15 June 2001

Globalisation destroying family farms, says Bové

By Philip Clarke

and Mike Stones

EUROPEAN policy-makers are committed to the destruction of family farms as they chase their goal of free trade and globalisation, according to radical French farm leader Jose Bové.

In London this week to promote his book The World is Not For Sale – Farmers Against Junk Food, he said: "In 1992, when the reforms started, there were 11m farmers in the EU. Now there are just 7m and they want to go on with the destruction of family farms."

Mr Bové said that, under the CAP, more than 80% of the subsidies were given to just 20% of the farmers, helping to perpetuate industrial-style agriculture.

"The way these subsidies are paid is destroying family farms," he said. "In France, 1ha of grass for cows gets just 300FFr in subsidy, while 1ha of corn gets 3000ha, 10 times more than for the traditional way of feeding animals."

Mr Bové was especially critical of the way globalisation was affecting farmers in less developed countries.

Subsidised exports of dairy products to India, for example, were forcing local producers out of business. "We are killing everything through our use of export subsidies," he said.

Mr Bové advocated a system of localised, rather than globalised food production as the best way of supporting farmers while meeting the demands of consumers. This should involve the use of border protection to help them operate profitably.

He attacked the World Trade Organisation, which he said was undemocratic and dominated by the USA, the EU, Canada and Japan. "Their rules are not the rules of fair trade, only free trade."

But Mr Bovés views were in contrast to those of former US president Bill Clinton at the recent Yorkshire International Business Convention. Mr Clinton maintained that globalisation was a positive force.

"It is not a question of whether globalisation will proceed, but how we can work together to expand the circle of prosperity," he said. Increasing interdependence and lowering of barriers to world trade was the key to advancing peace, stability and prosperity, he added.

But Mr Clinton said greater trade in industrial and agricultural products alone would not be enough to lift poor nations out of debt. Only a global programme of debt relief and direct aid could avoid widespread political and economic upheaval.

lMr Bové joined representatives from the International Society for Ecology and Culture, the Small and Family Farm Alliance and Friends of the Earth, to present a radical policy statement to No 10 Downing Street and the new Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Ministers should shift the emphasis away from the production of export crops and encourage the diversification of food production for local markets, they said. This should lead to lower prices for consumers, higher prices for farmers and reduced profits for the middlemen. &#42

Local or global? Jose Bové (left) is critical of globalisation, but Bill Clinton maintains it is a positive force.