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The Treaties - 20 - Sustainable Agriculture Treaty

Preamble: Current Policy and Critique

Knowing that:

1. The dominant global socio-economic and political system which promotes the model of industrial agricultural production and rural development is the root of the social and environmental crisis in agriculture and its effects extend from rural to urban areas on a planetary scale

2. Although the present model of agriculture has contributed in the last decades to a substantial increase in food production, it has not solved the world's hunger problem, which has increased parallel to increases in food production

3. This model decreases diversity in ecosystems, landscapes and production, reduces natural resources that are the common heritage of all to criteria and a logic of production which mines the resource base, seeks immediate profits and shifts the control of production of foods and raw materials toward large transnational corporations and trade interests at the expense of local control and quality of life for farmers and food security for all people

4. The present industrial, chemical intensive agriculture system of the so-called "Green Revolution" degrades the fertility of soils, intensifies the effects of droughts and contributes to desertification, pollutes water resources, causes salinization, increases non-renewable energy dependence, destroys genetic resources, contaminates the food supply and contributes to climatic change

5. The prevailing agricultural model blocks effective agrarian reform, concentrates land, income and production to a very small minority and raises input costs. This exploits producers, agricultural laborers and indigenous communities working in subsistence agriculture; generates debt and marginalizes large numbers of producers; causes and accelerates rural exodus and the disintegration of communities and their cultures; reduces opportunities for rural employment and intensifies the urban explosion, while aggravating problems of poor health, malnutrition, famine and misery in rural and urban areas especially in Southern countries

6. This model ignores and tends to destroy the cultural diversity and knowledge accumulated over thousands of years by people and traditional communities in the sustainable management of diverse ecosystems

7. The national policies of the majority of countries are oriented toward consolidating and developing this pattern of industrial agriculture which is harmful to the environment and the quality of life for human beings and all other life on our planet

8. The so-called "liberalization" of agricultural trade, as proposed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), will strengthen the monopoly of the present agro-economic system and uniformity of production systems, making it impossible to democratize and achieve active participation of peasant, family and small farmers, thereby undermining the food security systems throughout the world

9. This dominant economic model has a corresponding vertical communication model that has been used as an instrument of domination and disinformation of rural producers, promoting the commercial
interests of agro-industry.

It is therefore an urgent necessity to:

10. Break with the dominant predatory model of agriculture in favor of new patterns of sustainability which are equitable and participatory, to guarantee the full control of the means of production and natural resources in the hands of the people who work the land, insuring them a permanent source of income and high levels of productivity.

Principles of an Alternative Approach

11. Sustainable agriculture is a model of social and economic organization based on an equitable and participatory vision of development which recognizes the environment and natural resources as the foundation of economic activity. Agriculture is sustainable when it is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate and based on a holistic scientific approach.

12. Sustainable agriculture preserves biodiversity, maintains soil fertility and water purity, conserves and improves the chemical, physical and biological qualities of the soil, recycles natural resources and conserves energy. Sustainable agriculture produces diverse forms of high quality foods, fibers and medicines.

13. Sustainable agriculture uses locally available renewable resources, appropriate and affordable technologies and minimizes the use of external and purchased inputs, thereby increasing local independence and self sufficiency and insuring a source of stable income for peasants, family and small farmers and rural communities. This allows more people to stay on the land, strengthens rural communities and integrates humans with their environment.

14. Sustainable agriculture respects the ecological principles of diversity and interdependence and uses the insights of modern science to improve rather than displace the traditional wisdom accumulated over centuries by innumerable farmers around the world.

15. Women play a key role in providing the largest proportion of the world's food resources, by growing, buying and selling.

16. The root causes of environmental degradation in various regions of the world must be identified and addressed.

17. To construct new and democratic patterns of social organization and sustainable agriculture techniques, it is necessary that proposals and concrete experiences in sustainable agriculture development are both articulated and strengthened for an active and worldwide expression of critical social conscience in order to overcome the social and environmental crisis created by the dominant model of agricultural policies, programs and practices.

Action Plan

We non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements pledge to:

18. Commit to democracy and participation of NGOs and social movements, especially peasant, family and small farmers' groups, in all levels in order to accomplish political proposals connected with sustainable agriculture as an essential condition to construct new patterns of social, economic and technical organization of rural areas

19. Support efforts and interaction between people's movements, women's groups, youth, indigenous peoples, local communities and peasant, family and small farmers' organizations to preserve, enhance and maintain intact sustainable farming systems, to restore degraded agro-ecological and cultural systems and to accelerate development and implementation of sustainable agriculture practices

20. Promote new and existing popular networks among people and organizations involved in sustainable agriculture at local, national and regional levels to facilitate quick exchange of affordable, reliable information and to consolidate cooperation and action

21. Promote international networks to strengthen and facilitate cooperation and communication among existing networks

22. Promote strategies of participatory communication corresponding to sustainable agriculture principles by creating communication media, both locally and regionally, to work as instruments of information and education as an alternative to mass media

23. Promote awareness within our respective organizations and others about the need for an agriculture based on sustainable principles

24. Mobilize voluntary educational and advocacy campaigns to bring the principles and methods of sustainable agriculture to all forms of education and pressure governments to develop sustainable agriculture curricula at all levels

25. Emphasize the need for people's empowerment, especially the active participation of women, at all levels of decision making and establish support services to obtain access to land tenure, credit, training opportunities and education in sustainable agriculture

26. Pressure governments, agricultural research institutes and rural extension agencies to include or increase participation of peasants, family and small farmers and rural residents in the decision-making process and to base research and funding decisions on direct consultation with and consideration of the needs and priorities identified by farmers

27. Commit to the preservation of remaining genetic resources and biodiversity by such mechanisms as preserving local seeds, nurseries, livestock and animals and participate in in-situ genetic reconstruction-preservation efforts complementary to sustainable agriculture

28. Develop and promote alternative national and international policies to reverse and prevent the policies currently discussed in GATT and in individual countries which seek to privately appropriate genetic capital and to patent life forms

29. Increase sustainable agriculture production in urban, peri-urban and rural areas at the grassroots level with emphasis on alleviating poverty and improving regional food supply, small scale production and self-sufficiency

30. Advocate aggressively locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for democratic and equitable distribution of land wealth through the principles of agrarian reform based on the control of the land workers

31. Push for and support sustainable agriculture and trade policies at the local, national and international levels

32. Pressure the public and private sectors to make the transition to sustainable agriculture and to direct their resources to the research and development of sustainable agriculture methods

33. Campaign for the creation of a trust fund to sustain peasants, family and small farmers during the transition to sustainable methods of agriculture through a tax on agrichemicals

34. Advocate for a substantial reduction in pesticide and chemical fertilizer use in conventional agriculture by the year 2000, for adoption of the precautionary principle in all pesticide development and promote biological pest control measures that reduce to zero the use of bio-accumulative hazardous inputs

35. Support the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, adopted by the FAO Conference, which seeks to prevent the shipment from one country to another of agricultural chemicals banned or severely restricted, through Prior Informed Consent procedure

36. Promote environmental legislation to preserve agricultural and natural areas and provide a legal framework to address the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture

37. Campaign for international negotiations on agricultural trade practices, notably in GATT, which encourage and support policies on sustainable agriculture, ensuring that the issue of food security and the health and nutrition of all people be given top priority, with emphasis on poor people

38. Build relationships with appropriate international and regional development agencies and institutes to promote the development of sustainable agriculture

39. Support research and dissemination of information on the potential impacts of climate change, such as global warming and ozone layer destruction, on agriculture

40. Push for legislation to regulate biotechnology research, to test genetically modified organisms and to mandate freedom of access to information on applied biotechnology so as to avoid monopolization of biotechnology and dependency of rural producers.


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