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Large distribution chains, no thanks

Large distribution chains, no thanks

By Xarxa Consum Solidari

"Food Sovereignty (SA) is the right of peoples, communities and countries to define their own agricultural, livestock, labor, fishing, food and agrarian policies that are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their exclusive circumstances. This it includes the real right to food and food production ".


"Food Sovereignty (SA) is the right of peoples, communities and countries to define their own agricultural, livestock, labor, fishing, food and agrarian policies that are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their exclusive circumstances. This it includes the real right to food and food production ". The SA intends to build a new agri-food paradigm based on the implementation of the right to food, peasant access to resources, sustainable productions and the prioritization of local markets and marketing circuits.

We are currently witnessing, and increasingly throughout the planet, unprecedented rural impoverishment, increasing environmental aggressions, highly unsustainable food production and trade systems, and a worrying concentration of corporate power over a basic human right such as food. . An increasingly aggressive corporate control with societies and the environment. The Spanish State does not escape from this problem, but suffers it directly.

Of all the links on which the agri-food chain is based, the growing power and conditioning exercised by the large food distribution companies (GDA) over all of it, especially over producers and consumers, is particularly worrying. It is becoming increasingly evident that the defense of the HS paradigm, of a living rural world, of sustainable productions, of fairer and more equitable trade relations and of a clear and consistent strategy to fight hunger and poverty, it goes through questioning the role of these economic agents.

From this concern and the work carried out by different organizations that defend models based on Food Sovereignty, the need to denounce and change this situation arises.

The power of Great Distribution

The data indicate that increasingly, food purchases by the end consumer are concentrated and organized around the GDA. The GDA is becoming the consumer's only gateway to food and the producer's only gateway to the consumer. The food chain currently has the most important degree of control and power in this final section. This fact is having important impacts on the entire agri-food chain.

In Spain, 81% of the population buys their food in the GDA and five companies and two purchasing centers control 75% of all food distribution. In Europe, the market share of the ten largest multinational distribution companies, now more than 45%, has more than doubled from 1987 to the present, and a degree of concentration of the market is forecast for the next ten to fifteen years. 70-75% of the market share in the entire European sector.

Distribution business groups represent the end point of the food chain, the final window and visible to consumers. But it is only about the final showcase of the food chain and, without a doubt, the current supermarket revolution has strong effects on all links in the chain, from the producers of these foods, who see their sales capacity limited (to whom they sell and for how much), to consumers who, immersed in a consumerism based on false myths, act as subjects of unfair and unsustainable food models, for ourselves and for other regions, models that only provide benefits to these economic agents. Currently, the GDA concentrates 60% of the value of the monetary benefit generated by the entire agri-food chain.

The effects of GDA on the whole chain

About the consumer:

The Large Distribution Chains, after an apparent variety of products, cause a tremendous reduction in the diversity on which our diet is based. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that 95% of current human food comes from only 19 crops and 8 animal species. The loss of biodiversity has, among other effects, an effect of impoverishing the basic elements of our diet.

The mirage of variety is sought by adding additives to an industrialized food. 170,000 tonnes of industrial flavorings are consumed each year in Europe. Their number exceeds 3,800, most of which have no nutritional component and pose health risks.

For apparently fresh products, the criteria of long conservation, artificially controlled ripening, the possibility of achieving large productions at minimum cost, their external appearance are the dominant characteristics when choosing one variety or another. All of this is done at the cost of underestimating, when not damaging, the nutritional characteristics of food. The health and nutritional richness that has been taken away from natural products is intended to be replaced with products designed with low-cost raw materials to which are added all kinds of artificial additives (vitamins, omegas 3 ...) highlighted with large advertising campaigns that in many cases are clearly misleading.


We are bombarded with unwanted advertising offers, our movements inside their establishments are carefully studied to cause our compulsive and unnecessary purchase. Food is overpacked to cause higher sales. Thus we have food that lasts a couple of weeks in containers that take hundreds of years to degrade. All this with environmental costs that we all pay, as citizens of a sick planet.

The responsible consumer who wants to know who, how and where food has been produced runs into a wall where an apparent traceability hides the origin of the products and the processes they have undergone. The opacity of the product journey is inherent to a large industry that could hardly provide a sensible explanation. A local consumption, with the minimum of packaging, respectful with the environment, equitable and fair with the producers is impossible to find in the gondolas of the large food chains. To create an illusion of their social and environmental concerns, they promote foundations that dedicate a tiny part of their profits to charitable actions or place a tiny part of products that they call ecological or fair to hide their socially unjust and environmentally unsustainable practice. Many times they dedicate more resources to publicize their image makeup than to the actions they advertise.

The GDA is not at the service of the consumer but violates their rights and alters their consumption habits based on their monetary interests of maximum and rapid profitability.

About the producer

We denounce the GDA as the agent responsible for the disappearance of a living rural world, based on family farms and sustainable productions, and its replacement by industrialized, non-peasant, large-scale and highly polluting productions.

The GDA is highly selective in the choice of its suppliers, and among them are not family, sustainable and diverse productions, it chooses industrial agriculture, livestock and fishing, which is not sustainable and where there is no space for farmers. Their demands regarding the type, quantity and characteristics of the food offered to the consumer, the demands of prices, contracts or payments, for example, expel the family peasantry from this marketing channel that is increasingly becoming the only channel existing. The GDA particularly affects the price received by the farmer.

As the COAG denounces, taking consumer prices and comparing them with prices at origin, it is obtained that prices at origin are multiplied by up to seven to destination, with an average difference of 420%. Especially significant is the low participation of the producer in the final price of sale to the consumer, especially in products such as clementine (13%), veal (14%), lemon (20%) or apple (22%). In addition, it should be noted that this study is carried out using the data on prices at origin provided by MAPA, which works with the named price (exit from warehouse at origin). The price that the farmer or rancher receives is still lower in most cases.

The price differential between the peasant price and the consumer price is scandalous and clearly reportable, being one of the great forces that is causing peasant abandonment, by forcing the peasant to produce below costs. In Europe every three minutes a peasant exploitation disappears.

A living rural world, with peasants living off their work, producing healthy, nutritious and diverse food in an environmentally sustainable way is incompatible with the GDA.

About the environment

We denounce the GDA for promoting environmental unsustainability. Both in relation to the intensive and industrialized production models that it demands, as well as the type and quantity of food offered, not respecting at all their natural cycles (seasonal food) or the different ecological costs of each of them.

On the other hand, it bases its commercial food basket on kilometric food, food-fuel, ignoring and externalizing the enormous environmental costs that this large-scale transport entails. Finally, the format of the food offered, based on tons of packaging and packaging, does nothing more than add pieces to the unquestionable environmental unsustainability of the GDA model.

The GDA and the agri-food chain that it imposes is one of the main causes of environmental unsustainability, both in rural areas, of irrecoverable erosion of unique natural resources, and in the promotion of unsustainable transport and packaging models.

About the South

We denounce the GDA as responsible for the violation of the right to food and the food sovereignty of the peoples, specifically in impoverished regions. This violation is carried out both directly and indirectly.

Directly, being the spearhead of the unjust, unsustainable agri-food model without peasants described above. The consequences of the disappearance of the peasants of the South are more serious than in the countries of the North if we take into account that, in these countries, there is an important population that lives from agriculture. For this reason, this unjust model comes to exert strong violence against the peasant who struggles to maintain his livelihood.

Indirectly, the GDA violates food sovereignty and the right to food through the promotion of predatory production models of the natural resources of these regions. Food sovereignty is incompatible with the GDA, the GDA is a direct cause of hunger, poverty and undernourishment, of forced migration from the countryside to the city or of violence and violation of human rights in the countryside.

Labor rights

We denounce the GDA for undermining the rights of workers in both the North and the South. The GDA bases its economic benefit on the labor exploitation of workers, on whom it imposes miserable wages, and a growing flexibility of working conditions, with abusive work rhythms, deregulated hours, and overtime.

The GDA bases its strategy on the use of precarious labor and the generalization of job insecurity. The GDA often denies the right of workers to organize and unionize, practicing aggressive anti-union policies that violate their basic rights, even taking repressive measures against organized workers, such as the layoffs or the closure of unionized establishments.

Finally, the GDA promotes a model of social and territorial destruction by destroying the productive fabric of small rural scale and the fabric of small / medium neighborhood businesses.

We defend

The paradigm of food sovereignty affects the entire food chain transversally, from the claim of the human right to food, to a new international trade framework, passing through local food production models that are peasant-based, family-based and sustainable. . A key element of the paradigm is that of the food distribution model.

To ensure that producers can live with dignity cultivating quality products linked to their social, ecological and cultural reality, we need viable local markets based on consumption habits that make it possible. Therefore, a change is needed in our consumption and distribution model, which mainly means adopting forms of fair and responsible consumption.

We defend:

- Prioritize local and seasonal foods.
- Promote food grown in a way that is respectful of nature and its cycles.
- Prioritize those foods that carry a decent remuneration for everyone and everyone who participates in the chain that brings food to our table.
- Prioritize those processed foods - in those products that really need it - where the transformation process is carried out as close to the producer as possible. And we reject a transformation carried out by large multinational companies that promote unfair trade and irresponsible consumption.
- Products from other ecosystems that we have incorporated into our diet must maintain the same social and environmental quality that we demand from local products. We must demand this guarantee from fair trade organizations.

To achieve this consumption, we must participate and support ecological consumer cooperatives and fair trade organizations. When this is not possible, small local businesses allow us to maintain the social fabric of our towns and cities, generate jobs and request information to reestablish bonds of trust about the origin of products and bring the consumer closer to the model of production. We must denounce and we must not support with our consumption the large commercial chains that today are at the center of the commercial model that ruins thousands of peasants and that imposes an unfair, irresponsible and unsustainable trade.

* More information
Xarxa Consum Solidari
[email protected]

Sent by
Network for a GMO-free Latin America


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