The Human Rights Impact of Farmland Acquisition by Universities and their Employee Retirement Funds in the United States and Brazil.

Authors: Doug Hertzler*, ActionAid USA, Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, ActionAid USA
Topics: Human Rights, Agricultural Geography, Land Use
Keywords: financialization of farmland, land grabbing, human rights, right to food
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the years following the twin food and financial crises of 2007-8, many investors moved to acquire farmland across the globe, both to profit from high prices for agricultural commodities and to transform land into a financial asset. This influx of capital fueled processes of dispossession and violations of human rights. The “financialization” of farmland is important to scholars, not only for academic and humanitarian reasons, but because our universities and pension funds are participating in it. This paper considers the human rights posture of TIAA, the largest university retirement fund and the largest global manager of farmland. TIAA defends its investments by referring to the Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland, which it created together with a few major investors. However, these principles undercut the 2012 United Nations Land Tenure Guidelines that are based on existing international human rights law and were negotiated and endorsed by 124 governments and global civil society participating in the UN Committee on World Food Security. This paper analyzes how institutional investors in farmland such as TIAA have failed to consider the violent context in which some of their land acquisitions have occurred and how they are ignoring the impacts of land concentration on the environment and on the right to food.

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