ANTI-CAPITALIST protesters plan to demonstrate outside a summit meeting for multi nationals in Glasgow next week amid claims that food will be the next big battleground in the war against globalization.
The demonstration's organizers, the group Globalise Resistance, have pledged that there will be no violence and have arranged a counter- conference to highlight the "madness" of international agri-business and food policy.
The Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) conference at Glasgow's SECC on May 7-14 will be attended by 3500 chief executives and senior managers from major multinationals including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, Nestlé and Kraft as well as supermarkets such as Sainsbury and Tesco.
Globalization is just the latest stage in the government's prioritization of free-market principles over the needs of public health. The politics of food is becoming increasingly prominent.
ECR Europe say the conference and exhibition will include the need to cut costs, how to ensure uniformity of product no matter where in the world it is produced and how to increase the market for fast-moving consumer goods. The conference organizers said the aim was to improve consumer value and "all aspects of the shopping experience". Extra security has now been arranged.
Globalise Resistance, a coalition group aiming to bring together critics of multinational corporations, has assembled a host of environmentalists, socialists, academics, and single-issue campaigners to answer questions they claim won't be on the ECR agenda.
Economist Carlo Morelli, a lecturer at Dundee University and one of the key speakers, will argue that ECR is driven not by consumer need but by profit and that the logistics of modern food retailing are responsible for such crises as the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
He told the Sunday Herald: "The outbreak is indicative of a system based not on human need but on profit. While we export £396 million worth of meat, we import £1.7 billion worth. We are importing and exporting huge amounts of meat and livestock is transported up and down the country to where the largest profits can be made.
"The ECR model has enabled retailers such as Sainsbury's and Tesco to develop highly sophisticated supply chains - British retailers are extremely successful at doing it."
Morelli will claim that the costs are paid by the consumer in terms of high prices and transport-related pollution, and internationally by poor countries, where domestic agriculture is undermined by the high volume of subsidized meat products dumped on the market by European agriculture.
"ECR is incredibly profitable for retailers - but consumers pay the price," he said. "That is the other side of the coin, which won't be discussed at the ECR conference."
Gill Hubbard, spokesperson for Globalise Resistance, said that legitimate concerns about globalization had been silenced by the focus on violence at May Day demonstrations and other flashpoint meetings in Quebec, Prague and Seattle.
The defeat of multinational drug companies over the patenting of Aids medicines in the third world, and the success of campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 in bringing about debt relief, showed ordinary people could make a difference, she said.
"People are trying to label anti-capitalists as violent, mindless thugs, but what you'll see in Glasgow is people from all different spectrums coming together to look at how we can wrest the world from the hands of corporations."
The counter- conference, at Glasgow Caledonian University on Saturday May 12, will include speakers from Christian Aid, Jubilee Scotland, Scottish Genetix Action and Baby Milk Action - who are attending to target representatives of Nestlé.
Spokesman Jonathan Dorsett said: "Nestlé is the biggest violator of the international code for marketing of breast-milk substitutes. Their primary motivation is not health but profit, and they look for ways around the codes to generate bigger profits for their shareholders. That is wrong."
Damian Killeen, director of the Poverty Alliance in Scotland said: "We are not a direct-action organization. But I think globalization is just the latest stage in the government's prioritization of free-market principles over the needs of public health. The politics of food is becoming increasingly prominent."
A spokesperson for ECR Europe said: "ECR Europe provides a forum in which retailers and manufacturers work together to improve all aspects of the shopping experience for consumers across Europe. The conference is an opportunity for the entire supply chain to work together to further improve consumer value."