Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
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Much attention is on the World Trade Organization summit in Hong Kong. Here are a couple of ENI briefs on the WTO:

Food, agriculture, subsidies grip faith groups as well as WTO

Hong Kong (ENI). Participants at an interfaith conference on economic justice have urged the World Trade Organization to respect people’s food sovereignty and halt the current negotiations on agriculture and the production of food. “People’s food sovereignty is being undermined by the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture,” a declaration said after a meeting held in Hong Kong.

Southern Africa faith groups urge: End barriers to farm exports

Blantyre, Malawi (ENI). Southern Africa faith-based groups and non-governmental organizations are urging developed countries at world trade talks in Hong Kong to stop subsidising agricultural products and to remove barriers to agricultural exports from poor countries. “The highly industrialised countries must immediately stop subsidies for their domestic production and exports that result in the dumping of their excess agricultural production in our countries,” the groups stated.

Regarding the first item, I take “people’s food sovereignty” to mean the right to grow whatever you want at a profit regardless of the world supply and demand. This is the same logic at the heart of the “fair” trade movement: I should be able to grow what I choose when I choose and make a living off of it. Who cares if we already have too many coffee beans? I know my rights! Respect my food sovereignty!

This looks like it will be one of the growing buzzwords for the anti-global market crew. Here’s a group, People’s Food Sovereignty, formed in 2001, “a loose global coalition of peasant-farmer organizations and NGO’s working on food and agriculture issues.”

Food sovereignty is defined here as “the RIGHT of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies.” (Apparently, if you put the word “right” in all caps and bold, it makes whatever you say after it true.)

There’s a kernel of truth in this, insofar as it manifests some respect for the principle of subsidiarity. But here the RIGHT of the grower here is opposed to the rights and freedoms of the buyer…the world is compelled to pay a set price, rather than letting a system of free exchange, respecting both the rights and responsibilities of buyer and seller alike, do the job.


  • Josh

    Clarify for me, please. Is this group, People’s Food Sovereignty, advocating that the price of produce be set, despite supply and demand?

  • http://blog.acton.org Jordan

    Josh, I think pretty clearly so. There’s a long statement of their principles (what they are for and against) [url=http://www.peoplesfoodsovereignty.org/statements.html]here[/url].

    One of the things they want is “Control of imports in order to stabilise internal prices to levels that cover the costs of production.” Here are some others: “Supply management at the national level in order to avoid over-production and dumping. Supply management strategies should be set up in the major exporting countries in both, the North and the South to curb over-production” and “International commodity agreements to control supply at the international level and guarantee fair prices to peasant producers for export products such as coffee, cotton, etc. Price enhancement measures should first of all benefit small farmers and not traders, and support agricultural diversification rather than the consolidation of corporate owned monocultures.”

    It’s logically consistent with the whole fair-trade movement, but goes a bit beyond it I think with respect to specific goals for political entities.