September 20, 1995
Re-establishing Farmer/Consumer Relationships
Re-establishing direct farmer/consumer relationships was a
central focus of a conference held in Seoul, Korea, in July
1995. Over 100 participants from 21 countries met to examine
food security issues in the context of trade liberalization
and the rapid opening and deregulation of national markets in
the Asia-Pacific region. The four day conference of non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) brought together farmers,
consumers, environmental activists and representatives of
rural communities in the region to develop a "farm to table"
platform for sustainable agriculture and consumption. During
the conference, participants worked to identify obstacles to
the expansion of sustainable agricultural production systems
in Asia and the Pacific and to plan activities to support and
promote such systems.
Conference participants agreed that while per capita food
production has increased on a global basis in recent decades,
neither food supplies nor much of the wealth it creates are
equitably distributed. They also shared concerns that
environmentally and socially destructive technologies are
undermining the ecological base of future production.
According to Sarojeni V. Rengam, Director of PAN
Asia/Pacific, "High external input agricultural systems and
export-driven agricultural policies treat food as just
another commodity, rather than our basic life support system.
The result is a vicious circle leading to farmers being
forced off their land, a degraded environment, loss of
biodiversity and declining food quality." Representatives of
consumer groups stressed the need for widespread public
support for organic and sustainable agriculture.
Conference speakers emphasized that agriculture is not solely
an economic activity. For millions of families in Asia and
elsewhere, farming is a way of life. However, market forces
continually press farmers to produce more at lower costs,
which may mean clearing forests, consolidating farm holdings,
forcing yields with synthetic fertilizers and killing pests
with toxic chemicals. There was consensus among the
participants that it is everyone's responsibility as
consumers and citizens to support sustainable farming
methods, especially in the absence of public sector vehicles
to balance commercial interests with social and environmental
Re-establishing more direct farmer/consumer relationships was
considered crucial for development of ecologically sound
production, socially just employment and safe food
consumption. Participants stressed that broad based citizens'
support and international alliances are necessary for
effective political action to stop exploitation of human and
natural resources in our food systems. A "Farm to Table"
Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture and Consumption was
launched to work towards more coherent regional
collaboration. Participants also jointly released "The Seoul
Declaration," listing concerns and calling for specific
actions including the creation and strengthening of
community-based marketing systems to nurture self-reliance
The conference was jointly organized by PAN Asia and the
Pacific, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements (IFOAM) Asia, Citizens' Alliance for Consumer
Protection of Korea (CACPK), the Korea Organic Farmers'
Association (KOFA), the Korea Farmers' and Fishermen's Weekly
News (KFFWN), and Korean Society for Organic Agriculture
Sources: Conference press release, July 19, 1995; The Seoul
Declaration, July 19, 1995.
For copies of the Seoul Declaration, or for more information
contact: PAN Asia/Pacific, P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang,
Malaysia; phone (60-4) 657 0271; fax (60-4) 657-7445; email
IFOAM Asia c/o A.V. Daniel, Institute for Integrated Rural
Development, Box 562, Kanchan Nagar, 431002 Aurangabad,
Maharashtra State, India; phone (91-80) 663 2450; fax (91-80)
44050; email email@example.com.
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