PANAP: Reject the TPP! Defend food sovereignty!

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Image: themalaysianinsider.com

Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific vows to continue working on alternative initiatives to develop and promote small-scale, biodiversity-based, climate-resilient and food-secure farming systems.

Great difficulties and challenges await peasants and other small food producers in Malaysia and 11 other countries that negotiated and recently finalised the controversial and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

Panap fears that the renewed push for trade and investment liberalisation through the TPP, driven by corporate agenda and under US leadership, will further harmfully impact agriculture in the region and profoundly undermine food sovereignty even more.

We note that rice farmers in Kedah had strongly objected to the TPP due to the fear of an influx of American rice in the local market. Local rice farmers receive minimal government subsidies compared to American farmers, hence making their produce less attractive to consumers who prefer cheaper alternatives. This concern was also acknowledged by the Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in a town hall meeting in 2014 but little has been done to really allay the fears of these farmers.

These farmers, like most Malaysians including parliamentarians, have not been privy to the negotiations or even the text of the agreement, which have been carried out in great secrecy. This violates every principle of democracy, citizenship and good governance as citizens, and even our own negotiators have hardly any meaningful access to the drafts. Ironically, Miti’s official statement on 6 October 2015 assures the decision would be collective when all its past actions reveal otherwise.

What has been gleaned from leaked documents reveals that under the negotiating framework, countries are obliged to comply their existing and future policies with the norms set forth in the proposed TPP chapters. Draft proposals cover agriculture and services, food and product standards, land use and natural resources, government procurement, intellectual property rights and regulatory harmonisation, to name a few.

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Led by the US, the TPP calls for harmonisation with US trade rules and standards, which could spell greater liberalisation of agriculture and privatisation of the food industry amongst its member countries. This could massively destroy rural economies, worsen the poverty and intensify the marginalisation of rural folks, and undermine sustainable food production.

More liberalisation also spells intensified land and resource grabbing especially in poorer and weaker countries by corporations based in the US and other First World economies. With the institutionalisation of so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism under the TPP, big foreign investors in agriculture are given far-reaching protection while undermining the state’s mandate to regulate investments such as those that lead to land and resource grabbing.

Small rural sectors are further disempowered as foreign corporations can directly sue national governments, which are supposed to protect them and uphold their interests through national laws and regulations, in private and unaccountable international arbitration tribunals.

Food sovereignty is also further subverted by the TPP and land and resource-grabbing will worsen with the promotion of genetic engineering (GE) under the trade pact. With the TPP, seed companies and agribusiness giants like Monsanto would be in a very good position to cash in on the widespread commercialisation of GE crops, which have concerns regarding human health and the environment, that will intensify the production of industrial crops in plantation monoculture setting and sideswipe smallholder farmers.

With tighter corporate control of seeds and the food system, the TPP would threaten not only food safety but all efforts at shifting towards a sustainable food system.

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In addition, farmers also face legal consequences since nearly all GE crops are patented or IPR-protected, which the TPP strictly upholds. The TPP will only further legitimise the unconscionable practice of Monsanto and others to prosecute farmers for “breaching” their patents on genes and seed varieties as has been their practice in the US.

Confronted with all these threats, we call on all farmers and other small food producers in Malaysia and other members of the TPP to strongly resist the agreement. We need to generate strong public pressure to compel our parliaments to reject the trade pact due to its potentially devastating on food sovereignty and rural livelihood.

PANAP vows to continue building alternatives on the ground such as the numerous initiatives to preserve, develop and promote small-scale, biodiversity-based, climate-resilient and food-secure farming systems.

Together with the broader farmers’ movement across the globe fighting for food sovereignty and genuine agrarian reform, we will continue to help build momentum for community resistance and to reclaim our rights to land, livelihood, seeds and biodiversity.

Reject the TPP! Defend food sovereignty!

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific, one of PAN’s regional centres, is effectively advancing food sovereignty, gender justice and environmental sustainability. It is committed to supporting the struggles of rural women, agricultural workers, peasants, indigenous peoples and other small food producers.

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