14 September 1999
Support family farms, ministers told

By Philip Clarke, Europe Editor

TAMPERE, Finland — Farmers have united with consumers and protestors to urge European agriculture ministers to resist the globalisation of food production.

On Tuesday, outside an informal meeting of European agriculture ministers in this city, protestors were told they must defend Europes family farms.

Paula Vietola-Jerm, president of the Finnish consumers organisation, said food production should be the mainstay of family farms, not big business.

“It is the best way to guarantee food safety and animal welfare, to protect the environment and to preserve the countryside”, she said.

Ministers from the 15 European countries were meeting in Tampere, southern Finland, to decide a joint negotiating position for impending world trade talks.

Noel Devisch, president of COPA, the European farmers body, said there should be no more concessions during the World Trade Organisation talks.

“That should be the result of the WTO negotiation, not the start of the negotiation,” he said.

The WTO talks, which will discuss moves to liberalise world trade in agricultural products, begin in the US city of Seattle in November.

European agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler declined to speculate on what he thought would be the final result of the talks.

“We cannot give any guarantees what the final outcome will be,” he said.

At a rally outside the meeting, Finnish suckler cow producer, Thomas Snellman said the whole of the food chain was united in their demands.

“We want to maintain our rural system and keep our jobs”, he claimed. “We feel threatened by lower prices and more free trade”.