June 29, 2023

Big Tech jumping on the food band wagon

Episode 1 of 'Who will control the food system?'
Food Barons report cover art showing peasants resisting corporate digital giants

Industrial agriculture is not so much jumping on the “Food Systems Transformation” band wagon as trying to steal it!

Don’t fall for the UN’s new Food Systems Coordination Hub hype about “Transforming Food Systems for Planetary Health”. The current corporate agenda, championed by this new “Hub” is firmly focused on hijacking the UN’s existing food systems spaces to force through yet another phase of Industrial Agriculture – promoting its technofixes as solutions to the very problems that it itself has caused, including in relation to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Tune into our latest podcast mini-series, titled "Who Will Control the Food System?" where we uncover just who's pulling the strings of industrial agriculture, dissect the latest corporate strategies, and take inspiration from the peoples and movements fighting back.

In this first episode, Zahra Moloo, Neth Daño and Kavya Chowdhry talk through a recent trend: corporations that until now had nothing to do with food but are now pouring money into it. Which corporations are these, and why and how are they jumping on the band wagon? And what are the Big Ag giants up to amidst this scenario?

Listen in as we explore these questions! 

To find out more about the digitalisation of food and agriculture you can also watch our animation “Big Brother is Coming to the Farm: the Digital Takeover of Food” (available here in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bisaya, English, Filipino, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili – and with a version in Hindi on the way).



(Note that the transcript has been lightly edited to make it easier to read.)

Big Tech jumping on the food band wagon

The food we eat can go through a long journey before arriving on our tables, from farms and fields, to markets or supermarkets. And then to our homes, each stage in this journey can look very different, depending on who controls the process. On a farm, is it a small-scale farmer who plants and harvests your produce? Where do they get their seeds from? Do they share seeds amongst themselves as they have done for thousands of years? Or do they buy them from companies? Why, during the pandemic, did nearly a billion people go hungry while food and agriculture giants made exorbitant profits? In this podcast series, we will look at who controls our food systems and how those trends are changing.

We will investigate which companies are starting to take greater control of commercial seeds, farm machinery and grocery retail. We will look at how and why big tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, Google and Alibaba are moving into food. And we will examine new trends unknown to most people, like carbon farming and digital platforms. Join us as we take a look at who controls and who will control our food systems.

All over the world, people are struggling to buy food. In these post-pandemic times that we are living in, the prices of cereals, meat, dairy and vegetable oils have pushed millions of people to the limit. Most people pin the cause on Covid and the Russian war in Ukraine. But there is much more happening behind the scenes. For instance, do we even know who controls the complex workings of the industrial food system? From seeds to growing crops, selling and distribution.

What about these names? Corteva, Cargill, Syngenta, Yara?

In this first episode of Who will Control the Food System, we take a look at the corporate interests behind the key sectors in the industrial food system: who they are, what they are doing and why we need to be concerned. In the second part of this episode, we will look at a new trend in the food world and what tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are doing in the food system.

I'm Zahra Moloo. Today I'm speaking to Neth Daño and Kavya Chowdhry from the ETC Group. ETC Group has been researching and analyzing trends on corporate control over the food systems for four decades.

Let us begin with one company, Corteva. Corteva is an American agricultural chemical and seed company. And this is what their CEO, Chuck Magro, had to say about his company's profits in 2023 while ordinary people all over the world were struggling to pay for food:

“We certainly think that the outlook for 2023 is very healthy and quite constructive. The bottom line is that the world needs to produce more food. You mentioned the Russia-Ukraine situation that put a really big dent into the food supply and really put stress into the very fragile food system to begin with. So in our view,  2022 was a very good year. We saw a strong demand for our products.  And really when you look at 2023 we think it's more of the same. We actually believe that 2023 will be a very, very strong year for seed, for crop protection products”.

Here we have Corteva Agro Science which is a company that sells seed and agrochemicals - which basically means pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. They seem to be recording very high profits. But meanwhile, for consumers, food prices are reaching record highs all over the world. We are hearing that food prices are high because of the pandemic, because of the war in Ukraine and because of climate change. Are these messages true?


Everyone's talking about how the food prices are higher because of the pandemic, the war, the supply chain prices and climate change, but nobody's really talking about the real reason behind all of this: which is corporate consolidation. Factors like the pandemic are being used as a diversion from highlighting this. Corporate concentration actually means that fewer companies are holding a larger market share now. For example, in the commercial seed sector, you have two companies, just two companies - Bayer and Corteva - controlling 40% of the market.

This has happened over the last decades as a result of many companies merging into each other, acquiring other companies. And even Corteva, the example that we're using, was formed as a result of growing corporate consolidation in the seeds and agrochemical sector after the merger of Dow and Dupont in 2017.


The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have actually provided a very good cover for people not to look at what's behind the food price crisis. I also think that we have been so detached from the food system that we actually barely ask how our food is being produced, who are behind this mega production that could actually influence and shape prices and even supply. Especially the industrial food system that actually claims to feed the world, as the Corteva man said. We actually barely even interpret the players, the trends and the wisdom of what's happening in our food system.


Before we go into more specifics, let's try to understand what the food system actually means.

You say that there are a handful of corporations that are becoming fewer and fewer and bigger. For instance, Kavya, you mentioned Bayer and Corteva. But how much of the food system do these corporations control right now at this moment? And what about all the small scale farmers that grow vegetables and maize and all sorts of other crops that we eat? I mean, where do they fit into this picture of the food system?


It's really part of the critical lens that we have to provide in this discussion, starting with the very basic. What do you mean by food systems? When we present food systems as a food system, it gives the impression that there's only one food system that begins from inception, seeds, all the way to consumption. So us in ETC, actually have been trying to unpack this for the last 20 years and presented that at least 70% of the world actually depends on food, not produced by corporations, but by smallholder farmers, artisanal fishers, urban gardeners, by all these people who are mainly marginalized and barely recognized when we talk of food systems. We call this the peasant food web, to refer to the production by smallholders, in small scale settings, often in lands that they don't own.

But the remaining 30% is actually the industrial food chain. This is the food system that this Corteva man - and other corporate players - are referring to. And this is the same industrial food system that is responsible for much of the problems that we are encountering in food and agriculture, such as pollution of water sources, degradation of soil, degradation of biodiversity in the field, monocropping, and all the problems with climate change that are being attributed to food and agriculture.


That's quite extraordinary that 70% of food production actually comes from the peasant food web, as you say. So it's only 30% that's the industrial food system and yet that much smaller percentage is actually responsible for a huge amount of destruction.


I think we also have to recognize that the production system in the industrial food chain is very destructive: massive use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and also massive use of chemical fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers. And of course, the massive dependence on lab produced and institutionally produced seeds that tend to be uniform, focused on a few crops, and focused on a few star varieties that they claim to be much more productive than other seeds. “Productive” is actually solely dependent on yield. The obsession is really to yield more at the expense of the quality of food that we eat, that is actually far more contaminated with chemicals and more recently with microplastics.

Barely, any attention is actually given to the peasant food web that actually generally produce food with much less chemical inputs while being deprived of support coming from governments in terms of irrigation, in terms of subsidies on seeds and fertilizers.


Let's go back into the specifics that you were getting into earlier. Are there specific companies that are controlling specific sectors within that 30% of the industrial food system? People have heard about Monsanto, but most people haven't heard about Corteva or Cargill which are extremely powerful in this sector, or Yara, or Syngenta. Kavya, you mentioned that 40% of the commercial seed market is just controlled by two companies which you said were Bayer and Corteva.


In the seeds and agrochemical sector, you will have similar companies like BSF, Bayer and Syngenta. Syngenta controlled approximately 25% - which is a quarter - of the market share in 2020 and 7% of the commercial seed sector, while Bayer controlled 16% of the agrochemical sector and 23% of the commercial seed sector. So together in both the agrochemicals and seed sectors, the top two companies control approximately 40%.

For ag machinery, you have John Deere which controls 17% of the ag machinery sector and then you have the top four, which along with Deere are Kubota, CNH Industrial and AGCO which control approximately 44% of the sector. Then commodity trading companies which are some of the most powerful and least transparent companies in the industrial agriculture industrial food chain. Together, the top 10 commodity traders in agriculture piled up more than $1.5 trillion in 2020 revenues.


I think that question is very interesting, when you ask: why is it that we don't hear or we don't know much about these companies that are lording it over the food chain? I think that observation is very true at the consumer end, but less true at the producers' end. The peasant farmers were actually impacted by the industrial food chain and if you go into small farming communities, people who actually refer to seeds would say DuPont, or at the time of Monsanto, they would say “this is Monsanto”. You could also even see some extension workers, including extension workers of the government, referring to the company name rather than what kind or what variety is being sold commercially.

This is even more dramatic in farm machinery. I've been in some farming communities where actually farmers refer to machines as - not a tractor - they would say “the Kubota”: “There's a Kubota there”. It's actually referring to the brand because Kubota is one of the world's biggest farm machinery companies, based in Japan.

Anyone who owns a Kubota in rural farms in the Philippines or all over Southeast Asia, for example, are richer farmers. So there is also this perception that those who use the branded seeds, those who use these machines, are actually associated with those farmers who can afford to buy monster machines. "Monster" is important because when the Philippine government started deploying big farm machinery that combine machinery, harvesters and threshers in rice farming communities through cooperatives, small farmers - and women - who actually depend on seasonal labour, started referring to these machines, not by the name, but calling them generically as monsters, “halima”,  in the local language. Monsters because they ate up jobs of seasonal workers, landless farmers, especially women.

So I think these are interesting differences in perceptions. Consumers who are much more detached, who are farther away in the production part of the chain actually are not familiar with these names, but people at the start of the chain, whose lives are directly impacted by the industrial food chain actually know them.


In addition to these large corporations, there are other entities as well that are involved in the industrial food system, for example, asset management companies. So can you explain what exactly is an asset management company and how they are involved in this whole setup of the industrial food system


Asset managers are like giant investors that manage and invest funds of their clients. They are sort of working behind the scenes in industrial food and agriculture sectors now. These companies now own shares in competing companies across the industrial food chain. It's called horizontal shareholding, which is the practice of owning assets in multiple corporations that are actually supposed to be competing with each other. But you know, they're unlikely to compete if they have common owners. In 2021, Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street, which are known as the big three index fund families, were among the top four institutional shareholders for the US based publicly traded grocery retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Amazon.


So does that mean that Amazon, Walmart and Costco rather than competing with each other actually have the same owners?


Yes, exactly. So if you look at the corporate consolidation figures of these sectors, you might think that the figures are not too bad. There's healthy competition in these sectors. You might think so. But when you look at who's owning these companies, it's these asset managers.


Why else should we be concerned about corporate concentration? Why is it a problem?


A lot of times people ask what’s the problem if two companies control 40% of the commercial seed sector. But it's a dangerous problem because when you have so few companies which are playing around in these uncompetitive markets, and they are dominating these uncompetitive markets, with little regulatory oversight, they can use their market power to raise prices. And this is what many claim is what happened during the 2008 food price crisis.

These companies, when they're so heavily consolidated, they can dictate the R&D agenda, the research and development agenda, as can be seen in the focus on GMOs, on glyphosate and now digital platforms. They can have a monopoly on extractive technologies and they can maximize their own profits while continuing to extract value from farmers and consumers by charging high prices, attacking workers' rights, causing erosion of seed diversity, deforestation and contributing to gas emissions.


We're going to take a short break and when we come back, we're going to look into a new trend in the food world called digitalization.

Welcome back to the first episode of Who Will Control the Food System. So far, we've looked at the role of a small number of corporations in the industrial food system: companies like Corteva, Cargill, Syngenta, Yara and the very large dominance they have in the industrial food system. We've also looked at the role of asset management companies and this interesting trend of horizontal shareholding. These companies sound a little obscure to most people but there are other companies that most people are very familiar with like Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and they're becoming increasingly involved in food and agriculture, giving rise to a whole new trend: digital agriculture. So what exactly is that?

Earlier we mentioned the agricultural corporation Syngenta. Here is what the CEO of Syngenta, Greg Meyers, had to say about digital agriculture:

“We're now looking for what's the next level of change in agriculture and what we see is the opportunity to move into bringing computer, data science or digital technology into the farming world. And so this is what Syngenta - and we are one of the world's largest agricultural companies of the world - helping to build products to allow farmers to be successful. So in the world of digital technology, we're really working on three potential opportunities. One is how do we make farming more sustainable? And while you're doing that, how do you improve food production for a world whose population is growing? And then how do you make farmers more profitable?”

It all sounds very promising: Greg Meyers says that bringing digital tech into the farming world is going to help with making farming more sustainable and more profitable for farmers. Is there any truth to this? The term that ETC group uses for the application of digital tools, strategies and business models by these companies in the industrial food system is agricultural digitalization. Neth and Kavya, can you explain in more detail what agricultural digitalization means?


As you said, digital tools are being applied at every node, every link of the industrial food chain, right from the start. So you have digital technologies being applied to edit seeds and even animals like pigs. You have agrochemical and seed companies which are partnering with drone companies that collect data from farms, data like soil moisture, yield data, how you are planting, what kind of seeds you are planting, how much agrochemicals you are spraying. So all of that data has been collected via drones and sensors and all of this data is being analyzed by a software company.

And then you have robotics, not only for fruit and vegetable picking on the farms, but also in warehouses where robots are tracking, packing, picking, shipping items including food items. Greenhouses where digital technologies and tools are being used for constant monitoring, robotic planting, spraying, watering systems.

Interestingly, digital tools are also being used for industrial animal agriculture where you have tools like facial recognition software, sensors and cameras that are connected to AI which are being attached to chickens and livestock, which according to these companies will help in spotting and preventing diseases.

We have the more obvious examples on the consumer front which is in grocery retail with online shipping, and then the most obvious part which is food delivery. I would really like to share this interesting quote by Syngenta's brand manager for the digital agriculture platform. He said that in 2021 that in the past they sold pesticides, seeds and fertilizers and that now they are a farm services company, selling service and technology. So you can see how all of these big food and ag companies are rebranding themselves into service and technology companies.


I just want to ask for a bit more clarification: when we talk about agricultural digitalization, we're talking about the application of different digital tools across the whole food system. Where do tech companies come into this? Because you've talked about how agricultural companies, food companies or food producers - the companies that we talked about before when we were talking about corporate consolidation - are bringing in these new digital tools into their operations? What about companies like Amazon, Microsoft? Where do they come in?


All the digital process driven tools that I mentioned require the collection of big data at every link of the industrial food chain. And there are multiple ways for tech companies to enter the industrial food chain. The first is big tech companies themselves providing cloud services to big ag companies. Now why do we need cloud services? It's because all of this big data which is collected from the farms, from the warehouses, from food delivery needs to be collected, it needs to be stored, it needs to be processed somewhere. And that is where cloud services come in. Amazon and Microsoft are some of the biggest players in the cloud service industry. And all of the data like seed zone, weather data, soil moisture, yield, agro-chemical spray, all of this goes into the cloud.

The second way in which tech companies come into the industrial food chain is by directly buying and investing in industrial food and agriculture. An obvious example is Facebook buying a 10% stake in Reliance CO. Which is the telecoms arm of Reliance, which is actually a massive player in retail in India. There are other indirect ways too, like Corteva for example: it collaborated with Planet Labs, which has satellite imaging products which started trading on the New York Stock Exchange backed by Google and BlackRock.


And I think it would help to better understand, if you talk about involvement of tech companies in food and agriculture, to unpack “tech companies” a bit more. Kavya has talked and elaborated about the big tech. It would be good to appreciate the involvement of smaller companies that are also part of the “tech companies''.

Who would have ever thought that drone producers or manufacturers would become big players in the food and agriculture sector? Drones that were developed in the military context to spy, to even shoot targets in Afghanistan, in killing civilians, were then increasingly used for leisure, hobby and creation of artistic work like cameras carrying drones. And increasingly now in the food and agriculture setting where drones are actually used to spray chemicals, and this is not just limited to the industrial North, but it’s also the case in developing countries. For example you have subcontractors producing bananas for the big banana plantations, such as here in Davao, using smaller drones to spray chemicals on their plantations to supply for the bigger plantation companies that export bananas elsewhere.

And also there are government institutions that are increasingly interested, even obsessed in producing more drones for smaller farmers, to use largely in spraying. And I think the role of Indian companies in aspiring to become key players in producing agricultural drones need to be mentioned. Because as we discussed, drones in whatever context, whether that's leisure, hobby or agriculture, it's actually a sector dominated by the Chinese drone companies, largely DJI, which is the world's biggest producer of drones, and XAG, which is more focused on producing agricultural drones. And both these Chinese companies have actually major collaboration with big ag players, such as Syngenta, having a partnership with DJI in Southeast Asia and Pakistan to try out using drones produced by the company DJI for spraying chemicals that are produced by Syngenta.

And it's not just that, drones can do much more. And again, in partnership with other companies that produce sensors to be able to monitor the field in terms of growth, status of plants, also identifying pest and diseases. So you actually are talking about big and small tech companies that have growing interests and growing roles.


You mentioned big data and how data is being extracted by means of these digital tools and these tech companies. Can you just explain what exactly big data is? We hear it all the time.

What exactly does it mean?


Colloquially, big data is used to refer to large amounts of data. For example, you have massive databases of genomic or weather information… but there's a bit more to the definition. When we talk of big data, we're also referring to the tools and techniques for processing such large sets of data, which are often in unstructured form. We do this to find useful patterns, signals and associations. So Excel files used by a farmer to record their sales is not big data, but a “data lake” of real-time information flowing in from sensors on hundreds of farms about the soil moisture, about the weather, that is big data and that requires big data tools to process it.


Neth, you've mentioned drones as tools in agriculture and in production. Are there other examples of tools that tech companies are making available to farmers?


I think one interesting example that I personally find fascinating is how facial recognition is being used in farms. And this is actually widely used in piggeries, livestock operations in China and also increasingly in Europe and in Latin America, where Chinese companies have actually launched piggery and livestock businesses. The use of facial recognition in pigs, for example, is one that was introduced by a gaming company in China called NetEase.

NetEase is one of the world's biggest gaming companies that invested in producing organic, sustainable, happy pigs in China. And they actually marketed their pigs as “happy” because they are treated well and they have good living conditions: they have these dormitories of pigs that actually are much better and much more decent than the dormitories where the workers in the piggery are living. They are also fed organically and they have classical music in their dormitories. That's why they are marketed as “happy pigs”.

And the facial recognition technology actually allows the NetEase farm to be able to - not just identify individual pigs - but also track their health status, feeding patterns and also when they are mature enough, to be sold at a premium price.

I find this entertaining, of course, and I think the entertainment value could drown you and make you forget the critical lens that we should apply. And I think that's part of the game, to actually forget asking why and what these technologies are. Seriously, the technology of facial recognition is basically the same technology that the Chinese state actually uses in recognizing faces of the Uyghurs in that part of China which is heavily regulated, heavily policed, with a lot of reported human rights violations. And this same technology is actually being applied increasingly in some livestock farms in Europe.

Of course, the main claim to profitability is reducing human labor. With all these technologies, you actually reduce the number of workers that you need, which actually means less overhead in terms of wages and benefits for workers, complying with labor standards and all that. And it's also the same technologies combined with drones, in the case of Japan, that is being used to address the labor shortage in a country where aging population in farming areas has become a perennial problem. It should also be put in context in a country like Japan,  that has very strict regulation in terms of allowing external labor, migrant labor.

So we have to look at how these technologies are actually being used to justify certain interventions, even policy interventions - say for example, addressing aging population in rural areas -  and critically look at that intervention in a bigger context, like migration policies, labor standards or human rights issues.


You've mentioned some of these technologies being used in Japan, in Europe and China. What about the rest of the Global South? Is this trend of digital farming and digital tools in agriculture also happening in other parts of the Global South?


Yes, for example in India, the government is building the Agri Stack, which is a collection of databases and technologies. One of the things that's being done under Agri Stack is that each farmer would be given a unique digital ID under which details like their personal details will be collected like their name, their age, their household size, farm size, really granular details of their field, which are the crops grown… And the government has already signed MOUs [memorandum of understanding] with around 10 companies or more that includes big tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

In Indonesia as well the government has signed an MOU with Microsoft to push digital technologies specifically on smallholder farmers. As Neth has already mentioned, you have Bayer and XAG, which is a Chinese drone manufacturing company, which have partnered in Southeast Asia and Pakistan for crop spraying and they're specifically targeting smallholder farmers in these regions.


This increasing application of digital tools in the farm is also expanding in the South, largely through deliberate efforts by the big players. And you even have government institutions in developing countries - like in the case of the Philippines - where you have the Philippine Rice Research Institute piloting the use of drones in rice farming: in spraying pesticides and also spreading seeds to address the issue of labor, which is quite odd in a country where there is high unemployment in rural areas.


Why is the food chain attractive? Well, at least if we look at the big players, the big tech companies, in the case of Amazon, for example, even Microsoft: they seem to already make huge profits in the tech sector, selling all sorts of commodities, such as selling cloud computing services, like Amazon Web Services. You mentioned that some of these digital tools are being pushed onto small-scale farmers. But why? Why would the food system be attractive to tech firms given that they already make so much profit as it is?


I think it's because food is essential to life and well-being. And when you look at it from an extractive point of view, that's a huge source of income. Being able to dictate what people eat, collecting data from each node from the industrial food chain, being able to command, it can give you immense control. And I think that's a lot of power and a lot of money.


I also think that the food and agriculture sector is a natural extension for the big tech to push for their technology and also to push for their business model. That is largely based on harvesting data. If you apply that in food and agriculture, it could be infinite: like data from the soil, water, all this biodiversity around us and how farmers and everyone involved in production relate to the biodiversity, how farming practices go and how they evolve. Those are actually massive sources of profit, generating resources for big tech.


One of the narratives that we often hear, especially when it comes to digitalization as a whole, is that it's inevitable. We hear that the internet was this world-changing thing, it was very disruptive, like the steam engine was, and we see that digital technologies are developing in many sectors, not just food and agriculture, at a very rapid pace. And so one of the things we often hear is that digital technologies make farming more efficient, especially when we're dealing with climate change. So what's the answer to that? That digital technologies are inevitable and actually quite good in terms of the crisis that we are facing?


Well, it’s ironic, isn't it? These very companies that are pushing this narrative are the ones that are responsible for a large chunk of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. They've been linked to illegal deforestation in Amazon forest, groundwater contamination and what about the energy, water and about the resource intensive nature of digitalization itself? Data centers gulp in gallons of water. Google itself mentioned that their data center fleet globally consumed approximately 4.3 billion gallons of water, which is huge. The semiconductors which go into our electronic devices require massive amounts of water too. And in 2021, Taiwan, which is home to TSMC, the largest semiconductor manufacturing company in the world, faced a drought and had to divert water from around 183,000 acres of farmland to the chip making industry. So it prioritized the chip making industry over farmers.

Regarding electricity, way back in 2017, even before the pandemic when data use ballooned, a study found that the ICT [Information and Communications Technology] industry could use 20% of all electricity by 2025. And I didn't even mention the mining, the cobalt, lithium, nickel that goes into these devices, the labor exploitation across the supply chains that's prevalent in digital technology.


But is there any way for digitalization to be in any way useful to small-scale farmers?


To me, it pays to always go back to the basics of that question, that part on “is it beneficial for farmers? Who defines that? Are we entering into the conversation of making something that is already agreed in some other settings, in this case, agreed and decided and shaped by corporate interests, in making that beneficial for farmers? You actually come first with a solution and then you ask the farmers on second thought, okay, do you think there's some use for this?

What are the questions? What are the situations that farmers are in?  If you go to a rural community, whether that's indigenous or local farmers, like in the Philippines, one of the basic things that comes up is that people don't have access to the market. Their farms are up there in communities with no electricity, with no support, not even with school. They produce their products there and want to bring that to the market in an area where there are no roads. So how can digitalization be beneficial to that community?

We're also talking of a solution that is not a standalone: you need enablers, like you need electricity for example. For 10% of the population globally that don't have access to electricity, how can digitalization work with them? And these are the most marginalized of all communities, the poorest that we should be helping. We are not even talking about digital infrastructure, 5G, 3G… it's actually basic, much more fundamental than that. We have to let those who are affected by those problems define that problem and identify solutions based on options that are relevant for them, as defined by them.


How can people take back control of agriculture from big corporations and from big tech companies?


The question actually brings us back to where we started: at least 70% of the world's population are concretely dependent on the food production by the peasant food web. Meanwhile, we have to recognize that reality: peasants and other food producers are actually left on their own in terms of coping with the challenges of the climate crisis. We should then add to that the challenges of the adverse impacts of the industrial food chain that are completely impacting the peasant food web. If the industrial food chain heavily promotes its pesticide and hybrid seeds dependent - and genetically modified seed dependent model of agriculture, it will actually limit the operations, the ability and the resilience of the peasant food web to supply food, to produce food.

And that requires changes in policies, including in agriculture at the national level, and changing the framework at the global level to make it really explicitly beneficial for small holders and to promote and prioritize agroecological practices in food production.

And lastly, that requires channeling resources, financial resources and political resources to promote sustainable practices that are based on generations of wisdom that are the underpinnings of traditional local indigenous knowledge systems. This requires reorienting how the world supports the agriculture, the food production that feeds us now and that will continue to feed us in the future.


Thank you so much Neth and Kavya,

That concludes our first episode in our podcast mini series Who Will Control the Food System. To find out more about agriculture and big data, please visit ETC Group's website, www.etcgroup.org. ETC Group also has an animation which breaks down the digitalization of agriculture, called "Big Brother is Coming to the Farm", which you can find on our website. You can find all our podcast episodes on the ETC Group website or on Spotify on ETC Group podcasts.

Stay tuned.


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