November 11, 2019

Plate Tech-Tonics

Mapping Corporate Power in Big Food
 Cover image of Plate Tech-tonics cover: a broken plate with the report title overlaid
Intersecting oligopolies, big data, unprecedented control of seeds byagrochemical companies. Corporations and giant asset managementfirms are creating an earthquake in the food system, in order to establish control of machinery, livestock breeding, pharmaceuticals and other inputs to the global food system, while consolidation continues in processing and distribution as well.
 
ETC’s new report, Plate Tech-tonics, tracks players and trends to shed light on the state of corporate control in industrial food production.
 
We identify these areas of Big Food that require further research, continued monitoring, action and resistance:
  • The world’s five biggest asset management companies collectively own, since, 2016 between a tenth and third of the shares in the companies that control the major links in the industrial food chain;
  • The huge involvement of ‘big data’ firms in food production is driving a process whereby data becomes a more valuable commodity than the actual food. This in turn leads to smaller-scale food producers losing their rights, and their food cultures, practices and knowledge systems that underpin diverse agricultures around the world; 
  • Supporting consumer trends, like the increase in demand for meat,but also alternative sources of protein, and “clean eating” to save the environment, allow big food companies to gain further control over consumer habits, rather than addressing real issues of both nutrition and sustainability.

The pressures from — and consequences of — these trends have the potential to push the focus of food system governance further in the wrong direction: away from local and national governments, farming communities, civil society and social movements, and into the hands of a limited number of increasingly dominant multinational firms that prioritize profit over the public good.

Our report follows recent ETC Group publications that provide more in-depth analysis of impacts and implications of concentrated corporate power driven by new technologies, including Blocking the Chain, Forcing the Farm and Too Big to Feed.
 
The Plate Tech-tonic disruptions are not specific to a single sector, but rather, are fault lines that can be traced throughout the global agri-food system all the way to our dinner plates.

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