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Draft Paper – Not to be cited without author’s permission

6.1.4 Public Sector Budgets: Subsidy is Not a Bad Word

We need to remember the distinction made by Via Campesina and other farm groups among inappropriate and wasteful subsidies and necessary, legitimate public services and funding rural and economic development strategies. Unfortunately they have all been tarred with the brush: “subsidies are bad.”

Farmer organizations worldwide insist that farmers need many things from public sector budgets, including credit, marketing assistance, supply management, price supports, research, extension, education, roads, infrastructure, access to productive resources, environmental protection, pesticide regulation, anti-trust enforcement, etc. The list goes on. It is safe to say that no country currently considered “developed” got that way without government supports for agriculture, and no family or peasant farmer anywhere in the world who is “well off” does not benefit in some way from such supports. It is urgent that we stop labeling “subsidies” as a bad word. The issue is what kind of subsidies, for what, and given to whom. This must be the subject of national dialog and society-wide priority setting in each country, as each country is different. The key at the international level is to effectively ban all direct and indirect, open and hidden, subsidies in the major agroexporting nations that support or boost production increases and/or exports, but to clearly and unambiguously permit other, positive kinds of subsidies and public sector budgets. 45

6.1.5 IPRs and Other WTO Issues that Impinge on Agriculture

While this paper has focused on the agricultural trade and subsidy issues contained in the AoA framework, that should in no way suggest that there are not many other aspects of

the WTO and livelihoods of

other rural

trade agreements that impinge upon food, agriculture, and the

peoples.

Trade

agreement

clauses

on

competition,

investment,

government procurement and many other areas of life all also have perhaps the most notable aspect that is beyond the general purview of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and patents on life, which

critical impacts. But of this report, is that in WTO parlance is

contained

in the

agreement.

This

TRIPS is where

(Trade-Related Aspects the controversies over

of Intellectual Property Rights) biopiracy (i.e. when TNCs patent

traditional

crop

varieties)

and

genetically

engineered

(GE)

crops

and

livestock

come

in.

Most of the civil society actors active patents on life and in favor of the right of it comes to GE organisms and foods. 46

on trade issues have strong positions against nations to use the precautionary principle when

6.1.6 Venues and Forums: WTO Out of Food and Agriculture?

As alluded to above, there is considerable discussion as to whether any of these alternatives can be obtained in the context of WTO or other trade agreement negotiations. Noted globalization theorist Walden Bello has argued convincingly that the WTO is not the venue in which to regulate corporate activity, or to achieve anything other than trade liberalization of an asymmetric, pro-US/EU variety. 47 The Via Campesina has made “WTO out of food and agriculture” its rallying cry, backed by family farm and peasant organizations worldwide. The WTO (and other trade agreements) is by nature designed

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