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

Box 5. The Position of the World’s Family Farmer and Peasant Organizations

It is Urgent to Re-Orient the Debate on Agriculture and Initiate a Policy of Food Sovereignty

by Via Campesina66

We call on all those responsible in governments to step out of the ’neo-liberal model’ and to have the courage to seek an alternative path of cooperation with social justice and mutual assistance.

The failure of the WTO [in Cancún] was the failure of actors who are totally locked in a ’neo-liberal mindset’. Those responsible for trade orientate themselves principally to the interests of the elite and transnational industries. They appear to be incapable of seeing the real problems, much less seeking solutions for them. They think only of increased trade, grabbing bigger market shares, more privatization, more accumulation and more profit. Their only concern in the agricultural sector is to deal with export interests. This is shameful given the fact that the existence of millions and millions of peasants, more than half the world’s population, depends on local and domestic production and marketing.

Vía Campesina believes that we need to engage in this debate. We must define more clearly the existing problems and articulate much needed solutions. We must also include those who are more responsible in governments and international institutions and who, we hope, are more sensitive to the real challenges of our world.

The true conflict is not between governments, it is between models of production.

Because of the scandalous behavior of certain Northern governments in defending the interests of transnational industries, the conflict in Cancun was portrayed as a ’North - South’ conflict. We applaud the resistance of many governments, above all, of the South, against the dominance and the imposition of the United States (US), the European Union (EU) and some other industrialized countries. Nevertheless, we reiterate that in the agricultural sector, the real conflict behind this confrontation among governments is a conflict between a sustainable model of peasant production based on food sovereignty, demanded by the peasants in the North and South and an industrial model, oriented to export, pushed for by transnationals, the US, the EU, other industrialized countries, but also by certain elite and important forces within governments ’of the South’.

We hope to be able to begin a dialogue with governments of the South and the North. We propose to take concrete steps to limit the damaging effects of the industrial-exporting model and to strengthen sustainable peasant production.

The first important step: we must center the debate on food sovereignty and production rather than trade.


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