Charter for the creation and implementation of an agricultural exception

Considering that agriculture is essential to ensure food autonomy and the right to food;

Considering that the current situation is marked by prices that are too low for the producers and the context of a demand shortage, notably due to political and geopolitical factors at international levels;

Considering that the agricultural sector is characterised by the high price volatility of its products and that it falls within a specific economic model that cannot be governed solely by market forces;

Considering that agriculture plays a major role in cultural identity, land and regional management, the preservation of the environment and ecosystems and the preservation of food heritage;

Considering the importance of food security for the rights of mankind and its fundamental freedoms to be realised in full as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and other universally recognized instruments;

Considering that agricultural products are not goods like any other and that they should be protected, in the same way that cultural products are protected, by providing an appropriate legal regime with regulations allowing at least a partial dispensation from the principles that govern free trade;

Considering that both agriculture and food take many different forms because they result from local geographical and climatic conditions and that they are closely linked to the culture, the identity and the history of our societies;

Considering that it is necessary to take measures to adequately protect and promote agricultural pluralism;

Considering that the United Nations report on “the right to food, factor for change” considers the right to food as “the right of any person, alone or in a community with others, to have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, adequate and culturally acceptable food that is produced and consumed in a sustainable manner, in order to preserve the access to food of future generations”;

Considering that culture benefits from strong protection at the international level notably through the adoption by UNESCO in 2005 of the Convention to protect and promote cultural diversity;

Considering that in the conclusions of their 2008 report, the Mission to the World Trade Organisation, the Special Reporter on the right to food, noted that the mechanisms of global governance have so far failed to ensure adequate coordination between human rights’ obligations and commercial commitments; considering also that this report calls on States to assess the impacts of trade agreements on the right to food and to ensure that no WTO commitments are undertaken that may be incompatible with their obligations concerning the right to food;

Considering that the Convention on biological diversity signed in Rio in 1992 and the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture signed under the auspices of the FAO and which came into force in the summer of 2004, protect one particular aspect of the diversity of practices and agricultural products, namely biological agricultural diversity;

Considering that, according to a report by the FAO, approximately three-quarters of agricultural genetic diversity was lost during the last century due to the development of an industrial and commercial agricultural model;

Considering the importance of encouraging the development of sustainable agricultural practices which respect both mankind and its environment;

The signatories to this Charter undertake to defend, each at their own level, the following principles:

Section 1 – The agricultural exception, statement of principle

The term “agricultural exception” is understood to mean a set of provisions aimed at making the agricultural sector and agricultural products an exception in all international treaties and provide for the possibility of restrictions on the international trade of agricultural products, by promoting the right of States and State communities to define their own food and agricultural policies, to ensure the food security of their population, preserve their agricultural model and achieve their goals in terms of human development.

Article 2 – The agricultural exception, aims

The agricultural exception has three aims: food security, the safeguarding of rural life and societies and the protection of nature and biodiversity. The application of the principle of the agricultural exception to international agreements shall allow for a dispensation from the rules of free trade when such rules shall be in conflict with these aims.

Article 3 – Agricultural products, goods of a specific nature

Agriculture is one of the foundations of our society. It is not an industry like any other it is the source of food that is essential for life and people’s health and forms part of the cultural foundation of human societies. In this sense, it must be protected to ensure the food security of present and future generations.

Article 4 – Agricultural diversity

Agriculture and food take different forms through time and space. This diversity is embodied in the plurality of agricultural practices and food traditions. This diversity must be protected to enable the different agricultural methods to coexist and contribute to food security and the enhancement of natural heritage and human know-how, that are the result of the work of many generations.

Article 5 – Supporting local production

The traditional agricultural models centred on well-being and sustainability are increasingly endangered by intensive and ultra-productivist agricultural models. Specific measures must be taken to support local, healthy agricultural and food production, with respect for the environment and under conditions which guarantee the respect for the working conditions and the payment of fair compensation to those who work the land.

The exception can therefore induce the introduction of specific regulatory mechanisms to protect domestic markets from the price volatility of the international markets; or even the adoption of criteria enabling public procurement to favour local production. Free access to seed and the sustainable management of the land (including access) should be promoted.

Article 6 – A harmonisation of the rules

The agricultural exception should enable the respect for human rights to be encouraged, and a harmonisation within the same market of the conditions of agricultural production on health, environmental and social levels, as well as ensuring that the controls applied are similar. When such harmonisation is not possible the application of modulated customs duties, to create the required competitive advantage, should be provided for.

Article 7. – Promoting access to land

Access to land is a key issue for the preservation of agricultural activities. The application of the agricultural exception should oppose agricultural land price speculation and ensure access to land for the development of agricultural activities, especially for the younger generations.

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To enable food and agriculture to benefit from a framework agreement separate from those of the World Trade Organisation and increased protection similar to that provided for cultural goods and services under the auspices of UNESCO, the signatories of this Charter request the member states of the European Union, the European Council and the European Commission to adopt a Convention relating to the promotion and protection of agricultural practices and products focusing on the principle of the “agricultural exception”, and to encourage its adoption by the largest possible number of States.