People's Congress Urges Land, Food Without Poisons

MANILA, Philippines, April 7, 2003 (ENS) - Agricultural workers and their families are being poisoned, rural lands, forests, oceans and waters are devastated, biodiversity is being destroyed, and food is unfit for human consumption. With these words, 140 participants from 17 countries at the First Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific Congress in Manila last week warned the world that industrial agriculture as conducted by transnational corporations is undermining the resources needed to sustain food production.

Congress delegates represented people’s movements of peasants, women, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, and rural youth, grassroots agroecological movements, consumers, human rights and child rights movements, research institutions, academicians, breast feeding advocates, scientists and social action groups.


Rice terraces in Batad, Benguet, Philippines (Photo courtesy Michigan State U.)
Pesticide use poisons about 25 million agricultural workers every year, congress delegates learned. Farming communities face worsening poverty and under-development. They continue to be poisoned by pesticides, their environment contaminated; and their food security eroded to a critical level.

Rafael Mariano, national chairperson of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, said, "The Third World accounts for 99 percent of deaths from pesticides even though it uses only 20 percent of the pesticides produced globally."

Rural economies have become too subservient to the needs of transnational corporations and have become dependent on their chemicals, the congress delegates agreed.

The first Congress of the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) wound up with unanimous agreement to support the Manila Declaration on Land and Food Without Poisons: People’s Rights and People’s Empowerment.

Through the declaration, the Congress proclaimed its intention to get the World Trade Organization (WTO) out of food and agriculture, in reference to the fact that governments are in the process of negotiating new global agricultural trade rules through the WTO.

Trade liberalization is causing massive bankruptcies among peasants, the congress states in its final communication. Corporate farms and plantations displace peasants through contract growing schemes, and crop conversions, or eject them through land use conversions and outright takeover of their lands, water and other productive resources.

At the same time, the congress participants said, development projects like tourism, golf courses, large dams, and corporate mining displace rural and coastal communities and indigenous peoples from their ancestral domain. "People and rural communities are violently displaced. Landless, they are forced to migrate to even more exploitative conditions."

Agricultural land, food processing, agrochemical, seed, pharmaceutical and veterinary transnational corporations are increasingly integrated into a few powerful global giants, the delegates said. This monopoly is intensifying the dependence on pesticides and chemical fertilizers, they said.

Farmers are alarmed by a genetic engineering technology that has not yet been introduced to the market. The "Terminator" technology developed by the transnational corporation Monsanto, renders second generation seeds sterile. The farmers must purchase each year's seed and the special fertilizers that go with it from the transnational corporations. Congress delegates said this technology threatens the right of more than 1.4 billion farmers who save seeds every season for the next season's planting.

"To suit their corporate interests, common resources are being patented and dangerous agro-technologies such as genetic engineering are being promoted," the congress stated in unison.

"Drive food and agrochemical transnational corporations out of countries," the congress declared, "eliminate their control over our means of production, and make them accountable for the destruction of human lives and the environment."

The delegates declared that they would strengthen and consolidate people’s movements and heighten resistance against militarization and aggression, citing their opposition to the U.S. led war in Iraq.

The participants "promote and assert the people’s food sovereignty, especially the right of people to decide their own food and agricultural policies, right to food, the right to land and productive resources, knowledge and skills, and right to fair income."

The declaration supports liberation of women from patriarchy and promotion of their dignity and equal rights particularly to land and productive resources.

The self-determination of indigenous peoples, and the elimination racial discrimination, abolition of child labor and abuse are proclaimed in the final congress document.

Genuine agrarian and fisheries reform, freedom from pesticides, genetically modified organisms, food irradiation were agreed by participants to be necessary to the advance of ecological agriculture.