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The European Coordination of La Via Campesina organized a March in September called “Good Food March” with other peasant and ecologist organizations from different countries, which included activities in several European cities.
The member organizations of La Via Campesina Europe together with civil society organizations mobilized in demand for fair prices for farmers and consumers, respect of the environment and food sovereignty. France, Italy, Germany and Romania are some of the countries that hosted demonstrations and events.
This was the “beginning of a series of mobilizations on food and agriculture in Europe”, which started with this march, which, even though it was not ’massive, its main feature was that La Via Campesina managed to coordinate with many social organizations, said Patxi Gaztelumendi, of peasant organization EHNE from the Basque Country, a member of La Via Campesina Europe.
The challenge now is to continue fighting for the right to food in each city and in each country, said Gaztelumendi.
On September 19 there was a demonstration outside the European Parliament in Brussels, which marked the beginning of a mobilization that will continue well into 2013 for the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The European Commission is currently discussing proposals for a new CAP reform for the period 2014-2020. The policy is changed every seven years and it governs the activity of European farmers, with repercussions in the region but also on farmers from other countries.
The European Coordination of La Via Campesina is demanding a public regulation of production and markets, and support for small farmers.
This is an “interesting time to discuss the CAP”, said Gaztelumendi. “We want to defend our local agriculture projects. We want food sovereignty. We need to come up with innovative projects locally so that food sovereignty becomes a reality, so that people eat the food produced locally”, he added.
The member of EHNE explained that “food is a human right”, not a privilege. Food produced by peasants are “the basis of our society”, unlike the “commodification of food and agroindustry”.
Gaztelumendi believes the debate within the European Commission for the CAP reform is focused on money and subsidies. So far this policy “has distributed subsidies of public aid. We believe that this will end with the peasants. We will end up having a food industry. It is a mistake of global dimensions”.
In response to the agroindustrial model, EHNE proposes to talk about ways to produce food and to support small farmers, to defend local production instead of large food chains. Defending the peasants and their ancient culture should lead to new agrarian policies, said Gaztelumendi, who reclaimed the need to listen to the peasants’ demands.
EHNE is promoting two proposals in the Basque Country. One is that 40% of the food in soup kitchens, hospitals and retirement houses should be produced locally; the second one is to set up a public food bank, that ensures quality food to low-income people, instead of giving them food from big supermarkets that is about to expire. “It is the everyday struggle for food sovereignty but with transformation projects that include diary production, horticulture, etc”, said Gaztelumendi.
EHNE’s proposals seek to tackle the “systemic crisis of capitalism that brings about more social exclusion and hunger”. The Basque organization proposes to have a broad social agreement with farmers that will lead to a food bank. He explained that in the Basque Country there is a new group of peasants, farmers, cattle ranchers and social activists, as well as consumer associations and social movements organized around food sovereignty.
“The peasants, as food producers, also have a responsibility of social transformation. We need to answer to the needs of our neighbors and fellow citizens. This is not charity but social transformation”, he concluded.
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