Over 33,000 fed up citizens joined in the streets of Berlin to tell the world – Food is Political!
This year’s Wir Haben Es Satt (We Are Fed Up) demonstration featured a wide and colourful array of people from a number of food farming and environmental perspectives.
The focus of the protest was on farmers – loss of farmers and small scale farmer’s rights, and land access. Highlighted also were GMO free food, refugee solidarity, animal welfare, food sovereignty, fair trade, bee friendly agriculture, climate and environment, CAP reform for rural and ecological improvements.
Food is Political ...!
Joel Labbe (pictured) also spoke at the rally. He was the driving force behind the successful banning of herbicides from public use in France. This means that public parks, schools forests and other areas are no longer treated with these agri-chemicals in France. Further restrictions are coming in in the coming months and years.
The WTO: since its beginnings in 1995 as derivative of General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATTs), the World Trade Organisation has promoted the most brutal form of capitalism, better known as trade liberalization. At successive Ministerial Conferences, the WTO has set out to globalise the liberalisation of national markets, promising economic prosperity at the cost of sovereignty. In more or less the same terms, by its “liberalization, deregulation and privatization”, which is called Package of Neoliberalism,
The WTO has encouraged the multiplication of free trade agreements (FTAs) between countries and regional blocs, etc. On this basis and by making use of governments that have been co-opted, the world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs) are seeking to undermine democracy and all of the institutional instruments for defending the lives, the territories, and the food and agricultural ecosystems of the world’s peoples.
In the previous Ministerial Conference (MC) in Nairobi in 2015, WTO had made six decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to LDCs. The agricultural decisions cover commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, public stockholding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.
This year, with Macri Inc. in the Casa Rosada (Government House in Argentina), the coup leader Michel Temer in the Palacio del Planalto (the oficial workplace of the president of Brazil), and Brazilian Roberto Azevedo as its Director General, the WTO wants to return to the subject of agriculture, to put an end to small-scale fishing, and to make progress with multilateral agreements such as the misnamed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Notwithstanding the misleading protectionist statements coming from Washington and London, the WTO will meet again to try to impose the interests of capital at the cost of Planet Earth, of the democratic aspirations of the world’s peoples, and of life itself.
During these 20 years of struggle against the WTO, the world’s peoples have resisted its attempt to globalize everything, including the food and agricultural systems, for the benefit of the TNCs. Our struggles have been the biggest impediment to the advance of the WTO, and there is no doubt that La Via Campesina has played a decisive part. Our resistance to market liberalisation under this neoliberal regime has continued since the Uruguay round conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Ever since, La Via Campesina has mobilised against almost all of the Ministerial Conferences since Seattle (1999) and Cancún (2003) – where our brother Lee Kyung Hae, holding a banner declaring that “The WTO kills peasants”, sacrificed his own life – and up to Bali (2013) and Nairobi (2015).
From December 10 to 13, an international delegation of La Via Campesina will be in Buenos Aires to participate actively in multiple mobilisations, forums and debates of the organised people, at the Peoples’ Summit “WTO, Out! – Building Alternatives“. We will denounce the WTO as the criminal organization that it is and will raise our flag of Food Sovereignty. We will denounce all governments, which, after having understood that the WTO had been weakened, resorted to mega free trade agreements, bilateral and regional, that threaten to annihilate our food systems, just as the WTO has done in the last two decades.
La Via Campesina now an irrepressible global movement
La Via Campesina is a global activist movement linking together rural organisations from many countries under a unified umbrella. Its goal is to bring about change in the rural sector: real changes that improve livelihoods, enhance local food production, and open up democratic spaces for food-land-people issues.
It promotes changes that empower people working on the land with more rights on issues that impact their everyday working lives. The movement believes that real change can occur only when local communities have greater control over local productive resources, and more social and political power.
Whenever international institutions like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank (WB), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meet to discuss agricultural and food issues La Vía Campesina[ 1 ] (LVC) aims to have a presence. LVC is also active in local communities whenever peasants and farming families in places - such as Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Europe or Canada - are resisting the spread of genetically‐modified seeds, or are being evicted from their land to facilitate urban sprawl, golf course development, intensive shrimp or pig farming, or oil-palm plantations.
This uprising of the peasantry is surprising to many westerners. It was always assumed that modern intensive agriculture would eventually supplant the old ways of farming. Surely by now that should all be gone! Instead, peasants are turning up everywhere[ 2 ], a troublesome and discordant voice to those extolling the praises of economic globalisation. La Vía Campesina has become an outspoken radical opposition to the globalised corporate model of agriculture.
Politically, the (neo)-liberalisation of agriculture is a war on peasants: it decimates rural communities and farming families. Environmentally, it causes a degradation of the rural ecology and biodiversity, causing superbugs, superweeds and toxified soils. La Via Campesina is strongly rooted in local communities, at the same time being increasingly engaged on the international stage. Its growing visibility as a key social actor has attracted the attention of many rural organisations. It now includes 164 organisations from 73 countries. Much of its success is due to the fact that it is represents the diverse interests of its membership, balancing potentially divisive issues such as gender, race, class, culture and North/South relations3. According to LVC the conflict is not between farmers of the North and peasants of the South, rather, the struggle is over two competing models of land-use, social and economic development. On the one hand the neoliberal corporate-driven model of input/output agriculture; on the other hand the socialised model of ecologically-based sustainable agriculture geared to localised resources and markets.
The rise of La Via Campesina indicates that small-holder families have not been passive victims in the face of the global economic restructuring, with its increasing poverty and marginalisation. Instead they are resisting the corporate model of agriculture, using the typical methods of the oppressed; organisation, cooperation and community to build an alternative model of agriculture based on the principles of social justice, ecological sustainability and respect for peasant cultures and peasant economies. This involves creating small agricultural cooperatives, local seed banks, fair trade ventures and reclaiming traditional farming practices. It also means linking these efforts beyond the local by working at the national, regional and international levels. In forming La Via Campesina, the smaller peasant organisations have effectively internationalised and succeeded in carving out a space in the international arena. It provides an international space for the peasant voice, its demands and efforts to resist the imposition of a corporate model of agriculture. The solidarity and unity experienced within this organisation yields perhaps the most precious gift of all, hope. Hope that ‘another’ agriculture is possible. Indeed, La Via Campesina enables us to imagine that change is possible and that an alternative way is being created.
Translated from the Spanish it means ... 'the way of the peasant woman'
Peasants and small-holders comprise about 40% of the world's population, and growing.
Food sovereignty, seed sovereignty, land grabbing, biopiracy, land use, women's rights.
The fight over who will control our food, countryside and natural resources is heating up
“Feed the World” – a battle-cry for both sides in a fight heating up over who will control our food, countryside and natural resources.
Today, April 17th, marks the International Day of Peasant Struggles. These ‘peasants’, or paysans in French, are the hundreds of millions of small farmers who currently produce the majority of the world’s food. They are the David struggling against the agribusiness Goliath – the large corporations consolidating control over global food production.
There is little in common between these two sides. The former know that food sovereignty and small-scale ecological farming can feed the world – once food production is fully in the hands of producers and consumers. The latter desire a resource intensive, chemical-based industrial farming model where control over seeds, chemical inputs, machinery, distribution and most importantly profits, sits in the hands of corporations.
We cannot allow corporations bent on profit at any cost to take control over our food and farming. Increasing corporate control, combined with a political fixation on export-led growth has tipped the scales in favour of industrial agriculture, threatening the existence of small-scale farmers, biodiversity and the environment.
In Europe, four million small farms disappeared between 2003 and 2013, a staggering 33% of all farms in the European Union. In contrast, three percent of industrial farms now control 52% of the European Union’s agricultural land.
Exacerbating this are trade deals that favour global food chains instead of de-centralised local markets – benefitting a small number of transnational companies. If the current trend of chemical-intensive industrial farming persists, the UN estimates we may have fewer than 60 years of farming left. The status quo is simply not an option.
It is time for political leaders to catch up. The European institutions, as well as national governments across Europe, need to unshackle themselves from corporate influence, and focus support on truly sustainable food and farming.
Nothing less than a radical overhaul of trade deals and the Common Agricultural Policy is needed. Putting peasants and a locally-based food system at the core of policy-making means shifting public money away from industrial agriculture to those who deliver for the environment and society.
This would mean ensuring fair prices for farmers, providing support for agro-ecological food production and artisanal infrastructure, such as small-scale food processing facilities and farmers’ cooperatives, to help them thrive.
At a local level, authorities can help by providing support to revitalise local shops, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture, and fair-trade schemes. Internationally, it means recognising the rights of peasants and communities to define and build the food system.
The Davids of this world are not alone, and they have their slingshots full of public support. The fight to ensure that food and farming works for people, and the planet, has begun.
Stanka Becheva is food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe where she coordinates work on agroecology and food sovereignty.
Join the movement for Peasants’ Rights and ask the EU and its Member States to actively participate in good faith in the elaboration of a “UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas“.
“Peasants and others working in rural areas represent the largest group of people in the world suffering from hunger and malnutrition. These people have faced political and economic discriminations for decades. In light of this situation, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) undertook several studies that ultimately asserted the need for an international protection instrument. Consequently, a working group was created to draft a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The first draft of the declaration was completed in early 2015, following two rounds of negotiation. The current challenge is to pressure States to actively engage in the process so that an ambitious declaration can be adopted.” ~ Factsheet: Hands on the Land (2015)
Join the movement and ask for the adoption of
the UN Declaration on Peasants’ Rights!
President Putin Calls Westerners ‘Intensively Vaccinated Borderline Autistic Fat Man …’
Russian President, Vladimir Putin is making waves again today and this time, it is because he is once again, slamming the pharmaceutical alliances and big food corporations. He believes that both of these entities are divisive, mind-controlling and poisonous beings with the ambition of world population control.
In a report prepared by the Security Council (SCRF), President Putin has put these entities on notice and stated that his people should be protected from pharmaceutical companies and GMO foods “at all costs.” According to YourNewsWire Putin also stated that human evolution is at “grave risk” and that Western powers are “intentionally decelerating the process for personal gain.”
“We as a species have the choice to continue to develop our bodies and brains in a healthy upward trajectory, or we can follow the Western example of recent decades and intentionally poison our population with genetically altered food, pharmaceuticals, vaccinations, and fast food that should be classified as a dangerous, addictive drug.” “We must fight this. A physically and intellectually disabled population is not in our interests,” the report states. It also states Putin describing Western culture as, “intensively vaccinated borderline autistic fat man slumped in front of a screen battling a high-fructose corn syrup comedown.”
Russian PresidentVladimir Putinhas claimed that his country has developed a vaccine for the Ebola virus which has killed thousands of people in west Africa.
But Putin, who is famed for his talent for headline-grabbing announcements, did not divulge the vaccine’s name, nor did he say how it worked, who was developing it or give details of any trials.
“We have good news,” Putin was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency. We have registered a drug againstEbola, which after the corresponding tests has been shown to be highly effective, more effective than the drugs used worldwide up to now.”
Maybe he’s headline-grabbing on this issue? Either way, it is difficult to invalidate his prior statements regard the West’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies. While his proclamation may be rather rough around the edges, it is nonetheless accurate. The rate of autism in U.S. children is now at 1-45 with no viable solution or investigations into solutions in play. The future would seem dismal on this front. Childhood obesity is now at over 50% and growing. At some point the West most certainly needs to wake up and see that the powers that be aren’t working in our favour.
Globally, the need for doctorsis urgent. There iscurrently a deficitof seven million doctors, nurses, and other health care workers in developingcountries — and that number is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years. The WHO warns that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), like reducing maternal and infant mortality, will not happen without more health care workers.
Even with all of the new funding for global health these days, professional training remains one of the most critically underserved needs. Passing out emergency supplies is one thing; the multi-year intensive schooling needed to train physicians requires a whole different level of commitment.
Foreign aid is notoriously faddish: a few years ago the “teach a man to fish” parable was omnipresent. But as often happens, the rhetoric did not equal reality. Most foreign aid today is aimed at achieving a particular outcome, such as fighting a disease, providing emergency food, or alleviating the effects of a natural disaster or crisis.
The Cuban model takes a fundamentally different approach: it teaches people essential skills, so that they can be responsible for their own outcomes.
Samantha Marie Moore, a sixth-year ELAM student from Detroit, Michigan, examines Estrella Gomez Mesa, 76, during morning rounds at the Salvador Allende Hospital in Havana, Cuba.
ELAM opened in 1999in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the Caribbean and Central America. The idea was to help replace doctors that had been lost among Cuba’s neighbors. Since then, the school has trained more than 26,000 doctors from 124 countries around the world.
In one small lab class, two dozen students were drawn from Chad, Sierra Leone, Angola, South Africa, Congo, Belize, and U.S. The school provides six years of medical education, as compared to four in U.S. medical schools. The extra years are spent learning about public health, tropical medicine, and Cuba’s unique focus on prevention. Doctors learn to make diagnoses by knowing about their patients’ working and living conditions, and by interacting, touching, and listening.
Students from the U.S. started attending ELAM in 2005, after members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Fidel Castro and heard about the training program. Representative Bennie Thompson told the Cuban leader that his constituents did not have access to decent medical care. Castro immediately offered 500 spots to American students. (To date, 134 U.S. students have graduated, and more than 50 are now in residency programs.)
There are no laptops in an ELAM lecture hall. Unlike U.S. medical schools, where most training takes place in the classroom, Cuban medical students spend a lot of time treating patients and performing procedures like inserting a catheter, setting broken bones, or delivering a baby.
More than 4 thousands people, from all Brazilian States, have left their homes and farms to join caravans from different regions of the country towards Sao Paulo, to attend the First National Peasants Congress of MPA, the Small-Farmers Movement of Brazil.
The symbolic Pavilion of Vera Cruz, the same place where the biggest trade union in Brazil, the CUT, and the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) were founded, decades ago.
MPA has mobilised thousands of rural women and men to come together and consolidate all the work the movement has been doing in the last 20 years and reaffirm their class identity as peasants. MPA is re-affirming at this congress the strategic alliance between rural peasants and urban workers.
“This congress has the task to put together what we have built so far in various areas such as health, food production, work on seeds, youth and organisational strengthening. Now, we want to take a great step and consolidate our understanding as a peasant class that we need to articulate with the workers class”, said Isabel Ramalho, from MPA National Board.
Mobilising the peasantry to challenge agribusiness
MPA is mobilising peasants to take the task of building a peasant agricultural project that fights and challenges the agribusiness model that is still powerful in Brazil.
“This same government has also allowed the progress of the capital and of the agribusiness model”, said Isabel Ramalho.
Brazil is one of the top agribusiness drivers in the world. The country has become the world´s top agricultural exporters. In 2012 Brazil surpassed the United State as the largest buyer of pesticides for its agriculture.
Agribusiness, which includes biofuels, is responsible for 27% of the country’s GDP and corresponds to at least 37% of the Brazilian export.
The First National Congress takes place in a context of a political turbulence in Brazil. The gains that former president Lula talked about may risk being eroded Brazilian President, Workers Party Dilma Rousseff, is facing strong criticism from conservative right wing sectors. In the last years, many street protests called even for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazilian social movements, however, have taken the stand to support Dilma Rousseff since, although not always satisfied with the government policies, “we should not allow a step back on what we have achieved in this country”, said Willian Clementino, from National Confederation of Farmworkers.