A United Nations independent rights expert called today for policy changes that will allow developing countries the freedom to use their reserves to help secure the right to food without the threat of sanctions under current World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
"Trade rules must be shaped around the food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around WTO rules," said Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
His call comes on the eve of a high-level WTO summit in Bali, Indonesia, which opens tomorrow and runs through 6 December, which will try to reach agreement on proposals on developing countries' food stockholding for food security, as part of the Doha Round trade negotiations.
"The Bali package should now enshrine the rights of developing countries to use public food reserves for food security without facing sanctions," he underlined.
"Supporting local food production is the first building block on the road to realizing the right to food, and trade must complement local production, not justify its abandonment," the expert said, warning that food security is at high risk when countries become overly dependent on global markets, as shown during the global food crisis of 2007-08.
"They must develop ambitious and innovative food security policies that support their own production base, building on successful experiences in a growing number of countries," he said.
"Food reserves are a crucial tool, not just in humanitarian crises, but in the everyday struggle to provide stable income to farmers and to ensure a steady flow of affordable foodstuffs for poor consumers, many of whom lack a basic social safety net," Mr. De Schutter said.
The 'Comprehensive Framework for Action' of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which includes the WTO secretariat, has called on States to use strategic grain reserves to stabilize prices and to immediately review trade policy options and their impacts on poor consumers and farmers.
India's 2013 Food Security Bill mandates public procurement of foodstuffs in order to distribute subsidized grains to much of the population, combined with a minimum support price to ensure adequate incomes for farmers.
Source: UN News