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Economy

Is global food security possible?

Translated by Doug Miller

Translated Sunday 19 February 2006, by Doug

At the heart of these multiple debates, lies the right of people to feed themselves.

Special correspondent

The need for food security lies clerarly at the heart of the discussions of the first World Social Forum in Africa. The questions of agriculture must have polarised a large number of the interventions. The World Food Summit (Rome, June 2002) fixed the total number of people who are victims of famine in the world at 815 million. This was despite the commitments made by governments at the first summit (1996) to reduce this number by half before 2015 which has remained a dead letter: the threat of famine in Kenya or in the Horn of Africa are two of the newest dramatic confirmations of this failure.

For such an objective to be reached, each country needs to have the legal ability and the power to ensure its agricultural autonomy in a sustainable manner. This runs counter to the evolution noted for increased forced importations by countries in the South, the permanent destruction of their rural economies and the vice-grip control by the multinationals over their most vital basic production.

For the African countries, the hardest hit by this programmed regression, the right of people to feed themselves presumes the emergence of a mode of development divergent from the western model (even running counter to it). Western agriculture is more and more mechanised and employing chemical products on a massive scale, with less and less people actually working on the land. Priority should be given to the peasant family and internal food production, thus breaking with the tradition inherited from the colonial period of everything for exportation to the North. The right to protection of biodiversity must be recognised (local varieties of crops are being massively replaced by those imposed by the multinationals), which means that, in particular, there has to be an end to the dictatorship of patents on life forms, which is the ultimate armament of the multinationals’s arsenal to direct and use resources in their own interest. As well, an international moratorium on the commercial growth of GMOs has to be adopted: just five multinationals rule over the industry of genetically modified foods, which treat the South as a large scale experimental ground.

Food must be considered as a human right, assured by the Charter of the United Nations. This demand will remain a pipe-dream as long as agriculture is confronted with unsupportable financial constraints and modelled according to the rules of the WTO. The creation of support mechanisms for the production of local foodstuffs, the possibility for the south to regulate its imports and to benefit from a guarantee of stable resources for its exports in order to avoid the instability of prices, the development of "interregional markets" between neighbouring countries ... all of this depends on a pre-condition: that food and agriculture, these fundamental conditions of society, should be removed from the competency of the WTO. Breaking with the total liberalisation favoured by Washington and its allies in the Cairns group would open the way to a "new model of agricultural development" capable of responding to the demands which are not lacking in expression one more time in Bamako.


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