10:39 AM Jun 19, 1996


Leipzig, June 18 (TWN) -- Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) from 40 countries have regretted that "Food and food policy is becoming concentrated under the control of transnational corporations and their local partners" and have committed themselves "to continue opposition to transnational agri-business monopolies on production, processing and distribution of food."

The NGOs said this TNC domination was happening "through the structural adjustment policies of International Monetary Fund and World Bank and the agricultural trade liberalisation rules of the WTO".

In this view, some 120 NGOs, here for the Fourth International Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, said "these trends pose a serious threat to cultural and biological diversity and food security both in the South and the North."

In a resolution adopted by them, the NGOs committed themselves to ensuring that the WTO Review Process in 1999-2000 led "to the removal of agriculture from the Uruguay Round agreement and to the elimination of TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights), and to "pressure governments, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, and all other relevant institutions to establish mechanisms and structures that support food self-sufficiency."

They also committed themselves to "shifting agriculture from its current high input, non-sustainable, monoculture systems to sustainable internal input diversity based system and... to strengthen systems of decentralised food reserves at the household and community levels, and creation of a system of publicly-controlled food reserves at the national, regional and international levels."

Globalisation, the resolution said "is destroying sustainable small farmer-based production systems."

The shift from self-sufficiency to import dependence also destroys food security and safety for consumers worldwide as the right to nutrition of peoples is sacrificed for corporate profits."

"The rapid conversion of land from agriculture to industry, estates, and tourism threatens the very existence of communities, steals our resources and poisons our people, pollutes our waters and ruins our lands," the resolution added.

It added "Ecologically destructive food production and processing systems are rendered cheap on world markets through hidden subsidies. The feedback loop between the consumer and producer is eliminated and neither ecological, nor financial returns flow back to the farm."

The NGOs committed themselves "to the establishment of an international legal commitment to the human right of sufficient, safe, healthy food" and to the promotion of consumption of locally produced foods, as also to "a moratorium on the release and transfer of genetically engineered organisms until a broadly debated and popularly accepted legally binding international biosafety protocol, addressing social and economic as well as environmental impacts, is in place."

The resolution added: "As individuals, communities, peoples and organisations, we are building a new paradigm based on diversity. This new approach is based on the principles of decentralisation, participation, sustaining the social, ecological and economic conditions of life."

The complex issues of farmers' rights in relation to transnationals, who are seeking to dominate agriculture and farm policy would figure at the Fourth International FAO conference.

Earlier, briefing the NGOs, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Director Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy informed them that India has put forward proposals for a revision of TRIPS in the light of social and ecological consequences of IPRs in the domain of Biodiversity.

She said a non-paper submitted by India to the WTO Committee for Trade and Environment of WTO indicates these debates are also entering WTO.

With relevant TRIPs articles coming up for review in 1999, the revision of TRIPs in the context of farmers rights and agricultural biodiversity conservation becomes an imperative on grounds of social justice and sustainability, she added.

The FAO Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, which began here yesterday, will continue till June 23.