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Farmer Jim (Sutton) In Bed With Global Agribusines

Media Release
10 November 2001
Approved for immediate use

Farmer Jim (Sutton) In Bed With Global Agribusiness

Trade Minister Jim Sutton has gone to Qatar with one driving goal: to promote free trade in agriculture.

So have the major agribusinesses, such as Nestle, Monsanto and Cargill, who already dominate the world’s trade in food.

When Sutton says that New Zealand’s future depends on opening agricultural markets, he never explains what this really means. In recent years, these mega-firms have systematically increased their control over every stage of production: from patents over seeds and financing of growers, to contracts for supply, to distribution networks, to marketing and retail.

In 1998, the top three seed companies controlled about 20% of global seed trade, and the top ten agrochemical companies controlled 91% of the world market. (Among these are the top five pesticide companies who control 60% of the market.)

‘Free trade in agriculture is code for global corporate farming and power to the mega-middle-men,” said Dr Bill Rosenberg for ARENA. ‘Their vision goes way beyond Jim Sutton’s simplistic talk about opening markets to New Zealand exports.’

“Global agribusinesses aim to control the world’s supply of food. Already just two firms, Cargill and Continental, control two-thirds of the world’s trade in grain. The WTO holds the key. Agreements on services, intellectual property rights, investment, technical barriers to trade and agriculture will give them the power to dictate who grows what, where, for whom, at what price – including the production of genetically modified food.”

“For many third world farmers pushed off the land by large-scale agribusiness, and for their countries which no longer have food security, this is literally a matter of life and death.”

There is a real risk that New Zealand farmers will lose control of their industry to these overseas corporations in a new WTO round.

“Instead of debating these real issues, Sutton hides behind the fantasy that the US and EU will open their markets to New Zealand farmers”. In fact, agricultural subsidies in the OECD, especially the US and EU, have doubled since the end of the Uruguay Round. The US House of Representatives has just approved a $170 billion farm support package, including a 64% increase in subsidies, for the next 10 years. Agribusinesses are the biggest beneficiaries of these subsidies.

“It’s time for New Zealand governments to take the lead and promote agricultural policies that put the people, rural communities, and the environment first, rather than feeding the power of global agribusinesses”.


Contact persons: Dr Bill Rosenberg (03)3328525 (h); 3642801 (w)
Leigh Cookson (03) 339 6341; 025 6627174

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