AIM for Climate Agenda at COP27 Opens the Door to Greater Corporate Control of Global Food Systems

Today, President Biden will speak at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, about efforts to reduce agriculture’s contributions to extreme weather-causing emissions. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to discuss the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), a joint initiative brought before the summit by the United States and the United Arab Emirates. This initiative focuses on industrial agriculture technology as a framework for solutions to climate change. Farmers in Africa, who have firsthand experience of producing food under these supposed solutions, have spoken out against AIM for Climate, sparking Farm Action to issue the following statement from its president, Joe Maxwell:

Farm Action supports the stated mission of COP27 and agrees that “all stakeholders [should] rise to the occasion” in our urgent fight to protect our environment and build resilience into our global food production systems. However, in looking closer at AIM for Climate, not all stakeholders appear to have an equal voice. Furthermore the solutions and initiatives offered by the most prominent actors further entrench a top-down, technology-first agenda that benefits corporations over independent farmers. 

We must first issue the same cautions we gave to the USDA in response to the 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Any large-scale initiative to curb emissions and reduce the impacts and frequency of severe weather must be characterized by:

  1. Pre-emptive antitrust and competition protections;
  2. Scientific regulation and oversight by government, as opposed to corporate agribusinesses;
  3. Equitable access for all independent farmers and ranchers, regardless of size or land tenure status; and
  4. Disincentives for agribusiness practices that produce high levels of greenhouse gasses.

These safeguards are not sufficiently observed by the AIM for Climate agenda. Instead, this initiative has allowed powerful actors to ensure the global response to climate change includes tech- and capital-intensive solutions endorsed or funded by corporations motivated first and foremost by profit. Without safeguards, solutions like this further consolidate the food system and marginalize rural communities.

While agribusiness giants JBS, Cargill, Marfig, and Bunge may have signed the agricultural roadmap to reduce emissions in agriculture, these same corporations own and promote the systems contributing the most emissions. Their actual regard for the environment is clear from their operations: JBS has been accused of purchasing cattle from illegally deforested Amazon land, and Cargill historically fails to meet environmental commitments. 

Many high-profile AIM for Climate participants have backed misguided approaches to reducing emissions and severe weather in the past — such as Bill Gates, an AIM for Climate spokesperson. As Farm Action has recently pointed out, Gates’s activities in African countries through initiatives such as CGIAR and the Alliance for a Green Revolution have only led to higher rates of food insecurity, increased farmer dependence on highly consolidated corporations that engage in price-gouging, and increased reliance on environmentally destructive farming practices. 

It is striking that AIM for Climate claims to benefit independent farmers across the globe — while disempowering and sidelining them. Farmer-led organizations in Africa have actively opposed the corporate capture of African farming, driven largely by policies and programs sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

We should heed their warning: Relying on corporations and private billionaires to correct a system that benefits them is structurally flawed, and will inevitably result in initiatives that prioritize corporate interests over those of the environment, farmers, and food system workers. Farmers must be protected from any form of abusive business practices brought about by partnerships with corporate agribusinesses, both unforeseen and intentional. 

Instead of pouring funding into high-tech projects that don’t demonstrably reduce carbon or improve environmental conditions (but do give corporations good talking points for their ads), we should be supporting grassroots and farmer-led conservation and regeneration initiatives.

Media Contact: Dee Laninga,, 202-450-0094