Seattle declaration: Take WTO out of agriculture

La Via Campesina Seattle Declaration

Agriculture out of WTO — Towards an alternative to neoliberal policies and institutions such as WTO, Worldbank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

La Via Campesina believes that we are experiencing a historic moment of international struggle. Massive mobilizations carried out throughout this week were the climax of years of intensive work of social movements and non-governmental organizations and they led to a near complete standstill of the WTO negotiating process. A de facto moratorium has now been established. Furthermore, we made an enormous leap by reaching millions of people directly and indirectly through the media with our actions. We are convinced that our resistance will continue to grow over the next years. This process is irreversible. We have experienced a strong unity among very diverse social movements. In our countries we experience the repression against our organisations when developing resistance against unjust and criminal policies. Also in Seattle a number of participants were put into jail. We protest strongly against this. On Thursday evening (December 2, 1999) in a desperate attempt to save the Ministerial Conference the United States and the European Union showed their real faces: united against the rest of the world.The governments of the main economic power (EU, US) together with the transnational corporations (TNCs) are forcing their agenda onto peasants, farmers and indigenous communities around the world. We will never accept this arrogance.

Clearly, agriculture and food have become key issues and there is a need for profound change of the neoliberal policies and global institutions such as the WTO, IMF and WB. As a consumer leader put it: "eating has become a political act". The Via Campesina adds: "producing quality products for out own people has also become a political act."
The neo-liberal agricultural policies have led to the destruction of our family farm economies and to a profound crisis in our societies and threatens the very coherence of our societies: the right to produce our food for our own consumers, with great diversity in production and consumption according to cultural preferences. This touches our very identities as citizens of this world.

The clearest example of the violation of our identity is the fact that TNCs are imposing genetically engineered food. In a recent move the US and the EU tried to bring the discussion on biosafety and GMOs – in essence, whether we have the right to protect ourselves against the importation of GMO products — in the WTO through a "Biotechnology working group". We consider this as a scandalous and provocative violations of our rights as citizens.

Via Campesina rejects the neo-liberal policies that push countries into cash crop export production at the expense of domestic food production. These policies contribute to low commodity prices that are far lower than the real cost of production. Developing countries are forced to adopt these policies in order to pay their external debt. These countries must also open their borders to the importation of food which leads to even greater debt. The governments of the rich countries are giving massive subsidies without limit per farm in order to compensate price cuts and allows the TNCs to buy cheaply. This way these public funds are a direct support for industry and not for farmers. This is a vicious circle which benefits only the TNCs.

There is no doubt that the WTO is an instrument that places greater control and profits in the hands of the TNCs. The WTO is a totally inappropriate institution for democratic decision-making and policy formulation on important issues such as food sovereignty, health and environmental legislation, management of genetic resources, water, forestry and land, and the organisation of agricultural markets.

A profound reform of the WTO in order to make it respond to the rights and needs of people would mean the abolition of the WTO itself! We do not believe that the WTO will allow such a profound reform. Therefore, the Via Campesina, as an international movement responsible for the agricultural sector, demands that agriculture should be taken out of the WTO. Perhaps more appropriately, let’s take the WTO out of agriculture. We invite other sectors to demand the same.We, as societies, must create an alternative to the current neo-liberal policies and to institutions such as the WTO, WB and the IMF. We must civilize these international policies and institutions. The Via Campesina invites social movements to initiate a participatory process with national governments to further develop an alternative model. This alternative should include the following:

Establish alternatives to the neo-liberal policies and institutions such as the WTO, WB and the IMF. Continue to mobilize public opinion to pressure TNCs and large trading powers. Strengthen the UN and develop new instruments within the UN system to increase transparency and democratic control. These institutions should represent the priorities and needs of people and ensure food security and fair trade.

The Via Campesina has the following demands:
 A immediate moratorium on further WTO• negotiations. This includes also to stop all discussion on agreements on investment.  To immediately cancel the obligation of accepting the minimum• importation of 5% of internal consumption. All compulsory market access clauses must be cancelled.  An evaluation of the impacts of the Marrakech agreement and an• immediate correction of existing injustices. 

To remove all negotiation in the areas of food production and• marketing from the WTO and from all regional and bilateral agreements. 

To create genuine international democratic mechanisms to regulate• food trade while respecting food sovereignty in each country. 

To secure food sovereignty in each and every country giving priority• to food production fo its people, social aspects and environment. 

To give each country the right to define their own agricultural• policies in order to meet their internal needs. This includes the right to prohibit imports in order to protect domestic production and to implement Agrarian Reform providing peasants and small to medium-sized producers with access to land. 

To stop all forms of dumping.

To protect the production of staple• domestic foods. 

To prohibit biopiracy and patents on life (animal, plants, parts of• the human body) including the development of sterile varieties through genetic engineering. 

To allow countries the right to establish food quality criteria• appropriate to the preference of its people.
Via Campesina wants to support the International Tribunal of Peoples that has to judge the crimes commited against farming and indigenous communities.

Via Campesina calls upon international and national movements, and non-governmental organizations to build strong alliances to continue to fight these neo-liberal policies and to build alternatives. If we continue to work together we will succeed!

Let’s globalize the struggle – lets’ globalize hope