Protesters march in Geneva against WTO role in agriculture

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Around 500 people marched in Geneva Saturday slamming free trade's role in a global food security crisis, as the WTO prepared to host global trade ministers in the city.

"Our food is not merchandise," and "Speculation: the beginning of hunger" read some of the banners paraded through Geneva, a day before the opening of the World Trade Organization's first ministerial meeting in five years.

Global food security will be high on the agenda at the four-day meeting, with WTO's 164 member states under pressure to produce a common response to the risk of a global hunger crisis that has been dramatically amplified by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But the farmers organisations behind Saturday's demonstration slammed what they deemed the destructive impact of the WTO-backed free trade agreements on small farmers and agricultural producers, and in turn on food security.

"No farmers, no food!" shouted the demonstrators.

"Today, the WTO is purely a place for doing business, taking market share and pushing up the cost of food, rendering it inaccessible to many," Nicolas Girod, spokesman for the French farmers union Confederation Paysanne, told AFP.

"The alternative is to develop true food sovereignty" at the local level, "in accordance with what populations are asking for," he said.

Asked what he expected to come out of the WTO ministerial meeting, due to last through Wednesday, he said "not much".

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