In Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada has been in force since 1994. The brutal impact on Mexican agriculture and on farming communities has been cumulative over those 12 years. However, according to farming leader Alberto Gómez, currently “amendments in favour of multinationals have become more shameless. There are more and more opportunities for governments to give multinationals public money.”
It is stipulated that for 2008 agricultural trade in NAFTA has no means of relative protection for Mexican agriculture, beginning the final step and greater concentration of power for food multinationals.
Alberto Gómez is National Coordinator of National Union of Autonomous Regional Farmers’ Organizations (UNORCA), an organization representing indigenous and farming populations which has been carrying out its resistance campaign since 1985. At the plenary session of the World Forum for Food Sovereignty, he introduced the agreements reached in the working group on international trade and agriculture.
“Food sovereignty is the great alternative for this world, and it can be achieved by strengthening social movements, mass mobilization, building alliances and raising public awareness,” he concluded.
In an interview with Radio Mundo Real, Gómez said that “resistance campaigns must be strengthened” at all levels: regional, national and international. Food sovereignty involves developing local markets, establishing direct links between consumers and producers, and raising the awareness of the public as to who controls what they eat and how they control it.
There is currently a “war against rural agriculture”, said the Mexican director. In Mexico, “the power given to food multinationals over sensitive and strategic products is more visible every day. Mexico’s food is controlled by businesses.”
Rural agriculture is today an issue of food for Mexicans and is also an issue of national security. Mexico is a dangerously dependent country and is exposed to pressure from multinationals,” he concluded.
Faced with pressure, Mexican social movements are already carrying out huge demonstrations and plan to intensify efforts throughout the year. During the first few weeks of February, thousands of farmers and members of the poorest sectors of the population protested against the absurd increase in the price of tortilla, a key element of the staple diet of low-income families.
In addition, “2008 will see the total opening of agricultural markets, as the end of NAFTA. We have no alternative but to mobilize, not only those belonging to a certain organization but the whole population. We have entered into alliances with agricultural organizations in the Unites States and Canada, meaning that the campaign against NAFTA will not be fought only by Mexicans but also by affected popular sectors and small producers in all three countries.”