Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, May 17, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities - WTO
Plea to remove farm sector from WTO purview
KOLKATA, May 16
``AGRICULTURE must be taken out of the ambit of the World Trade Organisation.'' This was the collective demand made by 120 representatives of ``people's movements'' and non-Government organisations representing 13 Asian countries, who had assembled in Kathmandu last week to deliberate on the subject of world hunger in the run-up to the World Food Summit in Rome from June 10 to 13.
In a declaration adopted at the Kathmand conference, the representatives criticised the existing pattern of world agriculture development and food production, the effect of which, they claimed, was damaging the lives of the people of Asia. They held that the damage was being ``caused by the direct dictates of transnational corporations (TNCs) and big business houses through the World Trade Organisation, facilitated by the international financial institutions and multilateral development banks such as the World Bank, the IMF and the ADB''.
They said that the impact was ``mainly manifested in the loss of livelihood, land, water, forests and other resources, little or no access to food resulting in hunger, starvation and famine, the displacement of people, unemployment, forced migration and increased vulnerability to exploitation and expression.''
The declaration said that ``corporate agriculture'' continued to ``promote hazardous technologies, including the use of pesticides''. The dominance of corporate control was ``further entrenched by patents on life forms'', it added.
It pointed out that the promise of the 1996 World Food Summit, namely, to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, had been declared impossible to achieve by the same institutions that had adopted it in the first place.
The declaration said that food security and sovereignty was an integral part of social justice and genuine national development. Priority had to be given to policies and programmes that protected and supported agriculture as a sustainable means of livelihood.
This apart, to realize food sovereignty at all levels, there had to be global recognition and commitment through the adoption of an international convention on food sovereignty.
The declaration added that, among other things, in order to ensure that the activities of the governments and other national and international actors were transparent, an international code of conduct on right to food and resources had to be adopted and implemented by governments, the whole thing being coordinated and monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Mr R.B. Singh, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific, who attended the Kathmandu conference, said, ``access to resources is critical for ensuring durable food security to the poor. To break the vicious circle of food insecurity, the poor need to have equitable access not only to physical resources such as land and water, but also to financial resources, improved technologies and efficient markets''.
He added that a range of complex institutional issues decided through the political and legislative process within the country and in the international arena through multilateral agreements and covenants were also involved. However, equally important was the local initiative to build capacity at the receiving end.
Thus, ``the NGOs play an important role in providing policy feedback, advocacy and capacity-building at the grassroots level,'' he added.
Originally to be held from November 5 to 9 last year, the forthcoming World Food Summit is expected to consider the progress achieved since the 1996 summit and concentrate on the ways and means of accelerating the process of reducing the number of the world's hungry.
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