- Published on Tuesday, 02 September 2003 02:02
Yes to Peoples’ Food Sovereignty!
Food Sovereignty is every community’s fundamental right Every community should have the right to produce their own food, the right to food sovereignty. This means that communities have the right to define their own agricultural and food policies, to protect and to regulate their national agricultural and livestock production, and to shield their domestic market from the dumping of agricultural surpluses from other countries. This also implies that they do not dump agricultural and food products under the cost of production on international markets. Priority has to be given to local and regional production over export production, authorising protection from low price imports, allowing public aid for peasants, supporting food production for domestic consumption and guaranteeing the stability of agricultural prices at an international level through agreements on supply management.
The WTO main objective: the so-called "liberalization" of agriculture, has made the crisis worse The "liberalisation" of agriculture has entrenched the on-going crisis in rural societies and impoverished large tracts of the rural population. The Agreement on Agricultural (AoA) favours large transnational corporations that are, in turn, supported by their governments. The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) imposed rules allowing them to continue with the "dumping" of their production surpluses at very low prices - this practice destroys the internal-local markets on which peasants and small farmers depend. At the same time, many importing countries have been forced to lower their import taxes and eliminate any protection they may have had for their own agriculture.
During February 2003, the WTO released the controversial and unacceptable "Harbinson text", compiled by the chairman of the agriculture negotiations, Stuart Harbinson. The objective of the text is to restructure agricultural production and commerce world wide. Via Campesina rejects this document because is a compromise between two equally unacceptable positions: 1) The United States and the Cairns Group (a group headed by Australia and other industrialized countries that aggressively promotes low price-export based agriculture) are pushing to obtain lower agricultural import tariffs. They have stated that the Harbinson text does not meet their standards. 2) The European Union wants to maintain its internal subsidies, which are predominantly directed towards large producers and the export industry. Neither of these positions, between which Harbinson sought consensus, paid heed to the demands of peasant communities.
The recent publication of the joint text by the European Union and the United States was a clear effort to impose a framework to the negotiations and push other countries further down on the liberalisation road. This EU-US text did not include any commitments to reduce the devastating effects of their dumping policies and to allow the strengthening of sustainable, domestic food production. The agricultural chapter of "draft Cancun declaration" which is circulating at the moment is a near copy of the EU-US text and does not show any change in the orientation of the policies imposed through WTO.
The Agreement on Agriculture and other "free" trade agreements have strong negtaive effects on domestic food production. In Indonesia the government during the period September 1998 - December 1999, implemented the 0% import tariff of rice. Rice is the main food for Indonesia, the consequence was that the market was flooded with imported rice from Thailand and Vietnam and ruined the price of the local rice. After peasant protest now the tariff has been put at 30% but this figure still ruins the price and peasants existence. We need protection against import! In Europe internal grain priced were reduced with 50% during the last ten years in order to allow lower import tariffs and to eliminate export subsidies, replaced by direct income support, mainly going to the largest producers and accepted under the "green box" in WTO: the European Union continues to dump grain at very low price on international market and small grain farmers continue to disappear. In Bangladesh: the government signed the GATT in 1994 and it automatically became the member of the WTO in 1995. In the same year the then government stopped giving subsidies to agriculture under the rules of WTO. As a result, there was a big crisis in agricultural inputs in the market, especially in case of fertiliser. On the one hand, the fertilisers were not available in the market, on the other hand the price of the fertiliser was totally out of reach of the peasant community. The government resorted to repression on the agitated peasants, which led to 17 peasants brutally killed by the police. In 1996 a new government came into power committing themselves to subsidy for agriculture. They kept a lump-sum provision in the national budget to satisfy the peasantry. Though this insignificant initiative did not favour the peasants at all, the government used this subsidy as their campaign issue. Yet the peasants are suffering much receiving no support anymore, a direct impact of WTO in Bangladesh. In Mexico: In NAFTA a reduction of the tariffs of 24% was agreed which means that maize found itself in a totally open market. Maize imports, nearly all from the US, increased from 2,2 million tons in 1994 to 6,1 million tons in 2001. The national mexican production in that period was between 18 and 20 million tons. This way the destiny of 2.4 millons of maize producers is sacrified by the mexican government. Opening up totally the maize market in Mexico, agricultural production is sistematically de-capitalized. The only winners of the maize negotiations in NAFTA are the big multi-nationals that consolidate the Mexican-US integration at their benefit. In Thailand Importation for 23 agricultural products (milk, rice, soybean, onions, potatoes etc) was liberalised. In the period 1995-2002, 8 years of liberalisation under the Agreement on Agriculture, the value of exported products rose with ca 50%. However at the same time similar products from abroad were dumped upon the domestic market. The result was desastrous; prices fell below a never known level and farmers had to face a severe cut in their income. This had a strong negative effect on domestic food production.
Fishing communities should have their rights guaranteed. Coastal communities that depend on sea fishing and fresh water fishing have been particularly hard hit by the commercialization of their work. They need protection, guarantees that local communities of fisherfolk can enjoy their rights to water resources. This can be done through the negotiation of an international covenant which prohibits illegal, unregulated and unnotified fishing, properly applying maritime covenants and treaties, such as the United Nations Treaty on Fish Population in international and highly migratory zones. The poverty and food insecurity of coastal communities needs to be tackled through policies on the sustainable and equitable use and handling of natural resources, founded upon local and indigenous knowledge, culture and experience.
WTO out of public services! The WTO seeks the liberalisation and privatisation of public services. This will have strong and negative effects on poor and marginalized peoples in our societies. We need to guarantee public financial resources in order to ensure adequate levels of infrastructure and services. The negotiations regarding the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) must be halted, and the principle of a "progressive liberalisation" must be eliminated in order to protect public services and the public good.
WTO, FTAA and other "free" trade agreements out of agriculture, fisheries and food! We demand that governments approve the following measures immediately:
Halt the advance of WTO current negotiations, and further talks on "new issues",
Cancel negotiations that seek greater liberalization of agricultural trade in the context of the Agreement on Agriculture,
Defend peasants rights and food sovereignty,
Eliminate the obligation of minimal market access: the obligation to accept imports up to 5% of internal consumption and all other clauses regarding obligatory access to markets,
Ban patenting of any kind of living material or any of its components,
Apply genuine agrarian reform policies and guarantee agricultural producers’ rights on crucial common resources such as land, seeds, water and others. Take immediate measures remove food and agriculture from the WTO’s control. An alternative frame work should be instituted, to include:
The United Nations -reformed and strengthened- actively engaged in the protection of fundamental rights of all peoples, with an appropriate forum for elaborating and negotiating sustainable production and fair trade regulations;
A problem/argument solving mechanism integrated in an international Court of Justice, with a mandate to halt to dumping and transgenic food aid;
A world Committee for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, created to evaluate exhaustively the effects of trade liberalization on food sovereignty and security, and to generate proposals for change;
An International Treaty that will define and defend peasants and small producers rights over goods, resources and legal protection that are needed to exercise the right to produce; this treaty must integrate the United Nations Human Rights system and be associated with other relevant treaties that already exist under the United Nations;
An international covenant that will substitute the Agriculture Agreement (AoA) and relevant clauses of other agreements of the WTO, defending and applying the concept of food sovereignty and the fundamental right of the peoples
We support Mexican organizations in their struggle Mexican organisations have mobilised frequently this year demanding a moratorium over the agricultural chapter of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), defending food sovereignty through protection against dumping, and demanding higher levels of investment in peasant agricultural production. Our presence in Cancun also signifies our support for the peasant and ethnic indigenous struggle in Mexico.
We all struggle against the WTO and Neo-liberal policies We make a call to every social organisation and movement to mobilise, wherever they are, and to join us in international marches and demonstrations that will be carried out in Cancun and across the world between September 9th to 14th, during the Ministerial Conference. We appeal to governments to turn down WTO’s proposals and concepts and to defend the principle of food sovereignty in Cancun.
Globalise the struggle! Globalise hope!
Program Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico Organizers: Via Campesina and in Mexico the Via campesina organisations UNORCA-CIOAC-CODUC-CNPA,....
September 8th to 10th: International Peasant Camp in Cancun September 8th and 9th: International Peasant and Indigenous Forum: "Food Sovereignty and free trade". September 10th: International Peasant March: "For Peasants human rights and food sovereignty". September 13th: International March and Global Action day against the WTO. For more information see: www.unorca.org.mx and www.viacampesina.org
Documents "Peoples’ Food Sovereignty" : http://www.viacampesina.org/art_english.php3?id_article=34 Leaflet on "Food Sovereignty" http://www.viacampesina.org/art_english.php3?id_article=216
How to contact the Via Campesina delegation in Cancun (5-15th of September)
For the press: (0052-998) 896 4148 (cell phone co-ordinator press contacts Via Campesina delegation)
Spokes persons Via Campesina in the official Conference Space: (+52-998) 896 5543 (cell phone)
Spokes persons Via Campesina outside the official Conference Space, spokes persons that participate in actions, mobilisations, events): (+52-998) 896 5150 (cell phone)
For questions related to the program or logistics: (0052-998) 884 - 6675 (land line)
Tegucigalpa, 30th of august 2003