Land Grabbing Issue Given Centre Stage In Brussels

08 March 2012

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has today (Thursday) chaired a public conference in the European Parliament in Brussels which investigated the problems of land grabbing around the world.

Land grabbing is the phenomenon of large-scale acquisitions and leases of farmland in developing countries by foreign investors.

Today's debate included high level speakers such as Oliver de Schutter, special rapporteur of the United Nations on the human right to food, Renée Vellvé of Grain, the global network campaigning against privatisation of natural resources, Jim Harkness, Director of the US Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Shivani Caudri, an Indian human rights activist, Claire Schaffnit-Chatterjee, Senior Analyst at Deutsche Bank AG and Professor Harald von Witzke from the Humboldt University, Berlin, working on international trade and development.

Alyn said:

"Land grabbing is a rising issue which warrants far more attention than it currently receives - hopefully this conference makes a small effort to rectify this.

"Unprecedented amounts of farmland in the developing world are being bought up or rented by big agri-businesses, sovereign wealth funds of wealthy food-importing companies, or even by a variety of investment vehicles such as pension funds. This is being driven both by desires to secure food supplies for a rising world population and by the search for safe investments for portfolios in a volatile market.

"Unfortunately, the effects on the world's poor are often disastrous. Local communities are stripped of their natural resource assets and food supplies without their consent, often through forced evictions by their governments, and land is converted for export crops, biofuels and forestry products, none of which help secure food security for the local population. It is nothing less than expropriation on a grand scale.

"We in Scotland know something of these developments, of violated rights and land concentration, from our own history, and have only recently sought to rectify the imbalances created through land reform legislation. It's important that the global south does not repeat our mistakes.

"Today we've put forward the message that there is another way - through supporting smallholders to increase their productivity through sustainable techniques, and creating a legally enforceable code of conduct to govern land transactions."