Citizen groups working on agricultural trade and food security argue that current rules governing agricultural trade in the World Trade Organization that promote trade liberalization extend beyond trade to create incentives for ecologically and economically unsustainable forms of agriculture. They note that promoting trade liberalization exacerbates one of the key problems of global agricultural markets: agricultural overproduction, which leads to downward pressure on commodity prices and weakens the viability of family farming, and increased concentration of agricultural trade among a few large transnational corporations. The combination of greater liberalization and the increased market power of a few large transnational corporations has exacerbated trends toward input-intensive, industrial agriculture that has led to major ecological disruption, and contributed to recurring food safety crises such as the mad cow pandemic in Europe.
In contrast, citizen groups argue that the rules for governing agricultural trade--as well as agricultural policy as a whole--should be pursued within a framework that enhances food security and promotes sustainable agriculture. Citizen groups highlight that hunger is primarily caused by the lack of access to adequate food, and point to a number of food surplus countries (such as the U.S., India, and Brazil) that still have high rates of hunger as evidence that suggests that increased production alone, let alone greater trade in agricultural commodities, will not by itself lead to enhanced food security. As such, governments should be allowed the freedom to pursue demand- and supply-side policies that achieve such objectives. While policies and programs that promote exports and encourage dumping should be prohibited, countries should be allowed to pursue a diversity of supply-management and other programs to minimize dramatic price swings and mitigate the boom bust cycle in commodities markets. Third, as agriculture is a critical component of sustainable rural livelihoods, programs that recognize and reward farmers for the environmental services they provide should be strengthened. Finally, citizen groups advocate policies that would combat the market power of the large agribusiness trading companies through the use of anti-trust and anti-competition policies internationally.
Citizen groups differ on the degree to which export crops should be encouraged as part of an agricultural development strategy. Some advocates emphasize self-sufficiency in staple crops as a key development strategy, while other groups (such as fair trade groups in coffee and bananas) point to those areas as avenues whereby farm households can increase incomes and enhance their food security even though they may be producing primarily for export markets.
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|Publication:||Foreign Policy in Focus|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jun 10, 2002|
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