Fertile land is becoming scarce worldwide, especially for crops for food, feed, biofuels, timber and fiber such as cotton. To produce those goods, wealthy countries such as the U.S. and small countries with little space are buying up or leasing large tracts of land that are suitable for agriculture in other nations. Products are shipped back home or sold locally, at times squeezing out native farmers, landowners and businesses. In the past 30 years ago companies and government groups in “investor” countries have grabbed 31.8 million hectares of land, the area of New Mexico (column on right), according to the Land Matrix Global Observatory's database of transactions that target low- and middle-income countries. Crops are being produced on only 2.7 million of those hectares thus far (column on left). Overall, a large transfer of land ownership from the global south to the global north seems to be under way.
This article was originally published with the title "This Land is My Land" in Scientific American 312, 5, 90 (May 2015)