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Food Sovereignty must not be undermined by free trade talks

Food Sovereignty must not be undermined by Pacific free trade talks

November 29 2012

Ahead of today's meeting of trade officials in Samoa, NGOs and academics are warning of the dangers that trade agreements pose to Pacific food sovereignty.

The Pacific Network on Globalisation today launched a discussion paper that looks at how free trade agreements impact Pacific nations and their ability to be in control of their food supplies and policies.

“This discussion paper holds some key words of warning for Pacific nations, that the promised benefits of free trade come at a very real price. A price that for the Pacific could result in the loss of ability for sovereign states to enact the policies needed to ensure that its people are healthy and have access to quality food,” commented PANG Campaigner Adam Wolfenden.

According to Jagjit Plahe who is the Director of the Diplomacy and Trade at Monash University, "countries such as Tonga and Vanuatu acceded to the WTO under very onerous terms and gave up their right to control agriculture to a much greater extent compared to larger countries such as Australia and New Zealand and even the United States".

The paper, titled “The Implications of Free Trade Agreements for Food Sovereignty in the Pacific Island Nations” was compiled with a team of researchers from Monash University. It explains that the concept of food sovereignty, which is “the right of each nation to maintain and develop its own capacity to produce its basic foods respecting cultural and productive diversity” may not be a term that is widely known in the region but whose principles are deeply embedded into the lives and cultural practices of Pacific Islanders.

The meeting of PACER-Plus officials will discuss a number of technical issues that relate to food policy in the region, these include Technical Barriers to Trade and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary issues.

“If free trade agreements like PACER-Plus between Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Island Countries, are to have any hope of living up to their rhetoric of being a development agreement then they will place food sovereignty at its core and not include onerous commitments on Pacific nations that will see their farmers prevented from saving seeds, unable to support key food producing industries, or flooded by unhealthy foods,” continued Mr Wolfenden.

The paper recommends that PICs must ensure that any commitments on trade support and enhance, rather than detract from, policies that build food sovereignty amongst the Islands. It also calls for greater participation of farmers and civil society in trade and food policy.

© Scoop Media

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