Statement made during the media briefing on land grabbing & the World Bank proposal for a code of conduct governing foreign investment in farmland | 26 April 2010
by Bob St.Peter
Food for Maine's Future / National Family Farm CoalitionWASHINGTON, DC Good Morning. My name is Bob St.Peter and I am the director of Food for Maine's Future based in Sedgwick, Maine. I sit on the Executive Committee of the National Family Farm Coalition and am a member of La Via Campesina. I am here today in solidarity with the peasants, small farmers, and landless people around the world who are struggling to maintain their livelihood and way of life in the face of a neo-liberal corporate globalization agenda. I am a landless farmer and seasonal farmworker, unable to purchase farmland of my own because the price of land where I live has been driven out of reach by affluent summer residents, a seasonal tourism economy, and those seeking empty landscapes and waterfront views for development purposes. Humanity presently faces great challenges and today we too often speak in terms of crises: Food Crisis; Financial Crisis; Climate Crisis. Transnational corporations, governments, private investors, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank would have us believe the answer is expansion of failed agricultural models and more development projects that primarily benefit wealthy nations and investors at the expense of the poor and marginalized. The recent wave of land grabbing offers us one vision for the future. It is a vision where land is a commodity to be bought and sold, rather than a sacred gift for us to share and steward. It is a vision where the people who depend on access to land for their livelihood, and often survival, are simply not as important as the nations or investors who seek to benefit from lands productive value. This vision does not take into account the desire of people to produce food for themselves, their families, and their communities, but rather forces people into production of commodities for export. It does not take into account traditions and cultures that have developed from our relationship to the land, nor does it offer a fair and equitable solution to hunger and poverty. There is another vision, another way forward, away from the failure to respect the right of all people to a healthy, dignified, and peaceful life. We call this vision food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right of people to maintain and develop their own capacity for producing their basic foods, respecting cultural and productive diversity. It is the right of people to produce food in our own territories, and to determine our agricultural and food policy. The vision of food sovereignty offers solutions to hunger and poverty because it places the decisions about who will eat in the hands of many small producers rather than extractive agribusiness corporations whose primary goal is profit. We, the peasants and small farmers of the world, do not need agribusiness and international investment schemes to eat. We can feed ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we can do so more healthfully and more sustainably, without rural displacement and the degradation of indigenous cultures. But to do so we need fair and equitable access to productive land and waterfront, not low-paying jobs on corporate farms and international food aid. During the Irish potato famine millions of people starved or migrated in search of food, even while corn and oats were exported to Britain. This injustice continues today throughout the world. By making it easier for foreign governments, agribusiness corporations, and private investors to buy farmland and export food for profit and their domestic needs, the World Bank is creating the conditions for starvation, displacement, and severe internal conflicts. So I ask the world leaders gathered here, what should the people in Sudan or Ethiopia do as they watch their families starve while cargo ships full of food leave their harbors and airplanes take off full of food? What would you do? Globalize the struggle!
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Bob St.PeterFood for Maine's Future