Sustainable Agriculture vs. Free Trade

“Export-oriented economies bleed Mother Nature … provoking disruptions in the environment and the destruction of ecosystems. This is the capitalist logic – nature is just a thing to be exploited for profit.  The real beneficiaries  of the WTO are the transnational corporations” according to this report from the United Nations body on sustainable agriculture. It stands stands ‘in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the TPP.'”

We msut “wake up before it is too late” and usher in agricultural systems of “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production” that favor small-scale farmers and local food production. This call from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) flies in the face trade deals now being negotiated including the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership.

Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate (pdf)—was written with contributions from over 60 experts, and finds that “urgent and far-reaching action” is needed to address the “collective crisis” of “rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) points out, the approaches the report advocates are incompatible with the free trade agreements like the TPP.  In its contribution to the report, IATP

focused on the effects of trade liberalization on agriculture systems. We argued that trade liberalization both at the WTO and in regional deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had increased volatility and corporate concentration in agriculture markets, while undermining the development of locally-based, agroecological systems that better support farmers.

The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which expand a long discredited model of economic development designed primarily to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy. Neither global climate talks nor other global food security forums reflect the urgency expressed in the UNCTAD report to transform agriculture.

In addition, the report notes that resilient agricultural practices can play a significant role “in dealing with resource scarcities and in mitigating and adapting to climate change.”  But these kinds of soil-building, organic practices are not those fostered by free trade deals that support giant agribusiness firms that use monocultures and industrial farming.

“We cannot solve the climate crisis without confronting the industrial food system and the corporations behind it,” stated Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, which also contributed to the study.