April 2, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- AFP via The Agribusiness Examiner:
A UN human rights expert on [March 30] slammed the World
Trade Organization's handling of agricultural trade,
saying countries should be allowed to opt out of liberalization
to ensure their populations are fed adequately.
"Today, agricultural trade is far from being free,
and even further from being fair," the UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, said
in a report.
Market forces could not stop hunger and the organization's
146 member states should place the emphasis on "food
sovereignty", he explained.
"A country could, for example, not only reject
measures for liberalization, but also introduce protectionists
tariffs for a particular agricultural product,"
Ziegler told journalists.
WTO member states are engaged in difficult negotiations
to try to bring down barriers to agricultural trade.
Developing countries want an end to subsidies in countries
such as the United States and the European Union states,
which they say effectively price a poor country's produce
out of world markets.
Another group of smaller countries, which includes
Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and South Korea, want to
keep some barriers to market access for farm products
to preserve small-scale, vulnerable farming communities.
Ziegler admitted on the sidelines of the annual meeting
of the UN Human Rights Commission here that his ideas
"clash head-on" and "break with the logic
of the WTO".
Poor peasant farmers account for three quarters of
the world's 1.2 billion poorest people and should "be
able to feed themselves in dignity", Ziegler said
in his report to the Commission.
"Models of export-oriented agriculture that threaten
the livelihoods of millions of peasant farmers should
be reviewed," the report said, criticising the
dominance of food and agricultural multinationals in
The report estimated that 840 million people are undernourished
even though production was enough to feed the whole
of the world's population.
"Hunger is neither inevitable nor acceptable.
It is a daily massacre and a shame on humanity,"
the report concluded.