Thematic Debate on the Green Economy

Via Campesina at the United Nations General Assembly – June 2, 2011 – New York, NY

La Via Campesina sees 2012 as a significant marker for humanity and life. What we have heard in the ongoing debates on the green economy is not a struggle to define what it is. Instead, we see a struggle on how to continue the privatization and incorporation into the global free market system of mother earth and her environmental systems and natural resources under the name of development. The outcome of this will mark the difference between increased poverty, famine, inequality, death and true global sustainability, human development and ultimately life on this planet. We remind everyone present here today, that as we head towards RIO+20, peasant and family farmers, who are on the front lines of climate disasters, and resource conflicts, must be recognized as a key solution, already in practice, to the multidimensional crisis.

It cannot be stressed enough that we are not dealing with a business cycle crisis. What we are facing is a deep global structural crisis. As such our current situation requires solutions that do not perpetuate the patterns of production and consumption or implement the same mechanisms and approaches that led us here. We cannot afford, nor can this planet sustain, a growth path that is still driven by the same economic imperatives of profit maximization. To do so would mean to continue on a path towards collective suicide imposed by those that profit from our current economic system’s industrial model of production and consumption, and who are now seeking to gain from the ongoing environmental collapse which they have caused.

We warn governments and the people of the world, as peasant and indigenous movements have been doing since Rio ‘92, that much of what is being proposed as sustainable development, now through the so-called green economy is a distortion of facts and industry’s misinformation meant to enable continued high pollution levels, increasing levels of industrial production and overconsumption generated in the richest countries. Global civil society and public officials must become more critical and confront the claims made by transnational corporations and private industries that are ultimately only responsible for increasing returns in order to ensure their existence.

This is confirmed when we are told that there is much economic potential in promoting a “green economy.” For us this means that the transnational corporations, like Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta, and the rich of the world will stand to gain while the poor will be trapped in the destructive path of the climate crisis; like the vast majority who will be unable to pay higher prices for food, communities will continue to be dispossessed of land for the production of biofuels, and those who are forced into migration streams into urban centers only to face increased exploitation, discrimination and lack of employment.

Clean development mechanisms and green technologies being proposed will not alter the unsustainable levels of production and consumption. Instead these false solutions will only transfer the cost of pollution to the earth’s environmental systems and the world’s poor. Instead, there will be the creation of new speculative bubbles based on environmental services and natural resources that will only keep adding to the instability of our economies and do little to prevent the further exacerbation of the climate crisis.

Our concern becomes greater when we continue to see the efforts to transform small peasant agriculture into small entrepreneurial activity that is capital intensive. A sustainable economy is not built by replacing inputs and transforming agroecological peasant farming with poverty and climate mitigation schemes that implement “technologies and techniques” that might further impact health and the environment while leaving intact the corporate food regime and control of transnational corporations of the production and reproduction of life. An example of this control is the implementation of GMO seeds and other biotechnologies when it has been proven that agroecological practices and peasant native seeds make soil and seeds more resilient to climate change. We are not interested in green capitalism disguised as sustainable development.

We understand that the reduction of poverty and inequality, in particular the impact on peasant, small family farmers and the rural poor, cannot be approached with “one size fits all” solutions. Yet, this should not translate into the permission and support of current levels of production and pollution of industrialized countries that are able to influence the process towards RIO+20 at the cost of the rest of the developing world and the poor.

Any economic development that seeks to be sustainable and green must be rooted deep in the earth with the millions of peasant and small family farmers that feed a major part of the world’s poor, and the marginalized urban communities that are seeking alternatives to the corporate food system. It is with them that we find millions of solutions to the multidimensional crisis we face today. For example, it is estimated that sustainable peasant agriculture from family farms and indigenous communities could possibly reduce up to 75% of global Greenhouse Gas Emissions through biodiversity, capturing of organic matter in the soil, small scale and diversified meat production, expansion of local markets, forest protection and management. In addition, it stands as a source of employment for more than a third of humanity.

Food sovereignty, the right to land to produce agroecologically, the recovery of indigenous territories, the right to access to the water as a social and human right over industrial production needs, the right to freely use, conserve and to interchange seeds, the promotion of local markets, these are indispensable conditions so that the peasant and small family farmers and indigenous communities may continue feeding the world and positively address our climate crisis. These should form the foundation of sustainable development and a new economic system.

Finally, it is not acceptable, and we call upon countries and civil society to denounce and oppose the use of RIO+20 as a platform to attempt to implement undemocratic and delegitimized WTO like processes and frustrated agreements, such as the Agreement on Agriculture, under the guise of sustainable development. We remind the institutions such as the World Bank, the WTO, and transnational corporations to keep out of food, agriculture and our mother earth.