and deepened. Giant food and farming corporations have managed to convince governments and the UN that they must be central in any decisions on the future of our food. We need to stop thinking that transnational corporations are essential to feed the world – they are not.”

Who’s Tipping the Scales? documents a history of growing corporate influence over our food.

The report’s key findings are:

  • Corporate influence over food system governance has become the new normal – for example, the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit exposed the ability of multinational agri-food corporations to influence food system decision-making and dominate seemingly inclusive ‘multi-stakeholder’ processes.
  • Corporations have succeeded in convincing governments that they must be central in any discussion on the future of food systems.
  • Without effective action to address the new normal of corporate-captured governance, food systems will be increasingly shaped by private interests.
  • To meet the needs of those impacted by worsening hunger and malnutrition, it will be necessary to address the influence of corporations at all levels.
  • It is also critical to move beyond ‘damage control’. We must democratize existing processes, and create new autonomous governance spaces, building on inspiring examples emerging around the world.

Molly Anderson, IPES-Food expert and food studies chair at Middlebury College, USA, said “It’s insidious – corporate control over our food has become the norm. From academic curricula to healthy diet initiatives, from UN summits to scientific research – the signs of corporate influence over food systems are everywhere. But we cannot respond adequately to the ongoing food price crisis, climate change or worsening hunger without confronting these powerful vested interests.”


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