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Version française de cette page : Commerce international, autonomie, souveraineté alimentaire aux différentes échelles géographiques et systèmes alimentaires. Synthèse des débats

International trade, autonomy, food sovereignty at different geographical scales and food systems

WFAL 2016. Workshop 8

Documents sources

World Forum on Access to Land and Natural Resource. WFAL 2016. Proceedings.

Translated from French by Translators Without Borders (TWB)

Provisional summary presented to the plenary on 2 April. Raluca Batagoiu, rural development expert, Romania


The international market for agricultural products - the one in which products are exchanged between countries - only accounts for 15% of world production and consumption of agricultural products.

Commodity prices in this market are very low because the farms that supply it are highly mechanized and able to produce at very low cost. Under the effect of trade liberalization, this market competes with all food producers including those whose products are consumed locally.

Farmers who supply most of the world’s food are forced to lower their prices and reduce their income to the lowest. The liberalization of trade in agricultural products is generating mass poverty. 500 million family farms, or 3 billion people, foremost among them the farms of the so-called « developing » countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, are put in competition with a minority of companies and gradually ruined and forced to rural exodus.

The liberalization of trade in agricultural products is contradictory to the goal of resolving hunger in the world which mainly affects rural people whose income is insufficient to produce or buy their food. It is contradictory to the need to maintain and create more jobs, which only family farming can do at present in so-called « developing countries ». It keeps and sinks the world into an economic crisis.

According to some estimates, locking rural people into poverty through trade liberalization deprives the market for goods and services of $ 3 trillion to $ 4 trillion a year. Destroying family farming and the potential of a diversified local food supply, trade liberalization causes food systems to change until some countries become dependent on an external supply for their food.

By promoting the development of a highly mechanized agriculture that practices monoculture of standard varieties which resorts to massive inputs, this undermines family farming. The liberalization of trade leads to the waste of natural resources and the destruction of cultivated biodiversity, and prevents the development of agro-ecological agriculture.

Free trade agreements also have a negative effect on health, linked in many communities to the use of local varieties. Free trade trade agreements restrict agricultural and food policy choices, as they impose deregulation of the prices of imported products. They prevent countries from keeping prices on their domestic market at a level that prevents the ruin of agricultural producers.

Even in Europe and the United States, citizens are forced to organize to resist the destruction of the fabric of local productions and supply (associations or municipal policies for direct supply with local producers).

Europe is offsetting the income declines experienced by its farmers as a result of international competition by providing subsidies. The distribution of these favours large farms.

The transatlantic treaty being negotiated between North America and Europe aims to deepen the liberalization of trade in agricultural products between these regions. It is a threat to family farming, as are the other trade agreements being negotiated between other regions, notably the European Union - Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP-EU) Economic Partnership Agreement, the effects of which concern an ever increasing number of people.

The Climate Smart Agriculture and New Alliance for Food Security initiatives in Africa are contributing to the development of large agricultural and agroindustrial enterprises at the expense of family farming.

Trade liberalization generates a great deal of violence as a result of conflicts for access to land, which is brought about by the grabbing of natural resources by capitalist salaried farms that benefit from the liberalized trading system.

The adoption of « intellectual property » agreements, which mean the appropriation of biodiversity cultivated by large seed companies, often goes hand in hand with trade liberalization. They violate farmers’ freedom to select and reuse their own seeds. Some agreements even expose them to sanctions on the basis of a mere « presumption » of intellectual property infringement.

Who is behind this self-destructive general policy orientation? In particular, it is large transnational agribusiness companies that influence political choices far more than citizens do, which are largely excluded from the decision-making process.


In the past, agricultural policies in favour of family farming have been implemented in all so-called “developed countries”, and in most so-called “emerging countries”. It is to a large extent thanks to these policies that they have been able to reach this ranking. The absence or weakness of such policies in many countries of the world for decades, and their challenge in those who adopted them, has dramatic economic, social, ecological and political effect.

To guarantee family farmers a worthwhile return for their work, it is necessary to protect them from the unequal competition that trade liberalization creates. Agriculture must no longer be subject to the liberalized trade regime and, public policies must regulate agricultural prices in order to ensure the sustainability of peasant family farms.


Countries must regain the right to protect their family farming and food systems, without provoking dumping that is harmful to family farming in other countries. It is necessary to put an end to the exchange regime imposed by the Agricultural Agreement and Free Trade Agreements and to replace them with other international rules, equally binding, in order to ensure food sovereignty.

Political measures needed

  • regulate the prices of agricultural products through trade policies applying to imports and exports (quotas, levies) and, if necessary, production management policies (milk quotas, etc..);

  • guarantee farmers’ access to land and natural resources, as well as to other means of production, notably access to loans at preferential rates;

  • guarantee the supply to populations of healthy and local food products by all measures while favouring the relocation of trade. Some others here: create « equalization funds » financed by customs duties to buy food on the local market and redistribute at preferential prices for the poorest urban dwellers; encourage or partially impose the signing of supply agreements for collective restaurants (in hospitals, schools, administrations) with local producers; to promote family farming associations directly linking consumers and producers; promote « green purchasing » through the introduction of labelling to accurately inform consumers about the origin and quality of products.

Citizen action

To make this general political shift, we need a movement to demand conditions globally at an unprecedented scale:

  • A broad coalition needs to be formed around a proposal for internationally co-ordinated agricultural and trade policies for family farming, and an omnipresent strength of conviction to counterbalance agribusiness lobbies with policy makers and international institutions (including the United Nations and the European Commission). This can be achieved by creating a broad platform of all stakeholders in family farming and by setting up expert offices dedicated to promoting alternative policies.

  • This movement should first prevent the conclusion of trade liberalization agreements affecting trade in services and agricultural products under negotiation (EPA, CETA, TTPIP …). A declaration denouncing these treaties should be drafted and proposed for the signature of the largest number of organizations and citizens;


The following list is not exhaustive. We apologize to those involved and workshop participants who do not find your name written here and we invite you directed us at the following address, so we can edit a new version of this synthesis with the full list:

Introductory statements:

BOEHM, Terry,; Farmer, former president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Canada.

BUISSON, Michel; Agronomist Association for the Taxation of Financial

Transactions and Citizen Action (ATTAC), France.

DAVID, Michel; farmer, Confédération Paysanne, France.

HERNANDEZ, José; SlowFood Saragossa, Spain.

MAZOYER, Marcel; Emeritus Professor, Agroparistech, France.

WARTENA, Sjoerd,; Founder and former president of Terre de Liens, France.

Intervention of participants:

BAYLAC, Michel,; President of the European Association for Rural Development Association, France.

BOTTELA RODRIGUEZ, Elisa,; Lecturer in Economics of Latin America (PhD), Universitry of Salamanca, Spain Department of Economics and Economic History, University of Salamanca, Spain.

TEN, Vera, ; Agronomist, Center for Rural Studies and International Agriculture (CERAI), Spain.

HYEST, Emmanuel: President of the National Federation of land management and rural settlement Institutions (FNSAFER), France.

J. BUENO ESCRICHE, Pedro, ; President of the Center for Rural Studies and International Agriculture (CERAI), Spain.

COSTA LUNAS, Alessandra, ; Brazil National Federation of Agricultural Workers (CONTAG), Brazil.

MARIANI, Maurizio, ; Eating Cities Project, president of the consortium Risteco, Italy.

MUNTING, Monique,; Researcher, consultant and film maker, AGTER, SCAM, Amnesty International, COTA, Belgium.

PLUVINAGE, Jean, ; Researcher, Fondation Terre de Liens, France.

SUAREZ, Victor,; National Association of Rural Commercialization Enterprises (ANEC) Mexico.


LEVARD, Laurent; Parti de Gauche, France.


Raluca Batagoiu ; Rural development expert, Romania.