Here is another example of how we have allowed “The Market” to subvert Humanity into working for it, rather than “The Market” working for Humanity.
“Thanks to market distortions, public subsidies and tax avoidance, corporate oligopoly power in the food system actually results in a massive transfer of resources from farmers, workers, and consumers into the coffers of an ever-smaller number of transnational companies.” — Vern Grubinger
Sounds about like the energy system too!
By: Vern Grubinger
The commerce of food, and therefore farming, is dominated by oligopolies. At every level—from sales of agricultural inputs, to purchasing of raw commodities, to processing of food into branded products, to retailing of food to consumers—a handful of enormous corporations control a majority of the transactions.
For example, major suppliers of chemicals and seeds for farmers are Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta. Purchases of raw products produced from farmers are dominated by Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, ConAgra, Smithfield, and Tyson/IBP. Food manufacturing giants that create most of the branded products on store shelves are Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestlé, Pepsico, Philip Morris, and Unilever. And finally, a huge share of these products are sold to consumers at stores owned by Ahold (Stop and Shop, Giant, Tops), Albertsons (Hannafords, Shaws, Star Market), Carrefour, Kroger, Wal-Mart, and a few others.
The clout of the top food retailers in the world staggers the imagination. Wal-Mart has 5,760 stores in 13 countries with $285 billion in sales. Carrefour has 11,080 stores in 37 countries with $90 billion in sales. Ahold has 7,078 stores in 15 countries with $65 billion in sales. Kroger operates 4,169 stores in the U.S. with $56 billion in retail sales. By comparison, the 120 food co-ops in the national cooperative grocers association have annual retail sales of $625 million.
The situation is not unique to farming and food; a similar scenario exists in banking, books, hardware, movies, music…you name it, even beer. A handful of multinational corporations dominate in many specific market categories where new companies rarely succeed; those that do are purchased or run out of business.
Some people say that it is precisely this economic system that brings us abundant and cheap food. But the problem, according to the Agribusiness Accountability Initiative, is that “far too few consumers realize that they actually pay for their ‘cheap food’ three times: at the check-out counter, again through their tax bill, and finally by assuming the long-term social and environmental costs of unsustainable production methods. Thanks to market distortions, public subsidies and tax avoidance, corporate oligopoly power in the food system actually results in a massive transfer of resources from farmers, workers, and consumers into the coffers of an ever-smaller number of transnational companies.”
Read the entire essay here.