Food Is Different: Why the WTO Should Get out of Agriculture (Global Issues in a Changing World Series)

Overview

Peter Rosset argues that what is at stake is the very future of our global food system, of each country's unique agricultural and farming systems, and the livelihoods of rural people in both the rich industrial countries and the South. He unravels the complex ways in which agriculture in the North is supported, subsidized etc. and argues for the future of agriculture to be taken completely out of the WTO's ambit since food is not just another commodity, but something which goes to the heart of human livelihood, ...

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Food Is Different: Why we must get the WTO out of Agriculture

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Overview

Peter Rosset argues that what is at stake is the very future of our global food system, of each country's unique agricultural and farming systems, and the livelihoods of rural people in both the rich industrial countries and the South. He unravels the complex ways in which agriculture in the North is supported, subsidized etc. and argues for the future of agriculture to be taken completely out of the WTO's ambit since food is not just another commodity, but something which goes to the heart of human livelihood, local cultures and national security.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Rosset, a food rights activist and rural development specialist, has written a clear and extremely accessible account of the impact of trade liberalisation on farming and, more particularly, on small farmers throughout the world."-- Grain.org

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Peter M. Rosset is based in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he is a researcher at the Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano and co-coordinator of the Land Research Action Network, or LRAN.

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Table of Contents

Overview: Trade versus Development?
• Trade Negotiations and Trade Liberalization
• Key Issues, Misconceptions, Points of Disagreement and Alternative Paradigms
• The Confusing Case of King Cotton
• Current Status of the WTO Negotiations
• The Impacts of Liberalized Agricultural Trade
• Policy Alternatives for a Different Agriculture

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Is food different?

    'I am 56 years old, a farmer from South Korea. I have mostly failed, as many other farm leaders elsewhere have failed. We cannot seem to do anything to stop the waves that have destroyed our communities, where we have been settled for hundreds of years. I have tried to find the real reason and the real force behind those waves. And I have reached the conclusion, here in front of the WTO. - Our fears became reality in the marketplace. We soon realised that, despite our best efforts, we could never match the prices of cheap imports. We became aware that our farm size, 1.3 hectares on average, is a mere one- hundredth of the farms in the large exporting countries. Since massive importing began, we small farmers have never been paid as much as our production costs. Sometimes prices would drop fourfold, all of a sudden. - The farmers who gave up early went to urban slums. Others who tried to escape from the vicious cycle have met with bankruptcy due to accumulated debts. For me, I couldn¿t do anything but look around at the vacant houses in the village, old and decaying. Once I went to a house where a farmer took his life by drinking a toxic chemical because of his uncontrollable debts. I could do nothing but listen to the howling of his wife.' --- This is an edited version of the statement distributed by Lee Kyung Hae shortly before he took his own life on 16 September 2003 in Cancún, Mexico, in the mass protests against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks. In the early 1990s, after the Korean government had dismantled trade barriers and the market had been flooded with very cheap imported food, millions of farmers lost their farms. For many, the shame brought by losing their ancestral land was unbearable. Peter M. Rosset dedicates this book* to Lee Kyung Hae. - Rosset, a food rights activist and rural development specialist, has written a clear and extremely accessible account of the impact of trade liberalisation on farming and, more particularly, on small farmers throughout the world. Much of the material is well known, but Rosset provides flashes of insight. For instance, he questions the widely held assumption that it is the high level of subsidies that the US and the European community pay to their farmers that makes their produce so cheap. It might seem logical, he says, to blame subsidies, when you see very cheap American maize flooding the Mexican market, but it is wrong: it mistakes cause for effect. Subsidies are triggered by weak commodity prices, not vice versa. - The main cause of the low prices, he says, is the power of the agri-food conglomerates. These have a vested interest in paying as little as possible for their raw materials (crops and livestock) and they use their huge influence within state bureaucracies to stop governments applying effective policies as in the past to regulate supply and demand. As a result, commodity prices continue to drop, often way below production costs, even in the industrialised countries. Thousands of small farmers are put out of business and the governments have to subsidise the big farmers to keep them producing. - Rosset, who lives in Chiapas, Mexico, has an interesting section on the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Because of the cheap US maize pouring into Mexico as a result of NAFTA, Mexican peasant farmers cannot sell their produce. Yet, he says, almost three million mostly poor farmers stubbornly continue to grow maize. How is this possible? Quoting a Mexican study, Rosset says that it happens only because of the remittances sent by migrants in the US, who are in effect subsidising Mexican production. Their action, he says, reflects the peasants¿ deep cultural resistance to the dislocation and destruction caused by the `free trade¿ model. - The section of the book concerning the `uniqueness¿ of food, which leads to the book

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