August 2020 – Small-scale farming families play a key role in global food security. Yet many governments neglect their rights and discriminate against them in their agricultural and trade policies, leaving it up to agribusinesses to run the food industry. As the study commissioned by a coalition of NGOs shows, Swiss foreign policy needs to improve its action in this area.

A national policy to the detriment of the poorest

Swiss foreign policy is committed to the liberalisation of trade. In this context, it takes certain measures to protect Swiss agriculture, but not enough to respect the rights of farmers in the countries with which it has trade relations. The consequences are disastrous: many people are losing their right to land, to biodiversity and to a sustainable and healthy environment.

Thus SWISSAID and the other contributors to the study are calling for

  • Switzerland examines the impact of existing or future free trade agreements on small farmer families in Switzerland and in partner countries.
  • The participation of farmers in the negotiations should be proactively promoted and standards adapted accordingly.
  • Switzerland is in favour of the right to seeds and is therefore renouncing strict plant variety protection laws in the context of free trade agreements.
  • Through development cooperation, Switzerland promotes the development of alternative plant variety protection laws and strengthens traditional farmers’ seed systems.
  • Switzerland ensures that all projects of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.

On 27 August, the authors of the study – the Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Geneva, Fastenopfer, CETIM, FIAN Switzerland, HEKS/EPER, Bread for All, SWISSAID and Uniterre – presented the results and their recommendations to federal offices, including the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.