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Why it’s dangerous to trust corporations to lead the fight against world hunger

Originally published by Global Post on 01/31/2014

GENEVA — The world’s elites gathered in Davos, Switzerland last week for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), paying $20,000 a person for the privilege of offering grand solutions to other people’s problems.

I was down the road in Geneva attending a decidedly low‐brow, two‐day expert workshop on agricultural trade and development. But downwind we could almost smell their champagne fondue, which no doubt helped the powers‐that‐be focus on the global food crisis.

WEF’s “New Vision for Agriculture” is their answer, which, along with the G8 nations’ “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition,” represent the bold new initiatives from the rich world to solve poor people’s hunger.

For all the newness, the world’s small‐scale farmers can be forgiven for seeing little more than new bottles for some old wine, which they still can’t afford. The old wine includes an overwhelming focus on technological solutions, industrial‐scale farms, and high‐input methods often poorly suited to small‐scale farmers.

The new bottles, though, look sharp. The labels show happy African farmers in lush fields, and they feature all the right catch‐phrases: “sustainable agriculture,” “climate‐smart production,” and of course “meeting the world’s food needs.” They look like they came out of a corporate branding campaign.

Basically, they did. The one new thing in this new wave of attention to agricultural development is the explicit leadership of “the private sector,” which at the international level generally looks like a who’s who of the top agribusiness multinationals.