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Daily Iowan: Rastetter and Tanzania Response from the Oakland Institute

July 17, 2012
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Daily Iowan

True, not all businesses are cruel, and not all profits mean greed. After spending more than 18 months researching AgriSol's land deal in Tanzania, this conclusion could only apply if one failed to read company's internal documents or chose to ignore the reality on the ground that our field research yielded.

It appears from your editorial that you are fine with the forced relocation of 160,000 people who have grown their own food to feed their community and others in the region. Where will they go, how will they survive, what happens to their livelihoods seems to be of no concern to the paper.

The paper is impressed by AgriSol's ability to rake in immense profits secured through demands of "strategic investor status" – including exemption from corporate tax, import duties, right to grow GMO crops and biofuels, a rail link be built using scarce government funds, and an irrevocable guarantee for an export license, in addition to land secured at throwaway prices. Is forcing 160,000 people to leave their homes and make such demands of a developing country as the gateway to immense profits ethical?

Issues raised by the AgriSol land deal, including influence of money in politics, (Bruce Rastetter's large campaign contribution that preceded his appointment to the state Board of Regents), lack of transparency and accountability, and denial of the right to freedom of expression to the affected communities, require continued vigilance and investigation. The Oakland Institute has investigated more than 70 land deals. Our work, including documentation on the AgriSol's land deal, is available on our website. Please check it out.

Failure to do so and take action will only allow hog barons to get richer while the poor in poor countries get poorer.

Anuradha Mittal & Jeff Furman
Oakland Institute