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UN expert: Argentina should avoid dismantling family farming

UN expert: Argentina should avoid dismantling family farming at times of economic crisis

GENEVA / BUENOS AIRES (21 September 2018) – The Government of Argentina should support the country’s family farming sector in order to protect food availability, says the UN expert on food and human rights.

Family farmers represent almost 80 per cent of farmers in Argentina and produce nearly half of the vegetables and fruits consumed in the country.

“I understand the challenges faced by Argentina, but I am critical of the Government’s decision to take advantage of the ongoing economic crisis to dismantle support for the country’s family farming sector by laying off almost five hundred workers and experts from the Ministry of Agroindustry. This action seems to be targeted to further promote export-orientated industrial agriculture mainly of soybean and maize,” said Hilal Elver, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food as she presented a statement at the end of a 10-day fact-finding visit to the country.

“The adoption of such policies in the middle of a severe economic crisis, which has already significantly increased poverty and diminished the purchasing power of the poor, will intensify the impact on Argentina’s realization of the right to food.

“In crisis situations with acutely high inflation, people who are already vulnerable such as landless peasants, agricultural workers, migrants, and indigenous peoples are further hit, with the livelihoods of many put at risk,” the Special Rapporteur added. I have observed an increasing number of people going to soup kitchens, or skipping meals, and children being forced to rely for their daily meals entirely on school feeding programmes,” Ms Elver said.

The Special Rapporteur met with members of the Qom communities in Chaco, who had migrated from their traditional lands to nearby cities in order to survive, yet still unable to sustain themselves because of systemic discrimination.

“It is a legal obligation of the government and a matter of human rights to uphold the right to food in times of a national economic crisis and the Government should take into greater account the direct and indirect impact of its austerity measures on the accessibility of food for the poorest members of Argentine society,” she added.

Argentina claims that the country produces enough food for 450 million people, yet almost four million of its own citizens face serious food insecurity.

Ms Elver argued that the country’s present agricultural development model based on intensive export oriented commercial farming, with genetically modified soya beans and maize as its main product, is not beneficial to the right to food in a number of ways.

“Industrial agriculture is causing dangerous rates of deforestation, at around 27 million hectares each year. Moreover, the enormous increase in the use of agrochemicals, including glyphosate, pollutes water and soil. More importantly it has been scientifically demonstrated that these chemicals have a serious, even lethal, impact on human health”.

“The long term true cost of industrial farming, primarily the social and economic impact on people, as well as their adverse impact on environmental resources and biological diversity should be calculated, not only short-term profitability and economic growth.

“During a field visit to Gran La Plata, I witnessed how a group of farmers on modest amounts of land produced a ‘miracle harvest’ of healthy and pesticide-free vegetables at low cost. Such production methods should be given far greater weight in shaping Argentina’s agricultural policy,” the expert said.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur observed that the people of Argentina consumed the highest amount per capita in the region of ultra-processed foods. As a result some 60 per cent of Argentinians are overweight or obese, including 40 per cent of children, making them more susceptible to diseases like diabetes.

Ms Elver urged the authorities to ensure that nutrition policies supported well financed healthy school meal programmes. She also called for laws to ensure informative food labelling and to control advertising of unhealthy foods targeted at children.

During her visit, the expert had meetings with senior Government officials, representatives from the UN system, civil society members, indigenous and local communities.

The Special Rapporteur’s observations and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019.

END

Ms Hilal Elver (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. She is a Research Professor, and co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies and global distinguished fellow at the University of California Los Angeles Law School (UCLA) Resnick Food Law and Policy Center.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Argentina


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