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Food & farming



Many people still do not get anything like enough to eat – while others eat far too much.1,2

In 1997-99 (the most recent figures) there were:


Farming the land provides the livelihood of a large proportion of the world’s people.5


The consolidation or ‘vertical integration’ of pesticide, seed and biotechnology corporations – known as ‘Life Science’ companies – is delivering up control over large parts of the human food chain to a small number of powerful corporations.


Genetic resources are the building blocks of food security. Yet we now rely on less than 30 crop varieties for 80% of the world’s food supply.12


Developing countries’ shrinking agricultural trade surplus will become a deficit by 2030.5


Agriculture consumes 70% of all the fresh water used in the world. Its unsustainable use for irrigation in intensive agriculture leads to water shortages and even to desertification, siltation and therefore to soil destruction.9

Cash crops

Every year an extra million hectares is transferred from food crops to plantation crops – almost always for export.11

Genetic modification

Genetically modified (GM) crops have had an extraordinarily rapid market introduction, increasing from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 52.6 million hectares in 2001.3 The seed technology of just one company (Monsanto) accounted for 91% of the total area devoted to commercial GM crops in 2001.4

  1. Shetty and James Body Mass Index – A Measure of Chronic Energy Deficiency in Adults, Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen.
  2. World Agriculture 2030: Main Findings, Food and Agriculture Organization.
  3. C James, ‘Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001’, ISAAA Briefs No. 24 Preview, Ithaca, New York. ISAAA is the source of GM statistics cited in this update unless otherwise noted.
  4. Monsanto website, using ISAAA’s statistic for global GM crop area.
  5. Boxing Match in Agricultural Trade, Oxfam Briefing Paper 32.
  6. FAO Economic and Social Department, Commodities and Trade Division, United States Department of Agriculture.
  7. ED Ongley, Control of water pollution from agriculture, FAO irrigation and drainage paper 55, 1996.
  8. Reducing your risk: a UK guide to avoiding hormone disruptors, WWF.
  9. Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making, The Report of the World Commission on Dams, November 2000.
  10. International Trade Centre report Organic Agriculture Worldwide 2002.
  11. John Madely, Big Business, Poor Peoples, Zed Books, 1999.
  12. Food and Agriculture Organization.

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