What is Food Sovereignty?
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 prioritizes 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.
Where does the concept of Food Sovereignty come from?
The concept of food sovereignty was developed by Via Campesina and
brought to the public debate during the World Food Summit in 1996 and
represents an alternative to neo-liberal policies. Since then, that
concept has become a major issue of the international agricultural
debate, even within the United Nations bodies. Via Campesina has played a
major role in the development of international networks gathering
social, environmental movements, development NGOs, consumers…From
Seattle to Genoa and Porto Alegre, those networks develop proposals and
strategies which are essential to putting an end to neo-liberal policies
and to develop solidarity policies.
How are neo-liberal policies wrecking food sovereignty?
Neo-liberal policies prioritize international trade, and not food for
the people. They haven’t contributed at all to hunger eradication in the
world. On the contrary, they have increased the peoples’ dependence on
agricultural imports, and have strengthened the industrialization of
agriculture, thus jeopardizing the genetic, cultural and environmental
heritage of our planet, as well as our health. They have forced hundreds
of millions of farmers to give up their traditional agricultural
practices, creating and a rural exodus and forcing migration in search
of food and work. International institutions such as IMF (International
Monetary Fund), the World Bank, and WTO (World Trade Organization) have
implemented policies dictated by the interests of large transnational
companies and superpowers. International (WTO), regional (North American
Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA), or bilateral ” free” trade agreements of
agricultural products actually allow those companies to control the
globalized food market. WTO is a completely inadequate institution to
deal with food and agriculture-related issues. Therefore Via Campesina
wants WTO out of agriculture.
Does Food Sovereignty include fair trade?
Food sovereignty is not contrary to trade but to the priority given to
exports. Under the responsibility of United Nations (UN) trade must be
granted a new framework, which:
* prioritizes local and regional production before export,
* allows the Countries/Unions to protect themselves from too low priced imports,
* permits public aid to farmers, provided these are not intended directly or indirectly to export at low prices,
* guarantees stable agricultural prices at an international level through international agreements of supply management.
Agricultural policies have to support sustainable family farming and
fishing in the North and the South. In order to be able to make their
food sovereignty work, countries in the North and in the South have to
be able to support their agriculture and fishing to guarantee the right
to food of their populations, to preserve their environment, to develop
sustainable agriculture and to protect themselves against dumping. They
should also be able to support their agriculture and fishing to fulfill
other public interests that can differ according to countries and their
cultural traditions. But at present the United States and the European
Union in particular abuse public support to reduce their internal market
prices and to dump their surpluses on the international markets,
destroying family farm based agriculture and fishing in the North and