For an ecological and equitable agricultural trade. Interview with Wolfgang Sachs

For an ecological and equitable agricultural trade. Interview with Wolfgang Sachs

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By Giuseppina Ciuffreda

Agriculture is one of the two great arenas in which the future of the sustainability of our living is at stake: energy and land. From a social point of view, we must be aware that 70% of the poor live in rural areas, so that everything that happens in agriculture has an impact on their destiny..

Giuseppina Ciuffreda interviewed Wolfgang Sachs, research director at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy in Berlin for Il Manifesto.

Why did you choose agriculture?

For political, human and environmental reasons. Agriculture is one of the two great arenas in which the future of the sustainability of our living is at stake: energy and land. From the social point of view, we must be aware that 70% of the poor live in rural areas, so that everything that happens in agriculture has an impact on their destiny. In short, agriculture is at the center of the negotiations on the reform of international trade. Right now, it is the knot that cannot be untangled, and it is the point at which the Doha round of the WTO (World Trade Organization) will crash. The logic of the negotiations neglects the right to the existence of entire populations, as well as the integrity of the biosphere.

In your report, you turn the dominant ideas on agricultural trade, on development and on the fight against poverty. You speak of social and natural networks, and not only of income generation. You use words that are not even found in other critical analyzes of globalization: biosphere, nature, soil regeneration ...

In the analyzes, also in those of those who oppose, the emphasis is placed on the human rights of the peasants. Okay, but then many things are left out of the environmental dimension. Since the WTO meeting in Cancun on agriculture, it has become commonplace that the most expeditious way to achieve greater social justice was freer access to northern markets for agricultural products from the South. In our opinion, such an emphasis is wrong. It is true that the markets of the North are structured in an unfair way, but by abolishing all the barriers placed on exports from the South we would certainly have a more equitable market, but one that would remain a free market, and therefore, incapable of solving the problem. of poverty, let alone environmental problems.

The key to the alternative passes, according to you, through small family businesses. It is a proposal totally against the grain of the ongoing concentration processes.

If we want to combat poverty and the fact that more and more people lose the possibility of earning their own subsistence, we have to worry about the fate of small producers. It is not a romantic sentiment, but a pragmatic approach. A large, growing majority of people today work in the sector. Small producers or small merchants that are part of a rural economy fundamental to the lives of millions of poor people.

You frame this key in the valorization of local and national commerce, which you see as a priority. On the other hand, continental and global trade, and here too you go against the current, you assign a role of every secondary point.

In the dominant discourse, the export orientation is seen as the instrument of development. We, on the other hand, like many others, say that for the small producer the central point is not access to distant markets, but access to the neighboring market. Hence, the development of local markets and national economies is necessary, seeking the integration of the rural sector in them. Just as one more thing, in one way or another complementary, it could be interesting to develop a certain activity in the international market. But it should hardly ever be the deciding factor

You maintain that the obstacles to free trade are not the States, but the large transnational companies, and you vindicate the role of the State and local communities. Bad transnationals, good communities ...

We only find another error of the WTO, when it maintains that the State is responsible for the market distortions. It may be true in some cases, but if you look at things, it is seen that large companies have the power to dictate prices and production standards. And this is the reason why so many small producers are unable to access markets. Liberalization that eliminates borders gives more power to large companies, which today have much greater space for their global maneuvers. Any reform of agricultural trade should, on the contrary, seek to reinforce the position of the smallest players in the transnational production chain.

But you do not exclude a trade aimed at exporting for small producers.

We are not against the export of agricultural products. It can also be positive even for small farmers. It is already like this today. We see it in the case of coffee and cocoa. Often these are activities of small producers who form associations to face the market. We try to identify criteria for a sustainable export. That does not marginalize the little ones and does not sacrifice water, soil and forests to create exportable goods.

It seems to me that for you the question of the regeneration of democracy is also very decisive.

Democracy comes directly to the fore when it comes to the rights of nations and societies, because the philosophy of free trade points to its disappearance. They hinder the flow of goods and services. In this sense, the free market is an attack on democracy, because democracy means expressing the preferences of a community, doing with one's own things and trying to manage them. To give more weight to society and politics, it is necessary to give space again to nations and national governments. Hence, it is necessary to dam up the intention of the WTO to mitigate its authority.

USA, Europe, Japan: you call them “the triad”. And you add Brazil, Argentina, China. Dominant countries that dictate rules to their advantage. So is Europe among the bad guys in the movie?

Yes, all counted, Europe is among the bad guys. For example, while its environmental policies are quite interesting, when it comes to international trade, Europe is very close to the US. Its general strategy is to open up the markets of other countries, particularly those of the South, for industry and services. Unfortunately for Europeans, the South has come alive, saying: "If you want us to open our markets, you too will have to open yours to our agricultural products." But it is a problem, because a true opening to the South would mean the death of much of European agriculture. Thus, Europe has understood that true globalization is impossible. And it tries to promote a policy of double standards. What I should honestly say, instead, is that if liberalization of agriculture is not good for Europe, liberalization of industry and services may not be good for the South of the world. And starting from that frank admission of the state of things, to relaunch their own interests. This has not been the case until now. Europe tries to achieve one, without compromising on the other. The European Union has decided on a mandatory percentage of biofuel per car. But the environment can suffer deep imbalances due to the monocultures necessary to produce bioethanol and biodiesel, in exchange for uncertain advantages for the Earth's climate: destruction of tropical forests to produce oil palm, increases in prices of corn or soybeans. , concurrence between food and fuel… In any case, we must not be too pessimistic. The level of reflection has increased, and also the EU is now trying to find and apply criteria. It seems to me that the decisive thing is not to engage in intercontinental trade. The biofuel must come from Europe and must be obtained first from agricultural waste, and not from plantations.

Why this title: Slow Trade Sound Farming?

It occurred to me while in Turin with those of Terra Madre, the initiative with small peasant producers from around the world organized by Slow Food (Slow Food). With this title we put ourselves in the wake of the spirit of Slow Food, which is not only gastronomy. It is also to preserve the agriculture of autochthonous races, of food biodiversity, of the social fabric in which it occurs. Hence Slow Trade, because a trade that tries to promote the right to existence and environmental protection will always be a slower trade.

* Wolfgang Sachs, Research Director at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, has coordinated with Tilman Santarius the Slow Trade-Sound Farming report for a new agricultural and trade policy.

Translation Eleanor Març

Video: A week in the life of a plant scientist (June 2022).


  1. Weolingtun

    to you curious mind :)

  2. Tugor

    Excellent and timely message.

  3. Ewyn


  4. Philip

    Bravo, this admirable thought has to be precisely on purpose

  5. Jesus

    They are wrong. I am able to prove it. Write to me in PM, speak.

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