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Date: Tue, 26 Aug 97 22:13:21 CDT
From: MichaelP <>
Subject: The Threat of the Globalization of Agriculture

The Threat of the Globalization of Agriculture

By Vandana Shiva, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), [26 August 1997]

The media are beginning to announce President Clinton's campaign to be give "fast-track" authority by the Congress in relation to the proposed expansion of the NAFTA agreement to include CHILE ( ie to declare Chile to be part of the Northern hemisphere ?). Fast-track requires the congress to give simple Yes-No to the executive proposals, with no discussion of ramifications, philosophy or the sucking sound as jobs are exported from the US.

This piece, written by Vandana Shiva seems to be about six months old - but it contains the kind of information your congresspersons should have knowledge of.

Dr Vandana Shiva is Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award (the alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993. She is also the Indian representative of the Third World Network.

Michael P

The material that follows has been provided by VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas)


VANDANA SHIVA looks at the impact of global agriculture in terms of food security and farmers' rights, and offers an alternative model of liberalisation for producers and consumers alike and asks why in a world where globalisation and liberalisation are the dominant forces of the day, the greatest threat to farmers is agriculture itself.

Trade liberalisation and the globalisation of agriculture is supposed to increase the production of food and improve the economic situation of farmers across the world. However, in country after country the process is leading to a decline in food production and productivity, a decline in conditions for farmers and a decline in food security for consumers. Globalisation is deepening food insecurity the world over.

The globalisation of agriculture is in fact merely the corporatisation of agriculture. According to Kristin Dawkins, Director of the Research Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy of the United States, the US government has led the world in promoting globalised monopolies through international trade agreements, assisted by such bullying tactics as the unilateral leveraging of its vast markets. Under encouragement from the US government, says Dawkins, the food corporations controlling US agriculture are now attempting to control world agriculture.

This corporatisation of agriculture, which is being pushed as a successor to the Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, is leading to new poverty for small farmers, as unequal and unfair contracts lock them into a new form of bondage. Farmers in the Indian state of Punjab contracted by Pepsico to grow tomatoes received only 0.75 rupees per kilo, while the market price was 2.00 rupees. First the farmers rejected Pepsico and now Pepsico has abandoned Punjab, selling its tomato processing plant to a subsidiary of Levers.


The liberalisation of agriculture can be either external liberalisation or internal liberalisation. External liberalisation is driven by foreign trade and foreign investment; it serves external interests. Agricultural liberalisation under the IMF's structural adjustment programmes is an example of such external liberalisation. It includes liberalising fertiliser imports and deregulating the domestic manufacture and distribution of fertilisers; the removal of subsidies on irrigation, electricity and credit; the deregulation of the wheat, rice, sugar cane, cotton and oilseed industries; and the dismantling of the food security system. These elements are recipes for concentrating control over agriculture in the hands of transnational agribusiness corporations such as Cargill and Pepsico. Internal liberalisation liberates agriculture for ecological sustainability and social justice. It includes freeing agriculture from high external inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides, making a transition instead to sustainable agriculture based on internal inputs for ecological sustainability. It means freeing farmers from debt and the fear of dispossession, whether of land, water or biodiversity. It means freeing peasants from landlessness, freeing rural people from water scarcity by ensuring inalienable and equitable water rights, freeing the poor from the spectre of starvation, and rebuilding local markets and local food security.

Photo: Pouring rice, Savaar, Bangladesh ) David Constantine/Panos

The globalisation of agriculture is violating all these components of food-related human rights. The rights of small producers to land, water and biodiversity are being violated by undoing land reform, by the privatisation of water and the monopolisation of seed and plant resources. The ecological rights of all people are being violated by the spread of ecologically destructive industrial and factory farming methods. Small producers' right to work is being violated by the destruction of their livelihoods. The right to cultural diversity is being violated by the spread of the unsafe, unhealthy 'McDonald's, Coke and Pepsi' culture.


According to Victor Suares Carrera of Mexico's National Association of Peasant Maize Producers, it has taken only 14 years of liberalisation and two years of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Association) to wipe out 9,000 years of food security in Mexico. Three years ago Mexico imported half a million tonnes of rice; it now imports seven million. While the corn economy is being destroyed, Mexico is importing yellow corn from the USA, which is used to feed animals in that country. The government has amended the Mexican land law and discarded the principles of the 1910 revolution, at the demand of agribusiness.

The rebellion of Zapatista peasant farmers in Chiapas on 1 January 1994 (the first day of NAFTA) decried this policy of impoverishment of farmers and the denial of their rights. Thousands demanded change in the National Agricultural Policy and support for domestic producers. They argued that it is much easier to support domestic production that to buy from the US, especially when Mexico has no foreign currency.

In 1992 Mexico imported 20 per cent of its food. In 1996 it is importing 43 per cent. Eating 'more cheaply' on imports means not eating at all for the poor in Mexico. One out of every two peasants is not getting enough to eat, and in the two years since the introduction of NAFTA the intake of food has been destroyed by 30 per cent.


Everywhere across the world less food is being produced and less diverse food is being grown, and less is reaching the poor and hungry. Fewer farmers are finding a place in agriculture, and even privileged consumers have no food security in the sense of access to safe and nutritious food. BSE-infected meat and hazardous chemicals are creating new health threats for consumers even in affluent countries.

The centralised and chemical-intensive production and distribution system linked with the Green Revolution model has proved itself to be undemocratic, wasteful and non-sustainable. The globalisation of corporate agriculture is aggravating all the problems linked with the centralised system of food production and distribution. It is increasing chemical use, through conventional methods as well as genetic engineering. It is increasing transport and 'food miles', and fuelling food insecurity through climate change. It is promoting the mining of water and soil fertility by putting profitability above sustainability. It is giving primacy to trade and undermining domestic production.


The imperative now is to shift to a democratic food system based on sustainable production, conservation and equitable access to resources. These ecological and democratic alternatives are already in place throughout the world. What the world needs now is a 'globalisation' of these initiatives towards small farmer-centred agricultural systems guided by the objectives of food self-sufficiency and ecological sustainability.

Democratising the food system implies the localisation rather than globalisation of agriculture. On the one hand, localisation involves a shift from external inputs to internal inputs; on the other, it involves rebuilding local food security as the basis of national food security. Democratising the food system also involves a shift from monocultures to diversity. It involves a shift from the obsession with dollars per acre to a concern for nutrition per acre.

Democratising the food system involves the democratic right of consumers to know what they eat. This includes the right to labelling of genetically engineered foods and chemically processed foods. Democratising the food system needs to be based on internal liberalisation rather than external liberalisation.

Democratising the food system involves putting people and nature, not trade, at the centre of food and agricultural policy.