Posted on 15/03/04 in Food Systems & Animal Rights
The concept of a fair trade between the poor and the rich countries is a very good idea, but in order to use this idea sufficiently it must be based on sustainable pillars. If we totally open the market for the agricultural production from the “poor” and developing countries, we also have to be aware about those negative effects, which this decision could bring.
The first negative effect is the long distance transportation of those agricultural products. For example, imagine import of some tomatoes from Senegal or chickens from Thailand to the EU. Those tomatoes, chickens, etc. must travel over thousands of kilometres to the Europe on the ships, in the lorries, cooling boxes and so on. Can we imagine how much fuel is burnt and energy is used to transfer those products to the EU? So, how much those products cost, if we add the petrol, energy and consequent pollution of the sea and the air, in a real price? All of you must agree that those articles/products which can grow in the EU or neighbouring countries must be in the “real” cost cheaper and in a way much more sustainable than those which are transported from long distance countries, it is logical.
The second negativity which this implementation may bring is the massive agricultural boom in those developing countries and that would have a horrible impact on their environment. Farmers in the developing countries, in order to earn more money for their living would be burning more forests in order to get more land for a larger production. This will cause huge erosions, because the tree roots will no more keep the land together. Then the massive rains will take every year a huge part of a soil and absorb chemicals in it. This will in turn have negative effects on the rivers and the oceans.
There is also a question which has to be asked, and that is how sustainable the agricultural production in the “poor countries” will be, once, the “free trade” demands will be laid down. This will certainly bring a pressure on the production, and the environmental standards in order to put the price of the products as down as possible. That will certainly have a negative effect on the environment and the sustainability would become second rated.
Lets have an example of coffee producers, which adopted the conditionality of the free trade. In 1975 they got for a certain amount of coffee 700 Dollars, in 1983 it was 500 and in 1990s it was just 300 Dollars for the same amount. So in order to get the same money they have to produce and work almost 3 times more.
And as we know the neoliberal free trade is unfair and even though we would open the market for those products, it would not solve their poverty problems. In accordance to environment, it would bring more harm than good.
Similarly, we have to be also very aware about the further uncontrolled industrialization which this step would bring.
Let us imagine that ‘just’ 20% of all countries are industrialized. The important question is “what is the impact on the environment if the 80% would start the process towards industrialisation? The impact on the global environment would be totally destructive. At this moment we are witnessing the environmental impact of 20% industrialisation (global warming, pollution etc..).
Therefore the only solution is that if there is to be further industrialisation, it has to be sustainable otherwise as Chomsky pointed out there will be no destiny for anyone to control.
Thirdly, there is the matter of quality and consequently the mechanisms of control. It is not just matter of products from the “developing countries” but also of certain products in the EU although these exist already to some extent. The daily used products such as milk, dairy products, meat, eggs, fruit, vegetable, etc. should be controlled and the best quality mechanism is when you can check those products by yourself and that is the local production of products. You can see where the milk, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetable come from. If it is from a farm where the cows, chickens are free range and well looked after. You can also check whether the vegetable and fruits are without chemical fertilizers or are genetically modified. The recent animal illnesses (BSE, FOOT and Mouth diseases or chicken flu), also support the idea of a local and ecological production. This would also have a positive impact on transport. If we say that products/animals should not be transported more than 50 km, we would not have so many lorries on the road, consequently decrease the pollution and end of cruelty of animals during the transport from one country to other.
To sum it up, the EU open market is a good idea, but it must be carefully considered with all its impacts that it may bring. The given arguments are related to those products which could be grown in any particular EU or non-EU country, such as meat, milk, vegetable, fruits etc. Those arguments are not related to those products such as bananas, coffee, tea or other products which cannot grow in the EU, then the EU market should give fair opportunities to the producers to compete and open the market for the import of those products based on the quality. The poverty problem in the developing countries is obvious. The adequate way how to solve those problems is through much better and more powerful development programs which are based on sustainability.