Posts Tagged ‘Via Campesina’

We received the following letter yesterday from our friends and colleagues at Grassroots International, an organization dedicated to furthering economic, social and human rights by funding global movements for social change. Please take a moment to read the letter and take action now.

Dear Friends,

As early as next week, the US Senate could vote on legislation with tremendous consequences for farmers and small producers across the globe.  The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act, also known as S. 384, aims to increase US foreign assistance for agricultural research and production and represents the biggest US agricultural aid initiative in more than half a century.   
Please take action now to tell your Senator to oppose this legislation until the ‘GE Clause’ is removed.

As a result, the legislation directs $7.7 billion toward agricultural research and development, including a federal requirement that U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for GE crop research.

Contact your Senators now and tell them ‘No GE crops in foreign aid.’

However, this ostensibly laudable effort is deeply flawed by a clause which specifically mandates research on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Although Senator Lugar has responded to critics of the GE Clause that the language was meant to simply highlight GE research as eligible for funding, not mandate it, the actual text of the bill says otherwise and must be revised before its passage in Congress.

Public records indicate that agricultural biotechnology giants like Monsanto have spent millions of dollars lobbying members of Congress to shape S. 384.

The push for this critical Senate vote coincides with International Day of Peasants’ Struggles, April 17th.  Fourteen years ago, this day was declared by Grassroots International’s partner the Via Campesina to commemorate the slaughter of 19 members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement by military police.  To honor peasants’ struggles this year, the Via Campesina has called on member organizations and supporters to say “No to corporate control of agriculture and food.”  Moreover, scientists who have examined the evidence around the globe agree: GE crops are not the answer to world hunger.  Recent UN reports point to agroecological methods, like those promoted by Via Campesina, as a much more viable solution to sustainably meeting the world’s food production needs.Take a stand for food sovereignty today by telling your Senators to oppose the Global Food Security Act’s mandate for GE research. 

If passed, the Global Food Security Act will not only massively expand US funding for GE technology, it will also serve to further consolidate corporate control of food systems and undermine food sovereignty.

Thank you for all that you do.


Nikhil Aziz
Executive Director

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“If we genuinely want to tackle the climate change crisis, the only way we have to go forward is to stop industrial agriculture.”
Henry Saragih, General Coordinator, Via Campesina

Global talks adressing climate change began this week in Copenhagen. Among the politicians, activists, scientists and others attending the talk are representatives of Via Campesina, the largest international movement of small farmers. The above quote is excerpted from a speech presented in Copenhagen by Henry Saragih, Via Campesina’s general coordinator. He concludes his speech by saying, “In short, by taking agriculture away from the big agribusiness corporations and putting it back into the hands of small farmers, we can reduce half of the global emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Ironically enough, just as these talks are going on and the links between big agriculture and global warming are becoming increasingly more evident, the U.S. Senate is about to hold confirmation hearings on Islam Siddiqui as the U.S. Trade Office’s Chief Agriculture Negotiator. Siddiqui is the current vice president for Science and Regulatory Affairs with Crop Life America, a pesticide and biotechnology trade group known for aggressively pursuing and protecting the interests of agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow. This position will enable Siddiqui to keep pushing chemical pesticides, inappropriate biotechnologies, and unfair trade arrangements on countries that do not want and can least afford them. The appointment also shows how much influence corporate agriculture and biotech firms have on our national policies.

Saragih’s full speech is reprinted below.

To take action in blocking Siddiqui’s nomination, click here.

Why we left our farms to come to Copenhagen

Speech of Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina – Opening of Klimaforum – Copenhagen Dec 7

*         Tonight is a very special night for us to get together here for the opening of the assembly of the social movements and civil society at the Klimaforum. We, the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, are coming to Copenhagen from all five corners of the world, leaving our farmland, our animals, our forest, and also our families in the hamlets and villages to join you all.

*         Why is it so important for us to come this far? (more…)

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The Via Campesina, the largest organization of small farmers in the world, has long advocated for changes in our agriculture and trade policies. For the past decade, they have been promoting the principles of Food Sovereignty as a way forward to protect rural communities, our food system, and the planet. As a movement that originated with small farmers in the South, there is much to learn from their concerns and their proposals. In a future blog article, I’ll talk more about the overlap between the Food Sovereignty and Fair Trade movements.

For now however, I’d like to just introduce you to some of the concepts being discussed in the Food Sovereignty movement…

A few months ago, I came across a very well-written and powerful article published by Food First, entitled, “Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five key reasons why we should support the revitalization of small farms in the Global South”, by Miguel A. Altieri, President of the Sociedad Cientifica LatinoAmericana de Agroecologia and Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley. If you had any doubts about why small farmers are essential to our planet and our food system, and why we believe it is critical to support them, this article should answer any lingering questions.

I encourage you all to follow the link to his full article. Initially, I thought I might just try to summarize Altieri’s main points for those of you who might not have time to read the full article. To be perfectly honest, however, Altieri is so articulate and his points so well-made, I found it impossible to condense. So instead, and I hope he will forgive me, I’ve simply extracted many of his arguments verbatim.

Altieri identifies “…five reasons why it’s in the interest of Northern consumers to support the cause and struggle of small farmers in the South.” The following are excerpts taken directly from his article:

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Farmers protest record profits of corporations while millions across the world are going hungry.

Alexandra Strickner, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
Rome, Italy, 3 June 2008

Watch the 3 minute video on http://wsftv.net

Farmer and civil society leaders carrying out a peaceful action today in Rome, Italy at the FAO Summit on the Food Crisis were forcefully removed from the premises. At around 1:30pm farmers and representatives of civil society organizations staged an action at the press room to deliver a message that millions of additional people are joining the ranks of the hungry as the corporations that control the global food system are making record profits.

The issues of corporate control and speculation, which are leading causes of recent spikes in food prices, are not being discussed by the government delegations and the international agencies meeting in Rome to debate solutions to the crisis.

“We are outraged that such fundamental aspects of the food crisis were nowhere on the agenda for the Summit,” says Paul Nicholson, member of the International Coordinating Committee of Via Campesina and one of the farmer leaders who was expelled from the Summit. (more…)

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The following article, written by Peter Rosset, is an excellent analysis on some of the causes and potential solutions of the current food crisis. Dr. Rosset is a food rights activist, agroecologist and rural development specialist. Currently working in San Cristobál, Mexico, he is the former co-director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland, California.

The original article, translated by Peter Rosset, was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada:

May 9, 2008

The Time has Come for La Via Campesina and Food Sovereignty

Peter Rosset

Around the world it seems more and more that the time has come for La Via Campesina. The global alliance of peasant and family farm organizations has spent the past decade perfecting an alternative proposal for how to structure a country’s food system, called Food Sovereignty. It was clear at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty held last year in Mali, that this proposal has been gaining ground with other social movements, including those of indigenous peoples, women, consumers, environmentalists, some trade unions, and others. Though when it comes to governments and international agencies, it had until recently been met with mostly deaf ears. But now things have changed. The global crisis of rising food prices, which has already led to food riots in diverse parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas, is making everybody sit up and take note of this issue.

But, what are the causes of the extreme food price hikes? (more…)

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Farmers mobilize around the world and propose solutions to the food price crisis


Small farmer organizations and their allies are today celebrating the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle commemorating the massacre of 19 landless workers, women and men struggling for land in Brazil 12 years ago. Today dozens of groups, communities and organizations in more than 25 countries around the world are organizing more than 50 actions such as farmer’s markets, conferences, direct actions, cultural activities and demonstrations to defend their right to food and their right to feed their communities.

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