Large investors such as banks and pension funds must stop facilitating land grabs, civic groups have told a global farmland investment conference.
The comments came as the meeting gathered in London from 3-5 December 2012.
Critics say banks and pension funds are increasingly engaging in large-scale acquisitions of land with extremely damaging consequences for local populations.
The London conference this week brings together funds with more than US$3 trillion in assets to explore opportunities for investments in Africa, Latin America and Russia.
Campaigners warn that pension funds and banks attending the conference have a duty to ensure that they do not fund risky investments that threaten the livelihoods and food sovereignty of local communities.
Since 2008, rising financial investments in land have contributed to more than 200 million hectares being taken from small farmers, fishers and rural communities, robbing them of their means of survival.
Land grabbing also frequently involves violent evictions and human rights violations. Institutional investors are expected to increase by 500 per cent their agricultural investment portfolios by 2017.
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty Programme Co-ordinator, declared: “Private investments in farmland may be seen by many as low risk and positive for developing countries. But they are often a disaster for local communities and the environment. Legal uncertainty and community opposition means that most farmland investments are also risky for investors.”
She added: “Major investors such as banks and pension funds need to urgently investigate their investment portfolios and stop funding land grabs.”
Earlier this year Friends of the Earth Europe released a report entitled 'Farming money: How European banks and private finance profit from food speculation and land grabs'.
The report analyses the activities of 29 European banks, pension funds and insurance companies, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays, RBS, Allianz, BNP Paribas, AXA, HSBC, Generali, Unicredit and Credit Agricole. It reveals the significant involvement of these financial institutions in food speculation, and the direct or indirect financing of land grabbing.