On October 16, 1945, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded in Quebec City. World Food Day commemorates the occasion by celebrating the FAO’s mission to promote international cooperation to combat hunger, rural poverty, disempowerment and public apathy regarding these issues.
“World Food Day serves as a reminder of our international commitment to work toward world-wide food security and social justice for food producers,” said Jan Slomp, National Farmers Union (NFU) President. “Canada hosted the first FAO meeting. Today, seventy years later, Canada has taken a great leap backward with the current government’s support for trade deals like CETA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), international treaties that, if ratified, will do irreparable harm to Canada’s food system and prevent future governments from building a more just and ecologically sound approach to food and agriculture.”
The NFU, as a member of the international movement la Via Campesina, promotes food sovereignty. It is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. Trade deals such as the TPP and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) would take Canada and our trading partners in the opposite direction.
Both CETA and the TPP undermine Canada’s highly efficient and equitable supply management system for dairy, eggs and poultry by allowing in ever-increasing amounts of imports to displace our farmers and their products. Countries seeking access to our markets subsidize their farmers and/or force them to take on excessive debt so they can sell far below the cost of production, often off-loading costs by polluting the environment, harming animal welfare, using veterinary drugs not approved in Canada and exploiting vulnerable workers.
“These trade agreements undermine our grain, beef and pork producers by facilitating concentration in the grains industry and livestock industries, making farmers livelihoods more precarious here in Canada as well as in other countries,” said Terry Boehm, Chair of the NFU Seed and Trade Committee. “Proponents of these agreements claim farmers will prosper based on more trade, but the reality is that farm debt is increasing rapidly. With fewer farmers, and less secure farmers – what kind of food system do you end up with?”
Every trade deal Canada has signed since NAFTA contains an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that makes it possible for corporations to sue national governments if they pass laws or regulations that reduce the company’s future profitability.
“If ratified, the ISDS clauses in the TPP or CETA would lock in recent laws – such as the Agriculture Growth Act — that shift power away from farmers and consumers towards global agribusiness corporations,” said Ann Slater, NFU Vice President of Policy. “After ratifying a trade deal with an ISDS, governments that repeal or amend these harmful laws would risk being sued for billions of dollars by corporations in unaccountable trade tribunals – not in our own court system. By agreeing to ISDS mechanisms, Canada’s trade negotiators consented to letting a few appointed trade lawyers over-ride the democratic will of the Canadian people.”
Food sovereignty is about empowering people – farmers and eaters – to make the important decisions about food and agriculture. The TPP, CETA and other such agreements affect trade, but they are fundamentally about shifting economic decision-making power from national governments to multinational corporations by setting out rules that bind future governments.
“One of the cornerstones of food sovereignty is giving people democratic control when decisions are made regarding food. Negotiating trade deals behind closed doors and not making the text available to either elected representatives or citizens before finalizing the deals is not democratic,” said Slater. “Instead of tying us to trade deals like CETA and the TPP, our government should put in place policies that are in keeping with the ideals of World Food Day and food sovereignty.”
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For more information:
Jan Slomp, NFU President: (403) 704-4364 or (250) 898-8223
Ann Slater, NFU Vice President, Policy: (519) 349-2448 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Boehm, Chair, NFU Seed and Trade Committee: (306) 255-2880 or (306) 255-7638
Leaked January 2015 negotiating text of TPP Investment Chapter
The National Farmers Union is a founding member of la Via Campesina.
Graph: Farm Income, Debt, Imports and Exports, 1970 – 2014