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Debating the multifunctionality of agriculture : from trade negotiations to development policies by the south

Losch B.. 2004. Journal of Agrarian Change, 4 (3) : p. 336-360.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0366.2004.00082.x

The process of economic liberalization that began in the late 1980s has had profound repercussions on the situation of agriculture in developing countries. Market instability, aggravated competition and asymmetry between agents linked to the emergence of big transnational companies have led to greater economic risks for farmers and disparities between countries and within every national situation. In such a context, the emergence of a debate in Europe on the multifunctional character of agriculture and on its economic, social and environmental roles may seem a far cry from the concrete situations of the countries of the South, which have no resources to pay for the other functions of their agriculture. Moreover, this difficulty is intensified by the fact that the debate has been placed within the context of the WTO negotiations, which has led to the pro- and anti-multifunctionality groups taking up a more radical stance. Nevertheless, the multifunctional view of agriculture does appear to be a plausible approach. It offers the possibility of going beyond the questions concerning productivity and market competitiveness towards establishing a debate in terms of strategies for sustainable development, in which the place and roles of agriculture can be thought out. Multifunctionality, founded on objectives negotiated at the local level, does seem to present an opportunity for numerous countries of the South to pursue their public policies on a new basis.

Mots-clés : agriculture; libéralisation des échanges; politique économique; mondialisation; multifonctionnalité; globalisation

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