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How Agri-Business Corporations Influence UN Institutions

February 16, 2020
©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

10 February 2020, Rome, Italy - FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu meeting with Ms Agnes Kalibata, Secretary General Special Envoy for Food Systems Summit, FAO headquarters. © FAO/Giulio Napolitano.


SAN FRANCISCO (IDN) – As Dr. Agnes Kalibata arrived in Rome on February 10, 2020 to meet with Dr. QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), her appointment as the UN Secretary-General Guterres' Special Envoy to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit was rejected by over 175 civil society organizations from 83 countries.

By 2021, when the UN summit will take place, an estimated one billion people will be suffering from chronic undernourishment while climate crisis is already the defining issue of the century.

While strong political will is urgently needed to tackle this human made disaster, the appointment of Dr. Kalibata – President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – to lead, prepare, and design the Summit, hijacks yet another global forum to promote fossil-fuel based corporate industrial agriculture.

In order to measure the implications of this capture of a UN Food Summit by AGRA, it is essential to look at the history of the organization.

Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, AGRA has worked since its inception in 2006 to open up Africa—seen as an untapped market for corporate monopolies controlling commercial seeds, genetically modified crops, fossil fuel-heavy synthetic fertilizers and polluting pesticides.

Willfully ignoring the past failures of the Green Revolution and industrial agriculture, AGRA continues to promote the same – orienting farmers into global value chains for the export of cash crop commodities.

Its finance-intensive and high input agricultural model is dependent on constant subsidy, which is drawn from increasingly scarce public resources. Furthermore, AGRA's model of fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture is laying waste to the environment.

Synthetic fertilizers are responsible for a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen from these fertilizers is poorly absorbed by plants, and subsequently leaches into water systems and escapes into the atmosphere in the form of nitrous oxide. Long distance transport adds carbon emissions.

As industrial monoculture plantations spread, family farmers, pastoralists, and Indigenous communities, who are the stewards of the land and guardians of agricultural biodiversity, are marginalized and forced off their land.

It is not a coincidence that Dr. Kalibata also serves on the board of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). AGRA is after all a mouth-piece of agro-industrial corporations and their shareholders.