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",
"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
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 world trade.
The report estimated that 840 million people are undernourished
even though production was enough to feed the whole of the world's
"Hunger is neither inevitable nor acceptable. It is a daily
massacre and a shame on humanity," the report concluded.