Pastures of Peonage: Tracing the Feedback Loop of Food Through I.P., G.M.O.s, Trade, Immigration, and U.S. Agro-Maquilas
Northeastern University Law Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2012
61 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Sep 2017
Date Written: July 24, 2012
In this, the final article authored by the late Keith Aoki, we look at interactions among global agribusiness, economic globalization, and labor migration in North America, with specific focus on the United States and Mexico. We highlight the following phenomena: (1) the development of genetically engineered (GE) food crops as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and global intellectual property (IP) protection for these crops and other plant genetic resources (PGR); (2) the increasing horizontal and vertical concentration of the agricultural seed-and-chemical, food processing, and food sale industries; and (3) the lack of fit between U.S. immigration law and policy, international trade regimes (such as NAFTA), and the realities of labor migration as related to U.S. agromaquilas in the food picking, processing, and packing industries.
We also work to identify and to outline how these seemingly disparate and disconnected phenomena work together in a feedback loop of food production-and-consumption related activities. Intellectual property rights in the realm of global agribusiness and international trade agreements support the oligopolies and oligopsonies in the global food supply chain, which in turn drive the preeminent immigration patterns and demographic changes of North America. This feedback loop of global agribusiness, IP law, international treaties and trade agreements, and immigration law and policy shifts the focus of food supply and the means of its production (including labor and the utilization of farmland) out of or away from Mexico and into or toward the United States.
Finally, we consider possibilities for progressive intervention and interruption, in order to reimagine the feedback loop. It is intended that this imagination serve to “push back” against the redundant cycle this article describes and its troubling impacts on the genetic diversity of food crops, the global food supply, small and independent farmers outside the United States, U.S. agromaquila labor migrants, and global labor rights and human rights.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation