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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le bilan amer du modèle agricole mondial

by Licia Meysenq

Global Agricultural Model In Bitter Balance

Translated Monday 12 May 2014, by Meghan O’Shea

Olivier De Schutter is leaving his post as UN special rapporteur on the right to food. He has assessed a precarious relationship between our agricultural model and the role of the WTO.

"Our current agricultural model is exhausted. We must change course," said Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, as he leaves his post after six years and two terms. He is being succeeded by the Turkish academic Hilal Elver, a specialist in environmental issues. Olivier de Schutter called into question the current standards of agriculture based on intensive farming - in other words, the use of fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. He also leveled the criticism that further industrialization will undermine small farmers. Interviewed by the French periodical La Terre in 2008, when he first took office, Olivier de Schutter was already warning against the need to constantly increase yields to keep prices low, a "low cost" approach to agriculture which limits the income of small farmers. A new way to feed the world’s ever-increasing population must be found. The former rapporteur does not have much faith in official responses: "I no longer think we should wait for governments to act on their own. Obstructions are too numerous, pressures too real and those actors impeding change too powerful" - he said in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde.

Development of local initiatives

He also strongly condemned the World Trade Organization: "The WTO continues to defend an outdated system based on the division of labor and distribution of agricultural products," he lamented. Trade liberalization has weakened developing countries. Products are imported at a very low cost which local producers cannot match. "The WTO is a ‘Last of the Mohicans’ type figure. Of all the international agencies concerned with agriculture and food, the WTO is the only one which has not awakened to the recognition of the need for each country to ensure food production" bemoans Olivier de Schutter.

However, he is not completely fatalistic. To him, the development of local initiatives can make a difference: “Citizens are tired of being treated as mere consumers," he explains, "they are trying to invent more responsible ways of production and consumption."

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