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Good Food March protesters call for greener farming policies

By Associated Press in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2012-09-20 07:52

Farmers and activists from all over the continent converged on European Union headquarters on Wednesday to push for a food policy that is fairer to family farmers and kinder to the environment and developing nations.

Behind tractors, several hundred protesters, some of whom have been cycling or walking for weeks in the Good Food March, gathered for a mass brunch outside the European Parliament in Brussels, where a reform of the costly pan-EU farm system is being discussed.

From the culinary Slow Food movement to the Friends of the Earth environmental group, eight major organizations set up the march in order to push demands to drastically revamp policy away from industrial farming.

The coalition united under the slogan "EU farm policy must be fundamentally changed" regarding a new seven-year program that kicks in after 2013.

Within the 27-nation EU, the protesters claim that farming is geared far too much toward big agribusiness at the exclusion of family farming.

Demonstrators carried signs saying "Size does matter" and "No to mega-sties" in their calls for small farming initiatives.

They say that large farms and agricultural multinationals are endangering the environment with chemicals and genetically-modified organisms while increasing pressure on food prices.

"We are going around and around, and nobody wants to take responsibility for the current situation and the misery which the agricultural world is in," said Erwin Schopges, chairman of the Belgian Milk Producers Association, after having an argument over milk prices with EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos outside EU headquarters.

The European Commission has made proposals to promote employment and growth in rural areas to make sure the bloc's 16.7 million farmers can continue to keep a leading place in world farming, but Wednesday's protesters want it geared more away from industrial farming and subsidies that help undercut global prices.

"We want fair conditions for farmers, a greener countryside and an end to policies that are harming poor people in developing countries," said Stanka Becheva of Friends of the Earth.

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