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Farmers bringing message to the Food Crisis Summit in Rome expelled
"Stop corporate control over food!"
Farmer and civil society leaders carrying out a peaceful action today in Rome, Italy at the FAO Summit on the Food Crisis were forcefully removed from the premises. At around 1:30pm farmers and representatives of civil society organisations staged an action at the press room to deliver a message that millions of additional people are joining the ranks of the hungry as the corporations that control the global food system are making record profits.
The issues of corporate control and speculation, which are leading causes of recent spikes in food prices, are not being discussed by the government delegations and the international agencies meeting in Rome to debate solutions to the crisis.
"We are outraged that such fundamental aspects of the food crisis were nowhere on the agenda for the Summit," says Paul Nicholson, member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina and one of the farmer leaders who was expelled from the Summit.
The 10 people involved in the action carried posters contrasting the record profits of agribusiness corporations during the lastest reporting financial quarter of 2008 with the estimated 100 million people in the world who now, alongside 800 million or so others, are hungry because they cannot afford to eat. Profits for Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, were up 108 per cent, while Cargill and Archer Daniel Midlands, the world's largest food traders, registered profit increases of 86 and 42 per cent respectively. Profits for Mosaic, one of the world's largest fertiliser companies, rose 1,134 per cent.
The action was necessary to bring to the world's attention that the main causes of the world food crisis are not being dealt with and that the world's food producers-- the farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and indigenous people-- have been shut out of the discussion. In previous high-level FAO events, civil society was given more space to express its views and to have a dialogue with the delegates. For this Summit, civil society was blocked from meaningful participation in the preparation and in the event itself.
"We are concerned that this Summit will only reinforce corporate control of the food system and lead to a further destruction of the way of life of indigenous peoples and their survival," says Saul Vicente Vasquez of the International Indian Treaty Council and one of the supporters of the action. "It is time for indigenous people and other food producers to take charge of food policy."
Those involved in the action have been meeting with other civil society organisations at the Terra Preta* civil society forum, parallel to the FAO Summit.
A video of the action and the suppression of the action will soon be available on http://wsftv.net. During the action, the security guards seized a banner reading: "Stop corporate control over food!".
Time to change food policies!
Now that the FAO expects that hunger will affect an extra 100 million people by the end of the year, heads of states and leaders from around the world are gathering in Rome for the FAO "High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy".
The international peasant's movement Via Campesina welcomes this sudden high level interest in food and agriculture production, but reminds governments and international institutions that the current climate and food crisis are not the result of any sudden natural disaster. They are the fruit of decades of policies of trade « liberalisation » and of the vertical integration of production, processing and distribution by corporate agriculture.
Therefore, governments today have to take full responsibility for the current crisis and take resolute actions to solve it.
Even though they produce food, most family farmers suffer from the current high food prices alongside urban workers workers. Many of them do not own the land they farm, they produce for export or to pay off they debt, they work as agricultural workers.
For decades, countries have been forced to open their markets and import food. They have lost their capacity to feed themselves which has made them excessively dependent on the world market's prices. This has contributed to the recent hunger riots in various parts of the world.
Under the principle of « free trade », food is now considered a commodity like any other, subject to profit taking and financial gambling. The current price hikes are mainly due to speculation by major traders and investors because food production is now competing with agrofuels which worsen the crisis as does climate change.
Moreover, governments have dismantled the agrarian policites that sustained food production and supported transnational companies producing seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and food to strengthen their control over the food chain. The development of industrial agriculture has destroyed the environment, over exploited soils and greatly contributed to global warming (generating from 17.4 to 32% of the green house gases). Meanwhile, family farmers have been pushed from their land and driven to poverty. Based on that experience, farmers and small food producers are now rejecting the promises of the so called « New Green Revolution » and the « miracle » seeds such as the GMOs.
Small family farmers and food producers gathered in the Via Campesina deplore that participation of the civil society at the FAO high level conference is being denied. They are telling heads of states today that it is past time for governments to focus on small scale sustainable food production and local markets. This will allow soils to regenerate, conserve fuel and reduce global warming. It will also give jobs to millions of farmers, fisher-folks, pastoralists and all those who are feeding the people of the world.
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