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The time is ripe for the recognition and protection of peasants' rights

By staff, La Via Campesina - May 22, 2017

Joint Statement from La Via Campesina and other social movements and civil society organisations for the conclusion of  the 4th OEIWG session on a UN declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas

To the fourth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIWG) on a United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas

Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX 

15-19 May 2017 

We peasants, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fisher folk and rural workers, including rural women from around the globe, from La Via Campesina, IUF, WFFP, WAMIP, FIMARC, IITC along with CETIM, FIAN International and other organizations, represent all together billions of rural people. We have been constructively engaging this process of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, from the fields of pasture, our workplaces around the world and here in Geneva for many years. We strongly welcome the level of constructive support from cross-regions, from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe. We especially welcome the warm and effective leadership of the Chair-rapporteur. It is worth taking note that delegates of UN member states have extended their very strong contribution to the process. 

As we have been saying from the very beginning, we, as representatives of peasants, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fishers and rural workers, including rural women, shall be recognized as legitimate parties in international cooperation in relation to food and rural development, since we constitute the sector of the population mostly affected by hunger and malnutrition despite strongly contributing to feeding the world. The 2 billion peasants and other people working in rural areas have great knowledge and experience, as well as our own perspectives. We understand the current challenges facing the world’s food systems and have ideas for solutions. We are able to contribute to the development process in a valuable manner. 

This process has made our movement stronger than ever.  After sixteen years of effort and dedication, throughout the world, our communities’ expectations keep rising, expecting our demands to be recognized in the intergovernmental negotiations. 

This is our declaration, we have been and we will keep defending it constructively before our national governments until its conclusion. All peasants and people working in rural areas around the world strongly identify themselves with the content of this Declaration, which will be an instrument to restore and dignify our status in society and to recognize our rights. 

We are confident to see the willingness of States to recognize crucial rights for us, such as the right to land and the right to seeds.  We are mildly concerned with the reserves that have been expressed by only some States towards major parts of the text regarding collective rights and extraterritorial obligations. However, as we navigate through this process, and witness its evolutions, we believe that common ground on the recognition of the right to Food Sovereignty can be reached. 

What were perceived as new rights by certain countries, are now favorably reconsidered. Thanks to the legal grounds put forward by the experts, the right to seeds and the right to land are gaining an incontestable legitimacy in the declaration, as they are specifically referred to in international agreements and a growing number of national legislations. Our grassroots testimonies reinforce the state of emergency for recognizing these rights in the Declaration without any further delay. 

As we all stand here, in full knowledge that human rights prevail economic interests, we call on States to unite in order to recognize and further guarantee the realization of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. 

As organizations representing peasants and other people working in rural areas, we stand ready to play our part and take up our responsibilities. We are ready to put our best effort to contribute to this historical process. States can no longer postpone the declaration. The time is ripe for the recognition and protection of our rights. Let us work together for the adoption of the declaration at the earliest. 

For peasants and other people working in rural areas, the relationship with Mother Earth, her territories and waters is the physical, cultural, and spiritual basis for our existence. We are obliged to maintain this relationship with Mother Earth for the survival of our future generations. We gladly assume our role as her guardians. 

Long live peasants and other people working in rural areas! 

Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto: Indian farmers send their objections to Competition Commission

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

On 25 January, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), placed on record their objection with the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by the German firm Bayer.

Here is the full text of the letter.


All Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, IndiaTel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com

The Secretary, 25.01.2018

Competition Commission of India,

New Delhi – 110001

Dear Madam/Sir,

Subject: Our objection to the Proposed Combination between Bayer AG and Monsanto and request for extension of 15 days notice for public participation.

We the farmers in India as Individual Farmers, Farmers Groups, Women Farmers, Small farmers, Young Farmers, Farm Workers, Landless Labourers have come together to place on record our objections pertaining to the Notification issued by the Competition Commission of India under Section 29(2) of the Competition Commission Act, 2002, inviting objections/ comments/ suggest with regard to the combination of Two Corporate Giants across the Globe viz, between Bayer AG, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Allee, 51368, Leverkusen, Germany (hereinafter ‘Bayer’ or ‘Acquirer’) and Monsanto Company, 2711 Centerville Road, Suite 400, Wilmington, Delaware 19808, County of New Castle (hereinafter ‘Monsanto’ or ‘Target’, and collectively with Bayer as ‘Parties’).

The signatories hereunder are members of All India Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) and South Indian Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) and we represent 12 farmers’ organizations across India representing millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers. We defend peasant agriculture for food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and dignity and strongly oppose corporate driven agriculture that destroys social relations and nature.

We consider that the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer not only causes but also likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India. We request the Commission to call for the records from these two companies regarding their market concentration and study the overall reach of these two companies put together in the market and assess the percentage of their shares objectively and independent of the projections given by the Parties in Form IV, before arriving at any conclusions. The Commission should carry out this investigation to determine the questions whether the acquisition or the combination of these two giant Corporates would cause adverse effect on competition within India.

It is important to place on record the study conducted by the Friends of Earth, Europe led by Ioannis Lianos, Professor of Global Competition Law and Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Law, Economics and Society (CLES) at University College London (UCL),1 concludes that even on a narrow reading of EU competition law, the merger between US-based agro-chemical and biotech company Monsanto and German ‘life science’ company Bayer should not be permitted. The legal study sets out five main reasons why EU competition law requires that the merger be blocked. The copy of the said document is enclosed herewith.

In addition to the issues raised in the said study mentioned supra and the objections submitted by many other individual farmers, farmers organization and farmers collective, we also like to highlight the certain discrepancies in the combination of Bayer and Monsanto as published in the Notification dated 5th January 2018.

In India, Bayer and Monsanto, as per the assertions given by the Parties in Form IV, prior to the closing of the Proposed Combination operate in the 5 Segments in terms of Products, viz, 1. Crop Production, 2. Agricultural Seeds, 3. Vegetable Seeds, 4. Environmental Science and 5. Traits and Technology. The Crop Productions again has 6 Sub Segments, Agricultural Seeds has 5 Sub Segments, Vegetable Seeds has 22 Sub Segments , Environment Science has 5 Sub Segments and Traits and Technology has 1 Sub Segment.

In the Crop Production Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e., Non –selective herbicides.

In Agricultural Seeds Segment, both the parties have one Sub Segment overlapping i.e. Cotton Seeds.

In Vegetable Seeds Segments, both the parties have 13 Sub segments overlapping, i.e., Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Bitter Gourd, Bottle Gourd, Melon, Okra, Onion, Hot Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Watermelon.

“Food is political!” 33,000 demand quicker change of our agricultural and food systems

By - La Via Campesina, January 30, 2018

Excerpts from the joint press release of German civil society organizations participating last weekend in Berlin’s “We’re fed up with it” demonstration. For the complete text (German only) please click here

With a deafening cooking-pot concert, 33,000 people at the “We’re fed up!” demonstration at the start of the Green Week in Berlin called on the next German government to come up with a new agricultural policy. ‘Industrial agriculture and food industry is causing local and global problems for farmers, climate, animals and the environment,’ says Jochen Fritz – spokesperson of “We´re fed up!” – on behalf of the more than 100 organisations that called for this demonstration. He adds: ‘The transition to an environmentally friendly, animal-friendly and climate-friendly agriculture in which farmers can live justly from their work must not be postponed by politicians.’

Demonstrators beat their pans in front of the Agriculture Ministers’ Summit gathered in the German Finance Ministry. They demanded respect for human rights, fair trade conditions and more support for the rural population worldwide. Already in the morning the 160 farmers who led the demonstration with their tractors handed over a protest note to the 70 ministers from all over the world present in the Summit. ‘We want to get out of the fatality of export agendas and land concentration, which have tied a noose on the neck of farmers here and around the world,’ says Fritz about the consequences of agricultural policies. ‘In the last 12 years, one third of all farms in Germany had to close their doors.’

Alliance spokesman Fritz continues: ‘Food is political, more and more people are recognizing this. But our policies are feeding the agricultural industry and produce at the expense of the environment, climate and animals. So that we don’t have all to pay for it in the long term, the big coalition (GroKo – CDU/CSU-SPD) must now turn the tables*. Those who produce and eat sustainably must be rewarded.’

Concrete projects in the next legislative period must be – in addition to glyphosate phase-out and proper transformation of livestock stables and pens – the obligation to label animal foodstuffs, prohibiting last-resort antibiotics in animal husbandry and fair market rules for the protection of farms. Furthermore, the payment of EU agricultural subsidies to non-agricultural investors, who are grabbing more and more farmland, must be stopped immediately.

‘We need a fundamental reform of European agricultural policy. Those who cultivate crops in an environmental and climate friendly way and raise animals in an appropriate manner must be supported by direct payments, not those who own the most land. Farmers are ready, but politicians must create the framework. Rural areas are in particular need of small and medium-size farms’, says Georg Janßen, Head of Office of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

* at the moment, the three biggest political parties in Germany (CDU/CSU-SPD) are negotiating the formation of the next government

The road to food sovereignty

By Pat Mooney and Nnimmo Bassey - New Internationalist, December 14, 2017

Time is running out if the world is going to slash greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep us below a 1.5°c temperature rise by 2100, an aspiration set by the Paris climate accords.

Two conferences this autumn tackled different ends of the problem, in splendid isolation from each other. The UN Committee on World Food Security held its annual meeting in Rome in mid-October, alarmed that the number of hungry people on the planet has suddenly climbed by 40 million in the past year – much of it due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change – and fearful that an unpredictable climate will cut global food production still more sharply in the decades ahead.

Meanwhile, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) met in Bonn and high on its agenda was the need to cut agriculture’s GHG emissions which experts say account for anywhere from one third to more than half of global warming. So, what for Rome delegates is a problem of food security is for Bonn delegates a problem of climate security.

The solution for both climate and food sovereignty is to dismantle the global industrial agri-food system (which we call the ‘industrial food chain’) and for governments to give more space to the already growing and resilient ‘peasant food web’ – the interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who, our research shows, already feed most of the world.

Final Statement of the Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty”

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 20, 2017

The Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty” gathered on December 11-13, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the XI Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in this city.

The networks and trade unions, human rights, territorial, students, women, political, peasants, social and anti-extractives organizations amongst others from all over the world constituting the Peoples’ Summit reaffirm our rejection of free trade policies of the WTO. The WTO reflects the interests of a more concentrated transnational capital aiming to eliminate barriers to the free movement of goods, services and capital. It is an organization that only takes into account the needs of capital, helping the reproduction of capitalist relations of exploitation and looting. These policies affect rights conquered historically through the struggles of the peoples of the world.

Transnational corporations act under the umbrella of an Architecture of Impunity which includes the system of Debt, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the protection of investments and multilateral organizations such as the WTO, which produce a form of globalization based on their desire for and pursuit of profit. In this context, public Debt has become one the main tools of capitalist expansion of concentration, inequality and oppression. It subordinates the models of production and consumption to the need to pay ever-increasing interests. We commit ourselves to work towards unveiling the repercussions that debt entails in the multiple forms of resistance, denouncing its illegitimate character, demonstrating who really owes what to whom and building a horizon of transformation and hope, while standing as People Creditors of debts that are not only economic, but also social, historical, ecological, democratic and gender, amongst others. We need to continue building from the struggles of the peoples to advance in this process, which includes actions such as comprehensive and citizen audits of Debt, ethical courts and popular consultations, amongst other strategies.

Faced with corporate power impersonating the dispossession of territories by transnational corporations, we commit ourselves to globalize the struggles and to continue strengthening ties and articulations. We must continue fighting to achieve an international treaty that ensures the respect of human rights by transnational corporations. We must dispute legislative and judicial spaces, denouncing how laws are violated, twisted, misinterpreted and adapted in the interest of transnational corporations. We must maintain the autonomy of social movements in relation to governments, emphasising our solidarity with persecuted and repressed Peoples, communities and organizations all over the world.

The liberalization of trade and financial flows unevenly impacts the daily lives of women and deepens inequalities and poverty by expanding unemployment, informality and compulsively financializing our lives, thus deepening all forms of patriarchal violence. Women, lesbians, trans, transvestites, bisexuals, gays, non-binaries, Afro-Argentines, afro-descendants, migrants, displaced, refugees, indigenous, blacks, peasants, self-managed workers gathered in the forum and the great Feminist Assembly against free trade affirm our anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle.

Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers

By Simon Davis-Cohen - Truthout, December 18, 2017

Immigration arrests have surged (up 43 percent) under Trump, but deportations have dropped. That means detentions are on the rise. Meanwhile, a creeping labor shortage is reaching fever pitch as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues its crackdown on employers.

Catalyzed by the agricultural labor shortage -- which has been years in the making, thanks to low wages, new requirements that employers comply with E-Verify immigration reforms and the crackdown on non-citizens in general -- significant immigration reform that could reshape the labor market is now being pushed in Congress. The bill, which is currently awaiting action after it was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in late October, proposes a massive overhaul and expansion of the federal government's decades-old H-2A agricultural visa program. Critics say that if passed, the reform could lead to millions of virtually indentured workers.

Under the current H-2A program, which itself has produced conditions akin to modern-day slavery, employers pay for foreign workers to be transported to their farms and then send them back home (often to Mexico) once the job -- such as seasonal berry-picking -- is done.

This legal migration route -- used by Trump at Mar-a-Lago -- has exploded under his administration. The American Farm Bureau Federation, a top agriculture lobby, calculates that the number of H-2A workers for berry and apple farms spiked 43 and 30 percent respectively in 2017, compared to 2016.

A massive expansion of the program is now on the table. The proposed reform, known as the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092), represents a worrying coming-together of ethno-nationalist interests who advocate "legal" migration, and corporate interests eager for cheap, guaranteed labor. Non-citizens and guest workers are not the only ones who would suffer under the new program; US workers, whose wages would be massively undercut by the expansion, would also lose out.

The bill, as it passed the US House Judiciary Committee on October 25, 2017, would replace the H-2A program with an "H-2C" program that expands the program beyond agricultural work to industries like meat and poultry processing, forestry and logging, and fish farming. It would also gut what few protections and guarantees workers currently enjoy under the H-2A program. Farmworkers in the United States are already excluded from labor protections, but they can still sue their employers for low wages and workplace violations. The ability for workers to take employers to court would be hampered by the reform, which prohibits workers from bringing "civil actions for damages against their employers." According to Catherine Crowe, an organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) of the AFL-CIO, the bill "makes it even harder for farmworkers to bring claims when their rights are violated." It also forces farmworkers to go through a mandatory mediation process before filing a lawsuit.

This ability to sue is critical for H-2A farmworker organizing efforts. Crowe told Truthout that FLOC uses lawsuits to pressure employers to sign union contracts. In fact, it was through this tactic that FLOC was able to win a contract for H-2A workers with the North Carolina Growers Association, which contracts with about 10,000 workers and 700 growers every year, according to Crowe. This contract won workers significant protections not enjoyed under the H-2A program, including the ability to appeal to an independent labor relations board, protections against retaliation and more job security.

However, North Carolina's Farm Act of 2017, signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in July, cuts off a key tool for worker organizing in the state by making it illegal to settle a lawsuit with a union contract. FLOC, along with Southern Poverty Law Center, the North Carolina Justice Center and others have sued North Carolina, arguing the Farm Act of 2017 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of more than 100,000 farmworkers. They've also filed a motion to block the implementation of the Act until the lawsuit concludes.

The proposed H-2C program threatens to establish a convoluted form of 21st century legalized indentured servitude. It would do away with H-2A program requirements for employers to provide guest workers with health insurance, housing and transportation to and from their home country, and would allow employers to deduct certain costs and the costs of tools from worker wages. For example, if an employer pays for housing or transportation, they could deduct that from worker wages. Shockingly, the bill also allows employers to deduct a flat 10 percent of workers' wages. Workers would only be able to recoup the deducted wages once they returned to their home country, which Republicans say would "incentivize" them to go home. On top of all this, H-2C would also lower guest worker wages to the minimum wage, well below the current wage set by the Department of Labor that is meant to guarantee that guest workers not undercut US farmworker wages.

“WTO Kills Peasants! 21 Years is Enough!! WTO Out of Agriculture!!!” La Via Campesina to step up its resistance during the XI Ministerial Conference

By Francés: Claude Girod, et. al. - La Via Campesina, December 10, 2017

A large delegation of La Via Campesina comprising peasants, rural workers, indigenous peoples, women and youth from around the world will converge outside the venue of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from the 10th to13th December.

During the week of the conference, La Via Campesina (LVC) will mobilise, organise and join social movements and allies to expose the devastative effects that WTO has had on peasant agriculture and to reiterate our long-standing demand of 21 years, to oust the multilateral trade body from any discussions and decisions regarding agriculture.

La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement with more than 180 member organisations from 79 countries, has consistently demanded to take agriculture out of the WTO’s scope. Instead it has demanded a systemic change that brings about food sovereignty to the worlds peoples. Once again the rallying call from the global peasants’ movement is “For Food Sovereignty, WTO Out of Agriculture!”.

Since its beginnings in 1995 as derivative of General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATTs), the World Trade Organization has promoted the most brutal form of capitalism, better known as trade liberalization. At successive Ministerial Conferences, the WTO has set out to globalise the liberalisation of national markets, promising economic prosperity at the cost of sovereignty. In more or less the same terms, by its “liberalization, deregulation and privatization”, which is called Package of Neoliberalism, WTO has encouraged the multiplication of free trade agreements (FTAs) between countries and regional blocs, etc. In this context, with help from governments that have been co-opted, the world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs) continue to expand globally and are blatantly undermining democracy and all of the institutional instruments that are meant to defend the lives, the territories, and the food and agricultural ecosystems of the world’s peoples.

Through AoA (Agreement on Agriculture) regulated in the WTO, peasant communities become the most disadvantaged because they have minimal capital resources and little or no protection from national governments as WTO prohibits any protection that stand in the way of market liberalisation. Its role was replaced and eroded by corporations with large capital resources, slowly forming a monopoly scheme. As a result, peasants have to deal with dangerous implications such as land grabbing, criminalization, environmental pollution and the importation of agricultural products.

In the previous Ministerial Conference (MC) in Nairobi in 2015, WTO had made six decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to LDCs. The agricultural decisions cover commitment to abolish export subsidies for farm exports, public stock-holding for food security purposes, a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and measures related to cotton. Decisions were also made regarding preferential treatment for least developed countries (LDCs) in the area of services and the criteria for determining whether exports from LDCs may benefit from trade preferences.

In the 11th Ministerial Conference the WTO wants to return to the subject of agriculture in relation to public stock-holding, to put an end to small-scale fishing, and to make progress with multilateral agreements such as the misnamed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Notwithstanding the misleading protectionist statements coming from the developed countries, the WTO will meet again to try to impose the interests of capital at the cost of Planet Earth, of the democratic aspirations of the world’s peoples, and of life itself.

European Union will be sending European farmers to the slaughter house: ECVC on EU-Mercosur FTA negotiations

By Antonio Onorati and Lynne Davis - La Via Campesina, November 29, 2017

Brussels, November 28, 2017 – The next round of negotiations on the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur* will take place from 4 to 10 December. These countries include major beef exporters such as Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, which represent the top 3 beef exporting countries to Europe.

The current rush of the EU and Mercosur, which have been negotiating this agreement for the last 17 years, is no coincidence: on the one hand, the EU is taking advantage of trade opportunities created by US protectionist policies and, on the other hand, Mercosur’s largest economies are now being led by zealous followers of the free market. As Macri in Argentina progresses with its social cuts and privatizations, the neoliberal and illegitimate government of Temer in Brazil, the result of a putsch, holds the temporary presidency of Mercosur and seeks international support in the forthcoming Brazilian elections.

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