Monopolizing foods is an old game

When we look at the present-day machinations of big dairy and big food and their efforts at stamping out the upstart competition such as raw milk and heritage breeds of meat animals through their proxies in government, one is tempted to suppose that such behavior is new on the world scene. The story below, however, seems to indicate that these strategies have been around at least since the dawn of multinationals.

From Simon Worrall, reporting from Indonesia, on BBC News Magazine:

“The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, “United East India Company”) was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States -General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It was the second multinational corporation in the world (the British East India Company was founded two years earlier) and the first company to issue stock. It was also arguably the first mega corporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.” Click image to go to source.

“The Netherlands United East India Company, or Voc, was the world’s first multinational corporation.

And just as corporations today seek to monopolise plant genes in the developing world, the Voc set about seizing total control of spice production.

In 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish, the Dutch introduced a policy known as extirpatie: extirpation.

All clove trees not controlled by the Voc were uprooted and burned.

Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorisation faced the death penalty.

On the Banda Islands, to the south – the world’s only source of nutmeg – the Dutch used Japanese mercenaries to slaughter almost the entire male population.

Like Opec today, the Voc also limited supply to keep prices high. Only 800-1,000 tonnes of cloves were exported per year. The rest of the harvest was burned or dumped in the sea….”

Read more on BBC News Magazine.

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