This little farm went to market

Organic NZ Magazine: January/February 2011
Section: Guest editorial
Author: Dr Christine Dann

Imagine two neighbouring farms: a 100 hectare farm with two people living on it, and a 3,700 ha farm with 140 people living on it. Both farms produce all the food their families need, and both trade some food for cash. Their trading relationship is not equal in volume. The big farm buys nearly 10% of what the little farm produces, whereas the little farm buys only 0.2% of the big farm’s products. However the little farm’s sales to the big farm are worth 11% more than the big farm’s sales to the little farm.

The little farm wants to sell more, but the big farm has quotas on how much it will buy from little farms. Little farms that want to sell more have to pay the big farm a percentage of the goods. The little farm has been complaining about this.

So the big farm said to the little farm: “Here’s the deal. We will buy more goods from you, and not charge you quite so much for the right to sell to us, so long as you give us the right to conduct any kind of business on your farm, even business which may confl ict with the rules and customs of your farm. This could include growing genetically engineered crops, or making a movie using non-unionised actors, or building a nuclear power plant. If you object to this, we want the right to sue you in a secret tribunal located on our farm, and receive compensation both for the loss of actual business, and the right to do business.”

The little farm is New Zealand, the big farm is the USA. The other little farms are Australia, Brunei Darrusalam, Chile, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The deal is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). It entered its fourth round of negotiations in Auckland on 6 December. Soil & Health patron Jeanette Fitzsimons has spoken out against the TPPA, saying “A TPPA could give transnational companies the right to sue future governments if they legislated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or restrict the use of genetic engineering technology.”

The TPPA also threatens the health of New Zealanders by giving foreign corporations rights to enforce the public purchase of expensive patented medicines rather than cheap generics, to set food standards, and to not only delay efforts to reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption, but even to be compensated with public funds for loss of business!

This is an extraordinarily bad deal. It must be stopped. Join the growing opposition by downloading the ‘Statement of Sovereignty’ petition from the NZ Not For Sale Campaign website – www.nznotforsale.org – and circulating it. Get more information about the TPPA from that site and from TPP Watch – www.tppwatch.org. In-depth analysis can be found in the book No Ordinary Deal, edited by Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.

Jeanette Fitzsimons says: “The TPPA would give away the freedom of our children and grandchildren to determine their own future. Please help us stop it.”

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Dr Christine Dann has been researching and writing about sustainable and fair food production and distribution for over ten years and is secretary of the NZ Not for Sale Campaign.