Cuernavaca Consensus


May 1999

The Cuernavaca Consensus is a statement agreed to by 60 participants from 13 countries, activists and academics that are fighting the negative consequences of globalizing an industrial model of agriculture. The declaration is a list of issues that participants felt the upcoming agriculture negotiations at the WTO should address.

Upcoming WTO (World Trade Organization) negotiations provide an opportunity to reform world trade and investment rules and policies which are currently working against food security, family farmers, nature, the environment, human rights and democracy.

The purpose of this declaration is to make specific recommendations for reforms to reverse these negative effects. The undersigned groups are committed to working together to realize these urgently needed reforms:

1. A small number of transnational corporations now exercise monopoly control over major sectors of agricultural production, processing, and distribution, including international trade. Anti-competitive and restrictive business practices, such as monopoly control, price-fixing, and manipulation by one or a few corporations, must be disciplined by trade rules and actions.

2. Food security, including adequate supplies of basic foods and water is an internationally guaranteed human right for every family, community, and nation. World trade and investment must be reformed to eliminate all provisions that harm food security, including the creation of greater dependency on imports. Present trade rules and food assistance conventions need to be re-written to ensure that they do not interfere with the right of individuals or nations to feed themselves. We view trade and international financial institution policies that encourage or require Third World countries to export cash crops and import basic foods as a serious threat to food security and should be reformed. Proposals to exclude all staple foods from trade liberalization by placing them in a food security "bread box" should be incorporated into trade regulations.

3. Consumers must have access to safe, nutritious and accurately labeled food at fair prices. Agricultural trade and investment rules and policies must enable consumers to have access to healthy food and water and to complete and truthful disclosure of vital information via labels and other "right to know" mechanisms. However, these mechanisms and other food safety concerns must not be mis-used to discriminate against local producers, small farmers and processors, or poor countries. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary provisions of trade agreements must be re-written to restore control over food safety to local and national authorities legally responsible for food safety. Nutrition policies designed to promote public health through improved diets must be protected from challenge under trade and investment rules.

4. Producer-controlled and public-controlled trading enterprises can be important elements in regulating and limiting the negative impact of monopolies. At the same time, they can be used to reinforce monopolies. Global trade and investment rules must support those producer and public enterprises operating to promote an equitable world market fair to producers and consumers.

5. Each family, community and nation has the right to determine their own diet and level of acceptable risk based on religious, cultural, social, scientific, and ethical considerations. Trade and investment rules and policies must support this right to food sovereignty, including guaranteeing the right to ban genetically-manipulated and other bio-engineered foods and crops or to require the labeling an segregation throughout the food chain of these products, and to control imports that could potentially result in the introduction of dangerous or invasive non-native organisms or species.

6. Export dumping is the sale of goods overseas at prices below the full cost of production, which includes direct costs (raw materials, inputs, machinery, land, labor, etc.) and all government paid or subsidized inputs. Export in agricultural trade must be rapidly phased out, including the elimination of de-coupled government payments that serve as hidden forms of dumping.

7. The Marrakesh Agreement, which guaranteed assistance to poor and developing countries whose food security was harmed by the Uruguay Round of global trade talks, has been ignored. It must be fully implemented and all assistance provided must be unconditional.

8. Current trade and investment rules are discouraging the growth of fair trade regimes that guarantee small producers in developing countries fair prices and credit, and preferential access to markets. Rules should be reformed to encourage fair trade regimes.

9. Climate change, biological pollution, deterioration of the ozone layer, chemical contamination of the atmosphere, soil and water and the loss of cultural, genetic and biological diversity all threaten food production and producers. World trade and investment rules must be urgently reviewed for their impacts on these threats and immediately reformed to stop contributing to these problems.

10. Worldwide currency and commodity speculation has caused hunger, poverty, social destruction and civil unrest. World trade and investment rules must be reformed to reduce such fluctuations and speculation, and the rules of agriculture trade must not hamper national policies designed to mitigate the negative effects of currency fluctuations, including quantitative import controls, emergency food stocks, and capital controls.

11. Communities and governments have the right to control issues relating to ownership and access to the use of biodiversity, natural resources and knowledge. World trade and investment rules should explicitly acknowledge this right through recognition of sui generis and other local control mechanisms such as import and export controls. The imposition of US style patenting and other intellectual property laws in seeds and plant genetic resources pose a serious threat to biodiversity and food security.

12. Countries must retain to right to exclude patenting of humans, animals, plants, seeds and other life forms. 13. Farms, fishing and forestry all have many dimensions and multiple functions in societies. World trade and investment rules must recognize the multi-functionality of these activities and ensure their proper promotion and protection, including government programs, such as affirmative procurement, consumer labels, price supports and equitable supply controls, designed to promote small scale, environmentally sound production practices and producers.

14. World trade and investment rules currently elevate property rights above all other considerations, often resulting in a denial of basic human rights, especially the right to food and to feed ourself. Internationally guaranteed human rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights, must be placed before property rights in all trade and investment rules. Every person's right to food needs to be recognized and enforced in international law.

15. Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are crucial for addressing the dangerous ecological crises we are facing today. World trade and investment rules must not be allowed to preempt or reduce the effectiveness of MEAs.

Concrete proposals, including suggested treaty language, is available on the website of the
International Forum on Food & Agriculture (IFA).

We are working to implement these reforms as part of the ongoing negotiations taking place within the World Trade Organization. We invite you and your organization to join us in this effort by signing onto this document, circulating it to other groups for their support, and by working to gain the support of your government for these reforms.

For more information, or to join this initiative, contact:
The International Forum on Food & Agriculture (IFA)
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