Newsletter no 16 – Editorial

Peoples struggle against WTO

WTO kills farmers!

Food and agriculture are central to our lives as peasants and small farmers. Agriculture is not only our livelihood; it is our life, our culture and our way of relating to Mother Nature. The logic of free trade runs counter to this, as it makes food a commodity; a mere product to be bought and sold. This principle of free trade is embodied and pushed forward by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture aims to make agricultural policies the world over more market oriented in order to facilitate greater trade flows.

This is why we in La Via Campesina have been at the forefront of the struggle against the WTO since its launch in 1995. Since the beginning, we have consistently called for “WTO out of agriculture”. We were in the streets of Seattle, Cancun, Hong Kong, Geneva and this year in Bali.

The commodification of food and agriculture through the WTO has caused the death of farmers – farmers’ livelihoods have been wiped out by cheap agricultural products being dumped in their markets below their costs of production. Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae killed himself on the fences of the WTO Cancun Ministerial wearing a sign that said “WTO Kills Farmers”. That still carries true today as hunger grows, lands are grabbed by transnational corporations, peasants go into vicious debt cycles as they are unable to sell their produce, family farmers are wiped out by large agribusiness and food is poisoned by genetically modified organisms.

We in La Via Campesina believe that the only way forward is to fight for Food Sovereignty. All peoples should have the right to culturally appropriate, nutritious and healthy food, and their food and agricultural systems should not be determined by the whims of the free market. We need to call for an end to the WTO and fight for an economy based on justice with food sovereignty at its heart.

Henry Saragih, Chairperson of Serikat Petani Indonesia