Issue: Concentration in corporate power is the defining feature of today’s (2001) global economy. The “life sciences” industry is converging into new corporate structures that have profound implications for every aspect of commercial food, agriculture, and health.
• The top 10 pharmaceutical companies control an estimated 48% of the $317 billion world market. • The top 10 veterinary pharmaceutical companies control 60% of the $13.6 billion world market. • The top 10 seed firms control 30% of the $24.4 billion commercial seed market. • One company’s genetically modified (GM) seed technology (Monsanto – now owned by Pharmacia) accounted for 94% of the total area sown to GM crops in 2000. • The top 10 agrochemical corporations control 84% of the US$30 billion agrochemical market. • The 32 leading grocery retailers account for 34% of the total global food retail market, estimated at
$2.8 trillion. The top 10 grocery retailers account for $513.7 billion – or 54% of total sales for the top 32 retailers.
Impact: Corporate hegemony is overwhelming governments and subverting national sovereignty. When governments become subservient to corporations instead of citizens, democracy is undermined, diversity is destroyed, and human rights are jeopardized. The trend in corporate consolidation is mirrored by growing disparities between rich and poor, both within and between OECD nations and the South.
Players: This issue of the ETC Communiqué provides a brief, sector-by-sector analysis of the leading companies involved in the closely related fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, genomics, seeds, agrochemicals, food & beverage processing, and mega-grocery retailers.
Policy: Heads of State convening at the World Food Summit Five Years Later, 5-9 November, cannot address world food security without addressing the impact of corporate hegemony. The creation of a new United Nations Centre on Commerce and Technology, with an expanded mandate to monitor and analyze multi- technology and multi-sectoral mergers and alliances, is long overdue. The “unfinished agenda” for sustainable food security that the International Food Policy Research Institute will present in Bonn, 4-6 September, fails to include the “unmentioned agenda:” ownership, control and consolidation with respect to food security.