Hundreds of brands that we find on supermarket shelves give the impression that our money goes to as many different companies. But that's not the case: a large majority of these brands are owned by a handful of companies. The following chart provides an overview of where our money actually goes...
Why this convergence is harmful?
This is a legitimate question: how the fact that these marks are controlled by so few companies is it a bad thing? Is it not just the functional outcome of our economic system?
In fact, we believe that this convergence is bad for various reasons at various levels which are all more or less interrelated. Here are five:
1 - These companies are so big that they have a dangerous political power
This reason is that, somehow, encompasses all the others. Profits from these companies are gargantuan: alone, Nestlé has generated more than $ 37 billion profit in 2010. But that money is rapidly converted into political power. Indeed, in our political system, pressure groups are constantly making efforts to pass or block legislation. In general, most lobbyists are well funded and organized, the more they can afford to have a great influence on the decisions taken at the end. The food industry conducts lobbying activities at all levels: international, national and local.
2 - Health Impacts
This makes sense: our health is largely by the food we consume, it is from them that eventually constitute our bodies. To the extent that a vast majority of foods we buy are provided by a very small number of companies, each of them has a huge part to play on our health, which is partly in their hands. Contrary to what they can say well through various advertisements, our health is not part of their genuine concern, quite the contrary.
3 - Impacts on the Economy
Economically, the limited number of companies in the food market puts us in an oligopoly. Two major consequences follow from this: First, a market controlled by a small number of companies provides "entry barriers", that is to say that any new company that tries to enter this market will life difficult if not impossible. For example, if a new producer is lucky enough that her local supermarket has agreed to sell its product, it is often on almost inaccessible shelves that its product will be placed, which encourages very few people buy it because of Indeed, in conspicuous places are reserved for multinationals, who pay dearly for the privilege. A small producer simply does not have the budget to compete with them.
4 - Environmental Impacts
Companies that control the food industry have, in general, not an environmental issue rosy. In 2001, Kraft decided to invest heavily in the business of lobbying the Bush administration to campaign against the Kyoto Protocol. In China, PepsiCo and Nestle have been convicted for pollution of waterways
. Unilever, meanwhile, 7.4 tons of illegally dumped waste contaminated with mercury at the entrance to the forest Pambar Shola in India, right next to a city with high population density. Unilever was forced to close this plant mercury for this reason. It's also no surprise that Procter & Gamble has lobbied to weaken environmental laws european projects in the area of chemicals. Because of pressure from P & G, the final legislation passed in 2003 by the European Parliament protects only very few citizens and the environment of toxic substances in household products.
5 - Human Impacts
The reputation of several multinationals about the working conditions they impose abroad is well established. Over the years, companies operating in various fields have been in the spotlight, the center of several scandals. The fact that the food industry also behaves in this way will therefore probably not surprising. Despite this, the severity of the actions of some of these companies may surprise many.