Land grabbing is the controversial acquisition of large agricultural tracts from developing countries by transnational and governmental corporations. Over the past seven years, they have raided some 86 million hectares, representing not less than one-fifth the size of Italy.

The international organization Grain now offers a new set of data on 416 recent examples of grabbing large-scale land, which are made exclusively by foreign investors. The lands seized these are intended for the production of food crops and cover an area of about thirty-five million hectares in sixty-six countries.

The work highlighted by Grain, provides a striking illustration of how quickly agribusiness moved in food crises since the food and financial crises of 2008, snatching food production in the hands of farmers and local communities. Then, Grain emphasizes indeed that Africa is the first target of land grabbing. But we can underline the place occupied in this drama by Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. «Stated simply, in a competitive world in which firms are seeking to cut costs, they will move production from those countries that have high environmental standards to those countries that have lower environmental standards. Given the important of TNCs in world trade and the transnationalization of production, countries are, it is claimed, reducing their environmental laws in attemps to lure foreign investment.»  (Robert O’Brien and Marc William) Land grabbing is undeniably a global phenomenon.

Investors based in Europe and Asia are responsible for about two-thirds of cases of land grabbing. It is interesting that Britain, like Singapore and Mauritius, serves as a tax haven for hoarders (grabbers) and often, the real basis of active companies is based in another country. In the ranking of hoarders (grabbers), it is obviously include the United States, at the top of the list with forty-one cases of land grabbing and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which together account for thirty-nine cases.

The situation is alarming. Information from continually Asia, Africa and Latin America, showing that local communities are dispossessed as never before, their only source of food and the safety of their livelihoods. It is common today to hear that small farmers produce most of the world’s food. But how many of us realize that they do so with less than a quarter of the world’s agricultural land, and that this share already lean, is reduced each day a little more?If small producers continue to lose the essence of their existence, the world simply lose its ability to feed.

Pauline PEREZ

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