In the run up to our conference on 12 November we are publishing a series of articles on our key themes: food sovereignty, climate justice and resistance. We start with Teresa Martinez on the movement for food sovereignty.
For us, rural women, food sovereignty means having our own seeds, preserving them and also our food. Our life is at stake and depends on having basic food from the countryside. All people should preserve their seed and their food. That is being sovereign in my opinion: to defend this food that we all need and to have our own production.
Julia Lezama, Network of Rural Women from Costa Rica[i]
Most of the ailments of the global food system come down to a disproportionate imbalance between power and governance. Food and agricultural trade is controlled by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which promotes an export-led model of agriculture and the deregulation of the food market. This has favoured big agribusiness companies and retailers, which control most of the production and retail market, leaving small-scale farmers, consumers and some states with little bargaining power and little control over the means of production and the supply chain. In short the result is an undemocratic food system which is not only unable to provide food security for all but is also contributing to increase poverty in both developed and developing countries.
- Ten corporations control 80% of the global agrochemical market.
- Ten companies control 31% of the seed market and four agribusinesses (Syngenta, Du Pont, Monsanto and Bayer) control almost 100% of the transgenic (GM) seed market.
- Four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda/Wal-mart, Sainsbury and Somerfield) control 75% of UK food retailing.
- Six processors (Arla/Express, Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman, Glanbia, Associated Co-operative Creameries and Nestle) control 93% of UK dairy processing and six supermarkets control 65% of liquid milk sales.
- Just two companies Rank Hovis (part of Tomkins PLC) and Archer Daniels Midland Milling account for more than 50% of bread flour milled in the UK.
- In 1960 small independent retailers had a 60% share of the food retail market. By 2000, their share was reduced to 6%.
On November 2009 the World Food Summit on Food Security took place in Rome. The main theme of the summit was to discuss how to feed nine billion people in 2050 in order to tackle what Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, has called the “tragic achievement” of reaching the appalling figure of 1 billion hungry people. At the same time civil society organisations (CSOs) held a parallel forum to the World Food Summit demanding that Food Sovereignty was “the real solution to the tragedy of hunger in our world”.[i]During the post-war period and the establishment of the Bretton Woods system the emphasis in developed nations was on national self-sufficiency and productivity in a context of food shortages. Now, agriculture is a matter of international trade and the focus is on food security, which does not necessarily imply domestic self-sufficiency. For the poor food security is a matter of life and death, and for the rich it is a matter of satisfying demand using domestic and international markets, services and produce. The commodification of agriculture has created a privatised and volatile food system, based on free trade ideology, which has led to a situation in which hunger coexists with food surplus and waste.As argued by Patrick Mulvany (UK food group), the majority of the world food’s “is grown, collected and harvested by more than a billion small-scale farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk”. However, farmers and consumers have little control of how food is produced because the food system and the rules that govern it are in the hands of a few agribusiness companies and international institutions and the speculative international market. There is a growing consensus among CSOs, NGOs, farmers, pastoralists, indigenous people and other interest groups that a food sovereignty framework in policy-making could democratise the food system and at the same time contribute to the long term development goals of reducing world hunger and poverty.The concept of Food Sovereignty was first developed by the organisation Via Campesina and used in the international debate during the 1996 World Food Summit. Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. It has 148 members from 69 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, including the Scottish Crofting Federation. There are various definitions of food sovereignty as the concept and framework are still developing, but the main emphases are on the Right to Food and a decentralised model in which production, processing, distribution and consumption are controlled by the people and the communities themselves and not by transnational corporations.Food Sovereignty Framework
- Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
- It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
- It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.
- It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers.
- Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal – fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.
- Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition.
- It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food.
- Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.
Extracted from Declaration of Nyéléni, World Forum for Food Sovereignty 2007.
Food Sovereignty is increasingly used as a concept to influence policy-making, and the food sovereignty movement has been successful in bringing this framework to the attention of politicians, scientists and international organisations. For example, the IAASTD[ii]
has defined food sovereignty as the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies. Mali and Ecuador have already incorporated principles of food sovereignty in their national constitutions. According to FAO (World Food Summit 1986), “ food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. This definition includes aspects of access, availability, use and stability. Food security is at the heart of the food sovereignty framework, which, however, goes beyond these aspects by enquiring if our food is produced following fair and sustainable practices and by demanding the democratisation of the global food system through localising food systems, promoting collective and community rights over territories and food production resources, and giving more control to farmers, consumers and citizens over how food is produced, traded and consumed.
Globalise the fight, globalise the hope
Promoters of food sovereignty principles argue that in order to achieve a more democratic system, something as basic and vital as food and agriculture should not be controlled just by the WTO and the Agreement on Agriculture.[iii]
They claim food is not just a trade matter but a peoples’ matter and therefore agricultural policies should not be dealt under a monopolistic trade paradigm. There is a need for a new independent international body and multilateral agreement in agriculture to prioritise food sovereignty and the Right to Food over food commodification and corporate control of the food system. As we see the first structural adjustment policies imposed in some European countries, we also see the spread of the Food Sovereignty movement throughout Europe. From the 16th
of August more than 400 people from 34 European countries from the Atlantic to the Urals and Caucasus, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, as well as international representatives from diverse social movements and civil society organisations, met in Krems, Austria to take a step forward in the development of a European movement for Food Sovereignty. They are building on the foundations of the Declaration of the Nyéléni 2007, which reaffirmed the international framework for Food Sovereignty – the right of peoples to democratically define their own food and agricultural systems without harming other people or the environment. (click here to see the Declaration of Nyeleni Europe, 2011).
Declaration from Social Movements, NGOS, CSOs Parallel Forum to the World Summit on Food Security, Rome, November 13-17 2009.
IAASTD stands for International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development.
Friends of the Earth International. (2001). Sale of the century? Peoples’ Food Sovereignty: Part 2- a new multilateral framework for food and agriculture.
[i] Extracted from Women and Food Sovereignty: voices of rural women of the South, Friends of the Earth International, July 2011.