PCFS says no to corporate world food day!

Monday 14 October 2013

Date: 08 October Type: Statement Source: PCFS Keywords: food sovereignty, world foodless day, agriculture

Statement to the World Foodless Day

A September 2013 survey report released by the UN Global Impact and Accenture shows that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) no longer set the agenda for development, and that the vast majority of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) believe that business should lead efforts to define and deliver new goals on global priority issues. Many of the CEOs interviewed in the survey are from food and agricultural industries.

Hence it is not surprising that in the commemoration of World Food Day this year, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) focuses on creating an enabling environment for large-scale agricultural investment. The CFS, which is responsible for the development of policies concerning world food security, subscribes to a neoliberal policy that furthers the monopoly control of big corporations and domination of wealthy states over the global food system — essentially turning the World Food Day, which to many people especially from the South is really World Hunger Day, into Corporate World Food Day.

According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), at present the world’s largest agro-industrial corporations —the “Big 6,” comprised of Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, and BASF — own the world’s seed, pesticide and biotech industries, ultimately controlling the global food and farming systems. These are the same companies that made a killing during the 2008 global food crisis, shamelessly posting profit increases as high as 300 percent while the number of people suffering from hunger breached the 1 billion mark.

Ironically, the Big 6 is part of what is hailed now as an important player in policy development — the private sector. This is evident in the statement of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, calling on other stakeholders to embrace and rely on the private sector to increase world food output. Yet the corporate agricultural system has not only pushed for unsustainable practices, often causing environmental hazards and poverty, but also systematically hindered more sustainable alternatives like an agro-ecological smallholder system.

Indeed, Private Sector Development (PSD) is fast becoming a policy goal of wealthy Northern countries towards Southern countries to expand the role of business and corporatize vast areas of development that were previously the turf of the state, its public agencies, and multilateral agencies. The more recent push for a greater role for PSD also corresponded with the decline in Northern donor funding for the world’s poorest countries, which is seen as a reason for economic slowdown in wealthy countries.

This phenomenon undermines the crucial role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as interlocutor of the people and as an independent development actor in its own right. It is currently a trend in UN processes and international policy arenas to explicitly entice CSOs to be in the same boat with the private sector. PSD, which was earlier promoted as a development policy principle by a host of UN organizations and agencies, donor states and other multilateral institutions, is now a paradigm being peddled by dangling potential funds and accommodation of CSO language in policy formulation.

It is in this context that the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) calls on all grassroots organizations, social movements, and CSOs to remain steadfast in the struggle against the intensified offensive of neoliberalism in the midst of global protracted depression. On the occasion of the World Food(less) Day on October 16, we encourage everyone to echo the voices of social movements in the halls of policy development arenas and expose the failures of the PSD neoliberal agenda — for instance, apart from continued landlessness, small farmers and other small-scale food producers lack control over farm inputs, the prices of their produce, and the terms of its trade.

The PCFS salutes social movements for their continuous efforts to advance the principles of food sovereignty in different parts of the globe. This year, we have witnessed in their collective actions the people’s policy recommendations which are being shunned in intergovernmental fora.

In Asia, successful mobilizations and protest actions are being conducted by grassroots organizations against corporatization in agriculture. For instance, Filipino peasants under peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) campaigned effectively against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that kill local output; in particular, the introduction of Golden Rice in the Bicol region.

Thousands of farmers in Bulukumba, Indonesia also mobilized against large-scale landgrabbing, as in the case of Loncum Ltd., which has taken over vast tracts of land for plantations engaged in rubber production. Meanwhile, in Manipur, India, a series of protests and consultations were held disputing the construction of massive dams in the region, which are displacing communities and causing environmental degradation. In Panama, Sri Lanka, communities are struggling against planned “Arugam Bay Tourism Zones” that will displace them and eradicate their traditional livelihoods. And in Bangladesh, peasants and other agricultural workers are on strike to demand decent wage, regularization, and other basic worker rights.

In Africa, small-food producers are also speaking out against corporate monopoly control over the food system. In Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Seychelles, and Madagascar, farmers united under the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) are challenging African governments to protect small food producers from the devastating effects of Economic Partnership Agreements. In Senegal, peasants led by the Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux (CNCR) are organizing and mobilizing in 41 villages against the World Bank-instigated and government-supported land distribution of over 10,000 hectares to private investors. In Nigeria, the Ogoni people are protesting BP Shell’s willful destruction and pollution of Ogoniland, under the credo that “Everything about man is tied to his environment. Destroy his environment and you have destroyed his very life, livelihood and future!”

The people of Latin America have also shown their determination to gain food sovereignty. In Colombia, despite aggressive repression by the government, thousands of peasants in solidarity with teachers, workers, indigenous people, and other sectors have launched a strike to demand genuine land reform. In Guatemala, the Kaqchikel indigenous people maintain their resistance to mining and militarization, fighting back against violent attempts to silence them, such as the September 7 shooting which killed 11 people and wounded dozens of others.

On the other hand, post-revolution Cuba is further along in the struggle, having developed an agricultural system with an emphasis on the adoption of agro-ecological practices to ensure food sovereignty and security. Recently, the Cuban government began conducting a municipal empowerment process which bypasses the demands of transnational corporations and foreign governments. Instead, local communities are actively involved in the decision-making processes of food production, distribution, and marketing, as well as the need to preserve biodiversity and native species. Their achievement is evident in the higher accessibility of food for the population and the lessening of dependence on imports.

We urge the CSO community to embrace these struggles and to be one with them in their advocacy and policy development. The PCFS, as a network of grassroots organizations, social movements and support NGOs, will continue to strive in developing and promoting People’s Food Sovereignty as the alternative platform against neoliberal globalization on food and agriculture policies.

No to Corporate World Food Day!

Onward with the struggle for agrarian reform and food sovereignty!

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