Corporations are gaining increasing influence at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the expense of states, small scale food producers, Indigenous Peoples and civil society. But far from resisting this corporate capture, the FAO appears to be actively embracing it. The corporate takeover of UN institutions like the FAO threatens the democratic governance of our food systems.
A new report published June 7, Corporate Capture of FAO: Industry’s Deepening Influence on Global Food Governance, exposes the extent of FAO’s engagement with the corporate sector and its negative impact on global decision-making at a time of worsening food crises.
The report was produced by Corporate Accountability and FIAN International, with contributions from PAN International. The publication was launched just ahead of the FAO’s June Council meetings, and calls attention to Member States’ responsibility to ensure that FAO defends the public interest and fulfills its obligations to human rights, rather than enabling the consolidation of corporate control over food systems even further.
In the case study authored by PAN International, “FAO & CropLife International – A Toxic Alliance with Conflict of Interest”, (one of three case studies in the report), a detailed breakdown of the FAO’s partnership with the pesticide industry trade group argues the partnership is incompatible with FAO’s mission:
“Aligning with the pesticide industry can increase FAO’s reputational risk and threaten FAO’s ability to fulfill its mandate to reduce hunger and support farmers and rural communities.”
The report points out inconsistencies in how the FAO refers to its Letter of Intent with CropLife International, describing it alternately as a formal and an informal engagement. The report further exposes the institution’s lack of transparency regarding whether or not a proper risk assessment was conducted.
Organizing Co-Director Simone Adler, who was a lead author from PANNA on the section “FAO’s limited framework for due diligence and corporate accountability” said:
“FAO’s new framework for assessing risks with the private sector has its limitations. The Organization has made it clear in its new Strategy for Private Sector Engagement that it is taking a pro-business ‘proactive approach’ that seeks merely to manage risks, a concerning shift from its previous ‘defensive’ approach of avoiding risks altogether. Despite a new process that should ensure all potential partnerships are assessed against important social and environmental criteria and for adherence to UN treaties to protect human rights, the approach taken under the new Director-General’s leadership raises grave concerns for small scale farmers, food producers, agricultural workers and communities worldwide.”
The report argues that the FAO’s transition from a risk-averse to a “risk-conscious” approach allows for engagements with high-risk industries, including agrichemicals, to move forward, creating a pathway for the institution’s partnership with entities that, as defined by FAO, “have potential to negatively impact communities and the environment.”