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World Forum on Agrarian Reform, Valencia (Spain) Dec. 5-8, 2004
Article published on 29 December 2004
last modification on 24 April 2015

by r-c.
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The representative of Vía Campesina and leader of anti-globalisation
movements, José Bové, demanded the exclusion of the agricultural sector from the WTO.

“Only 10% of agricultural production goes to the world market, versus 90% of the production which goes to national and local markets. How can it therefore be justified that the WTO determines the agrarian politics of the Governments of all countries, although its (WTO) interests are not representative? World agriculture should not control national or local markets.”

Bove, who participates in the World Forum about Agrarian Reform (WFAR),
which started Sunday Dec 5 in Valencia (Spain), has also expressed his
complete rejection of the European Constitution. He said,

“This treaty will contribute to the disappearance of small producers in Europe. The third part of the text integrates all the previous economic treaties, and this fact is unacceptable to us, the farmers, because normally a Constitution creates rules which are fair, but it does not incorporate previous rules which have been created exclusively with economic criteria.”

He also expressed his discontent with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“We also say NO to the CAP reform, which will provoke more exploitation closures and will not permit the incorporation of young people to this sector. At present, one agricultural exploitation disappears in the EU every three minutes, and every year, in the EU-15 (15 established Member States of the EU) alone, over 200.000 agricultural exploitations close down. With the reform, this rate will increase and the 10 new members will suffer much more from this tendency, which is orientated towards maximum production, without taking into account the quality of life or the interests of farmers.”

In relation to the need to create systems which facilitate the incorporation
of the young into the agrarian sector, Bové pointed out that

“actual requirements protect land and landowners more than those who do not have that capacity of investment, which is normally the case of young farmers when they begin. We propose that property ownership should not be obligatory and that leasing of land should be promoted, in order to in this way recuperate the land which has been abandoned by its owners.”

This agrarian initiative, like others, requires social support.

“We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of society, because we need its support to achieve the objectives we aim for. Alliances are the best strategy, as has been demonstrated by Via Campesina, an alliance that works with farmers across the entire world. But we can also work with local and national alliances. In France, we are already collaborating with the collective formed by the people who do not have homes due to present property prices, and also with the farmers established in urban peripheries, in order to promote the consumption of their products in the local markets, which reduces costs and permits the access of people with low incomes to organic food, for example. Alliances adapt to each reality.”

Genetically Modified (GM) Crops, a battle which continues

José Bové, known by French students as ”the Asterix of anti-globalisation”,
hopes that cultivation of GM crops will not increase, despite the expanding
campaign that the producers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are
carrying out in the five continents. He has also denounced the strategy
followed by multinational companies in order to eliminate the social fight
and the fight of farmers against GM crops.

“According to FAO data, the cultivation of GM crops only represents 0.6% of land cultivated at present. However, large companies make society and institutions believe that the cultivation of these crops is something generalised and normalised, in order to give the impression that they are harmless and therefore there is no need to fight against them. What interests are behind all this? Market control, because these productions depend on seeds which are patented, and farmers are not permitted to use the seeds without authorisation, which makes farmers depend on the multinational company that has the patent on the seeds in order to continue cultivating the land. In other words, if there were no patents, there would be no GM crops. It is a fight towards controlling a new market.”

With the optimism reflected in his phrase “the only battle lost is the one
that is never started,” Bové explained the revindicating actions which have
been carried out in his country.

“In France, this summer, we have destroyed 80% of the experimental fields growing GM crops, thanks to a new mass movement called “voluntary sythers”,

who also publically claim their
actions. European society is against Genetically Modified Crops. There only seems to be silence about this here in Spain, even though there are 50.000 hectares of GM crops being cultivated.

Finally, Bové showed his total support to the Palestinian community,
especially to the farmers that are suffering the consequences of the
construction of the Wall carried out by Israel at present.

“Many of them will not be able to continue cultivating their land, and this means that they will be taken by Israel. The situation is extremely serious. It is unacceptable that they can only cross the Wall if they show a legal entitlement of ownership of the land, because many farmers do not have it and also, certain work in the field requires the work of many people at once, not only the owner. This is an occupation strategy that the World is permitting.”

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