Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Food Sovereignty Prevails

What is food sovereignty? An inclusive definition was provided in the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni which was developed from a gathering of more than 500 delegates from organizations of peasants, women, indigenous communities, fisher folk, shepherds, etc. from all over the world in Sélingué, a village in rural Mali. This definition encompasses six principles:

1. Focuses on food for people as opposed to treating food as a commodity in an international market.

2. Values the food providers rather than threatening their livelihoods.

3. Localises food systems and removes power from transnational corporate trade.

4. Preserves the commons and independence by rejecting the privatization of natural resources.

5. Supports the development of local skills and knowledge and avoids technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate.

6. Pursues an agroecological approach to food production that works with nature to “heal the planet so that the planet may heal us” and shuns industrial farming, fishing and food production.

Why is this important? As described in the UK Food Group Briefing, January 2010, there is no international control over transnational corporations (TNCs) to keep in check monopolistic concentration of power in our food supply. In addition, corporations are privatising life with patents on seeds and animals. They are controlling food production further with onerous contracts and manipulation of the law. Finally, corporations are undemocratic institutions that are eroding our democracy by taking over government functions. For example, the UK government is working in partnership with TNCs to tackle health problems with the Responsibility Deal. But meanwhile, the protection of our health is a government function and not one that business can fulfil.

I would like to declare that the Food Wars are over and that food sovereignty is secure. This is a positive vision that fits in well with my 2010 Retreat positive visions. When I was at the GM Gathering Momentum meeting on Saturday, 22nd January 2011, this is what I focused on when the many participants divided up into groups to work on action plans to campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply. I think a good affirmation for meditating or thinking about this positive vision is mmm........peace prevails.

Who does this affect? No matter where you live in the world, GMOs are intricately tied in with the destruction of your very own food sovereignty. GMOs are produced and controlled by transnational corporations (TNCs) and threaten to contaminate all our food. There is no escaping it. The more TNCs take control, the more you will be dictated to on what to eat and the more your food will be bereft of natural nutritional value.

How does loss of sovereignty because of GMOs affect you? GMOs are part of an agricultural system that is energy, resource and finance intensive, which is undesirable because of global warming, loss of biodiversity and unstable financial markets. GMOs are technological commodities with unknown long-term consequences that have been scientifically proven to have some negative health affects, toxic qualities to the environment, and contamination through cross pollination.

Rather than bemoaning that resistance is futile, a Borg claim, why not ask what we can do about it? This is the question that leads to each and every one of us taking an active part in making life on earth better, safer, healthier, happier and fairer. What’s more, it can be done in a peaceful manner that leads to a better life for you and others right away. The first mode of action that my group came up with was to stop shopping in supermarkets. Graham Harvey discusses this in his book, We want Real Food and he sets out many ways to do it. As he says, it’s not necessary to go cold turkey, but once you take the first step, you will find you are on a road to better health and perhaps even a better lifestyle.

Some supermarkets are worse than others in this food sovereignty dilemma. I would suggest starting with TNCs such as Tesco and Asda (part of US Walmart) and the UK Sainsbury’s because of Lord Sainsbury’s involvement in the development of GMOs. Supermarkets dictate to farmers and thereby undermine food sovereignty. While I was at the GM Gathering Momentum meeting, a farmer told me about an example of supermarket bullying where a farmer was left with £35,000 worth of unusable packaging because the supermarket changed its requirements. In Corproate Power In Global Agrifood Governance, the authors discuss many problems with retail power, private standards and sustainability.

Another highly positive action to ensure food sovereignty, not only for yourself but for the world is to grow some of your own food. This could be as small a contribution as some parsley in a window box. Those of you with gardens could plant food items along with flowers and grass. For the more ambitious, even a small allotment plot can be used to grow fruit and vegetables. I’m a long-term city girl, but this year I’ll be growing potatoes, strawberries, all sorts of herbs, garlic, onions, beets, lettuce, possibly tomatoes, sunflowers (for the bees), chives, horseradish, and maybe some other vegetables, and I only have a small plot of about 20 feet by 30 feet. I don’t use any machines, chemicals or even much time. But it’s a good way to spend time outdoors in the warm weather and I’ve made some good friends there too.

Finally, this is not something to put off. Do it today. Walk over to the local fruit and veg shop and buy an apple, anything to get you started. If you’re strapped for time, try a box scheme. It’s time to take more responsibility for your food supply. As the UK Responsibility Deal shows, if we don’t take responsibility, the TNCs will. They will also inevitably create further iniquities.

mmm.......... peace prevails

Photo credit: Inspiring alternatives at COP-15