Food sovereignty not ‘free trade’

February 23, 2018
The Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions takes a stand for food sovereignty.

The Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions (ATTAC) is an international movement for social, environmental and democratic alternatives that organises against free trade policies that grant huge powers to corporations at the expense of people and the planet.

ATTAC released the statement below at the end of a conference held in Morocco in December. It came after a World Trade Organisation Summit, but the issues it raises are very relevant to our region.

Australia is one of 11 Pacific Rim nations set to sign up next month to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which has been widely slammed as a huge corporate power grab.

Under the deal, corporations will be able to sue governments for measures that adversely affect profits — for instance, laws strengthening environmental or labour protections.

ATTAC’s statement is abridged from Climate and Capitalism.

In December, ATTAC Morocco, a member of the global network for the abolition of illegitimate debts (CADTM), organised a Maghreb seminar on free trade agreements, agriculture and food sovereignty under the slogan: No to colonial agreements, for the defence of people’s sovereign right on their agricultural, food and environmental systems. Activists came from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

The seminar comes a few days after the end of the 11th Ministerial Summit of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which hasn’t reached any official agreement.

This failure reflects the difficulties of imperialist powers such as the United States and the European Union in making progress in multilateral agreements, pushing them instead to promote bilateral and regional preferential trade agreements, which maintain a suffocating control over dependent and semi-autonomous colonial states.

These trade agreements have deepened the control of multinational companies on agriculture and maritime fishing, exacerbated food speculation, and destroyed subsistence agricultural and fishing systems.

Moreover, they accelerated the unlimited quest to promote genetically modified seeds and generalise the export-oriented agriculture and fishing industry.

In the global South, international financial institutions are pursuing neoliberal policies that further deregulate, open borders to the invasion of foreign capital and subsidised products and ensure the transfer of profits and wealth.

These neoliberal dictates are leading to an increase in public debt at the expense of the popular classes, who shoulder the burden of austerity policies.

We have come together to affirm our support for people’s food sovereignty [the capacity for peoples to feed themselves] and their right to determine their own food system — a system that ensures the production of healthy food in sufficient quantity while protecting nature and remaining in harmony with it.

This system must give priority to developing local staple foods and protecting natural seeds. It must implement a popular agrarian reform. The needed resources for this purpose must be provided by suspending the debt service payments of nations from the global South and cancelling illegitimate public debts.

We stand against the plunder of peoples’ agricultural and fishing resources by multinationals and financial capital, and we are equally opposed to all forms of discrimination and racism.

We strive to achieve food sovereignty, climate and environmental justice and to establish a new society where all kinds of exploitation and oppression have been brought to an end — a truly humane society that satisfies people’s needs in a participatory and democratic framework while staying in harmony with nature.

We affirm:

  • That the so called “free trade” agreements, signed by the governments of our countries are new colonial agreements that serve the interests of multinationals, favouring the pillage of lands, indigenous peoples’ communal areas, their water resources, their fish and their food.

    This results in the destruction of environments and cultures, all in the name of accumulating more profits for foreign and domestic capitalists. Together with the debt system, these agreements constitute the two faces of the imperialist domination of people.

  • Our support to the struggles of peasants and small fishers in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and other countries against the expropriation of agricultural land and their transfer to corporate and real estate speculators, which threaten the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and agricultural workers.

  • Our absolute rejection of all capitalist “alternatives” in the fields of agriculture and fisheries, which are technology intensive and hence, deplete resources and energy, destroy biodiversity, pollute the environment and negatively impact our health.

We are convinced that peoples’ food sovereignty is closely linked to their right to self-determination at the political, economic, social, cultural and environmental level. It is equally linked to the struggle against regimes and governments that implement these policies in favour of global and domestic capital.

Food sovereignty is the antithesis of the capitalist food system, which is responsible for destroying natural resources and causing the climate chaos that threatens the lives of millions. It is peasant agriculture and subsistence fishing that feed humanity and preserve the environment, rather than the intensive, industrial, commercial and chemical agriculture promoted by capitalism.

This is why we call for:

  • The collective struggle against free trade agreements, fisheries agreements and the World Trade Organisation, as well as against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which enslave people through the debt system.

  • The criminalisation of all multinational corporations and local capitalist companies that aim to commodify people’s food and destroy the environment in order to accumulate profits.

  • The promotion of experiments in popular farming systems that aim at breaking free from food dependence.

  • Strengthening cooperation and struggle at the national, regional, continental, southern and international levels between organisations and networks fighting for food sovereignty in order to develop their activities and mobilisations.

  • Broadening international solidarity in order to stop the growing repression against popular mobilisations (peasants, fisher people, indigenous, and agricultural workers, etc.) and to organise and protect their lives, lands, environment and food traditions.

  • Strengthening support for the resistance of the Palestinian people against the US imperialist decision to deprive them of their historic rights.

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