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Jose Bove Describes Fight for Food Sovereignty

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release April 8, 2005

French Farmer and Global Social Justice Activist Jose Bove Describes Fight for Food Sovereignty Around the World

Interview with Jose Bove, Anti-corporate globalization activist conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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Jose Bove is a French cheese farmer who gained notoriety in 1999 when he led other activists in destroying a McDonald's restaurant in France -- for him, a hated symbol of the industrialization of food production. Bove, who has also been arrested for destroying genetically modified, or GM, crops, has since become an international leader of the anti-corporate globalization movement.

He was recently in the U.S., just back from visiting survivors of the tsunami disaster in Indonesia and participating in the World Social Forum in Brazil. He heads the Confederation Paysanne, the French Farmers Union, which is part of Via Campesina, an international farmers' movement with millions of members.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Bove at the winter conference of the Connecticut chapter of NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, March 5. He discusses the origin of Via Campesina, the international farmers' movement, in response to international free trade agreements, rulings by the World Trade Organization, or WTO and the struggle for "food sovereignty" in Europe and around the world.

JOSE BOVE: We were understanding that WTO was going to be something very dangerous for all the farmers in the world, that we decided to put all our movements together and to fight together.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How would you describe the mission of Via Campesina?

JOSE BOVE: Well, the Via Campesina works on different issues, different fights, to support farmers all over the world. And we’re fighting mostly to have a new right, to be recognized by the international institutions, and this right is food sovereignty. What happens now is that the transnational corporations oblige the countries to open their borders to importation of food, dumping importations. And mostly, the U.S. and Europe are trying to impose this in WTO. So at this moment this thing is completely crazy, because this is destroying all agriculture all over the world and the capacity of the countries to be able to feed their own population. So we are fighting very strongly against WTO in this moment, and we are fighting for food sovereignty. Via Campesina was part of the movement who win the Battle of Seattle, and also last year in Cancun, when for the second time WTO couldn’t have any results. So we try to make more and more links between the social movements and the developing countries to stop the going up of WTO and other international negotiation as original negotiation as you have here for America or we have between Europe and Africa and so on. So we have to be fighting on both of these things -- to stop the opening borders of these sovereign countries. And also it’s very important for us, as European farmers, we’re fighting also to be able to have our own European policy for agriculture and to be able to feed our population.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What would you say is the overlap of the organic farming movement, or organic farmers, is there a subset of organic farmers within the Via Campesina? I assume everyone is not an organic farmer.

JOSE BOVE: No, in Via Campesina, all the farmers are not organic farmers. But what is quite new is that in a lot of countries now, organic farmers is beginning the way as the movement try to win with autonomy for the farmers in front of the big companies. And so it’s beginning to be a way of resistance; it’s a new way to resist in front of the companies. Little farmers don’t have to have so many money to buy all the inputs of industrial agriculture. So very often we see when there are settlements from people who have no land, and when they take some piece of land, they begin now, directly, to make organic farming. And we see this very clearly in Asia, in Brazil, and in a lot of countries where this is a new way of fighting. So, making organic agriculture is also a way to fight, concretely, against industrial food.

After the tsunami on the 26th of December, last year, the social movement was the first to be there, in Banda Aceh, to help the people. And what was quite interesting is the fact that the first help that was coming from Indonesia ? the first food that was coming ? was organic rice which has been given by the settlements of the landless people. And these people make organic rice since years now, and there were tons and tons of organic rice given to the population to eat, and it was clear it was poor people to other poor people. This was a very important thing. And when food was coming from the outside of the country, from USA to other ones, the people say, "We don’t want this. We have enough food in our country to feed our own population." And when Bush father came two weeks ago in Indonesia, in Banda Aceh with Clinton, we made a demonstration the same day in Banda Aceh with the minister of agriculture from Indonesia, and we were cutting rice to explain that in this country there is enough rice and we didn’t need to have food coming from outside. Because they understand very clearly that if they open their borders, they are going to destroy all the agriculture of their country. But, I think we need to have more and more links between farmers, environmentalists, consumers, from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We have to have links together to fight for organic agriculture, to have the farmers to keep on their land, and also to fight against our governments, who are making sometime very big mistakes when they are going to make war to have oil.

For more information, visit the farmers' movement website at


Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending April 1, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.



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