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Nyeleni newsletter - Now is the time for food sovereignty!

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Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. (…) Declaration of Nyeleni.

Nyeleni Europe
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Newsletter no 29 - Boxes

Box 1 - Chile vs. Trans Pacific Partnership

Since Trump announced the US withdrawal from the TPP, many people claim the agreement will end.
But Chile’s peoples are struggling against the TPP, being certain that some version of it will remain.

These are its main dangers :

1. The TPP is a continually evolving agreement, always giving more room to move to corporations, while closing the juridical paths for people to achieve justice.
2. National sovereignty becomes ambiguous ; countries lose their freedom to legislate, develop public policies or plan investments outside the TPP framework.
3. Countries are submitted to private foreign parallel tribunals through Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement mechanisms (ISDS) that impose compensation if corporations don’t earn the profits they could obtain due to government actions.
4. The TPP fosters “transnational supply chains”, linking peasants with big corporations to produce according to industrial agriculture standards with very low wages, fragile labour conditions, and no safety nor health. Corporations impose delayed payments, low prices and production standards. Countries even commit to harmonise their labour laws, thus further damaging workers’ rights.
5. The TPP promotes more restrictive and expansive intellectual property rights (IPR) on pharmaceutical drugs, adjusting the lifespan of patents to corporate interests. All seed and plant material will be privatised. Using, keeping, exchanging seeds freely is criminalised including possible jail terms. Patents on living beings will become the rule. Even photocopying material for private use will be penalized if there’s a claim by some corporation. Traditional and local knowledge systems will be forced into an IPR framework, thus eroding communities’ relations and culture.
6. The TPP bans any protection from the State if it affects corporations’ profits.
7. There is a tendency to privatise many actual functions of the government’s operations.
8. The TPP mandates the acceptance of GM crops, eliminating technical barriers to commerce.
These warnings are part of the Chilean educational campaign vs TPP.

Box 2 - Binding farmers to corporations

The World Economic Forum ’s major initiative, New Vision for Agriculture” (nicknamed Grow and known as VIDA in Latin America), led by 17 global food and agribusiness companies aims to build a binding relation between agricultural producers in Asia, Africa and Latin America and major corporations that will profit from this bond. This so called new vision is promoted under the tools of various free trade agreements (FTA) that advance a logic of “public-private partnership [1]” and “market-based solutions”. Corporate giants as Nestlé, PepsiCo and Monsanto, and the governments involved, promise “increased food production, environmental sustainability and economic global opportunities”.

This initiative will increase corporate control over markets and supply chains. While claiming to promote food security and benefit small farmers, Grow/VIDA works to expand the production of a handful of commodities that benefit a few corporations.

Grow/VIDA was launched in 2009 and involves companies linked to agriculture, food processing or retail, promoting their common set of interests in “key political fora”. Nevertheless the core of the project is building vertically integrated supply chains of commodity crops and input markets, with a heavy emphasis on contract farming.

This creates farmer dependency on corporations. It deepens the segregation of local peasants who produce their own food by their own means with their own seeds, and claims to benefit people who are tied to contract-farming (through “high technology” and chemical inputs), while they are forced to accept delayed payments and low prices paid by the retail giants.

This scheme functions in twelve African countries, five in Asia and four in Latin America expanding a model of huge mechanised monocultures, greenhouses with hybrid or GM crops, never ending demands on the farmers bound to corporations, strictly formulated standards and people hired to work in the worst possible conditions.

Box 3 - Fighting against RCEP

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional trade and investment agreement being negotiated between ASEAN members and six Asia-Pacific countries that ASEAN has bilateral FTAs with : Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

They are harmonising trade rules among them to form one common regime. There is a high risk that this brings a strong corporate agenda from states that signed onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership into India, China and southeast Asia. Policy space for governments would be lost. Key social movement demands in the region for improved public services, genuine agrarian reform, protection of small-scale food producers and retailers, and overhauling the current bilateral investment treaties could become impossible.

Since 2014, civil society groups obtained and analysed leaked negotiating texts. In 2015, a major meeting of social movement activists and CSOs took place in Kuala Lumpur, leading to plans for coordinated action. Now, we are organising regional days of action, joint statements, workshops, websites and lobby work to pressure governments. Key concerns are : access to medicines, seeds’ privatisation, land grabbing, the impact on peasants, public services, pressure on wages and increasing corporate control imposed through ISDS mechanisms. The common call is to stop RCEP, not get a better one !

With Trans-Pacific Partnership’s future being in question, RCEP could change direction and gain momentum. We should work to stop it .

[1] For more info – Nyéléni Newsletter no 25, https://nyeleni.org/ccount/click.php ?id=94