A. Food system resiliency; B. Public health; C. Economic democracy.
The movement imperatives:
1. Food for post-Peak Oil; 2. Socioeconomic reason and practicality; 3. Democracy and justice.
There’s some detail on these in the prior post, in more in countless previous posts. And I’ll be writing lots more on how these specifically infuse the food movement.
Today I’ll add Food Sovereignty as a core moral/political principle and objective, as the main form of true democracy itself. Where it comes to Food Sovereignty we don’t need to define it and lay out its principles as this has already been done in a seminal way by La Via Campesina
Food Sovereignty is, as described here:
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.
The first sentence expresses both the physical and the democratic/moral priorities. These are bound together. We can assume that freedom and democracy would define their systems according to what’s most healthy and culturally appropriate. Democracy and socioeconomic equality are necessary for health, as we see with the way environmental and public health devastations are rationed according to (lack of) wealth.
Right now within Western countries what’s culturally appropriate isn’t easily definable in an affirmative way, but we know that the corporate assault is the assault on all culture and all possibility of culture. The only road to rediscovering human cultures is to rebuild human communities and economies. True democracy is a prerequisite for this, and perhaps shall help constitute the culture itself once freed of all the baggage of fraud and consumerist decadence it must now carry.
Putting producers and eaters at the heart of systems “rather than markets and corporations” implies the eradication of (non-local/regional) markets and corporations, since these and people are in a zero-sum war.
The invocation of the next generation emphasizes how we’re born in debt to ancestors and as trustees for descendents.
The specific practices emphasized are democratically normative, and the evidence proves they’re more productive than corporate agriculture as well.
Transparent trade is part of the principle that all trade must be bottom-up, based on actual demand, rather than imposed from the top down and based on non-existent or astroturfed “consumer” demand. “Trade” has become the tail that wags the dog. But food markets are, to an overwhelming extent, local and regional. That food production and distribution in general has been hijacked by the naturally miniscule commodification part of trade is one of the great practical depravities and moral abominations of history.
Socioeconomic inequality aggravates the other forms of conflict listed here, while breaking free of it to establish economic democracy shall provide the basis for the only lasting solution of these problems as well. (But as history has proven all other social problems are unsolvable under capitalism, which does all it can to perpetuate and worsen them.)
As the manifesto says, all resource rights belong only to those who produce food, while those who eat have a right to healthy food. Given the totalitarian premises of the globalized corporate system, these self-evident truths are radical and implicitly revolutionary. But they’re really moderate and common sense from any human point of view.
1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.
1. Food as a Basic Human Right emphasizes sustaining a healthy life with full human dignity. This is impossible without a food system truly dedicated to public health, as well as to economic and democratic justice. The language of rights, if it’s not to be mere ornamentation for the oppressive state, has to refer only to the soil-driven citizen seizure and self-enforcement of the right, as the practice of true democracy itself. The same applies to all the demands of these Principles.
2. The call for Agrarian Reform, for ownership and control of the land to be free of social and ideological discrimination (including the propertarian ideology) is implicitly the demand for full economic democracy. “The land belongs to those who work it”. Can economic democracy be better crystallized than this?
3. The sustainable care and use of Natural Resources goes to the core of how Food Sovereignty is the only concept capable of facing the physical challenges of the end of the Oil Age and building a new resiliency for food production and distribution. Both of these are doomed in their fossil fueled incarnations, perhaps soon and catastrophically. The same applies to the synthetically zombified soil the synthetic arms race of pesticide vs. superbug, herbicide vs. superweed, and the whole monocrop regime which renders all of agriculture one big hothouse flower soon to be exposed to chill winds. GMOs have radically intensified this lack of robustness and resiliency. Food Sovereignty rules out all of these.
4. “Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade.” This demand to Reorganize the Food Trade goes to the core of the entire relocalization movement, confirming its physical and democratic imperatives while attacking the core of globalization, its alleged efficiency and its immorality. The priorities of food as nutrition and self-sufficiency as a basic political/economic criterion seek to solve the physical energy and social justice crises simultaneously.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger is the most reformist Principle. Given the existence of speculative capital, we demand its regulation and taxation. But the existence of globalization and speculative capital is already implicitly ruled out by the other Principles.
6. As the call for Social Peace recognizes, food commodification is violence in every way, from the most brutally literal to the most sublimated in the “five sovereign fingers”
wielding the “treaty” pen. The ongoing displacement and forced urbanization represent both environmental and socioeconomic violence. A shantytown is embodied violence. “Food must not be used as a weapon”. This means the food movement must fight for its socioeconomic, democratic, and moral imperatives. Public health shall also remain impossible until the rancid separation of city and country is transcended.
7. The demand for Democratic Control, for smallholder farmers having direct democratic input, speaks for itself. I’ll add one critical implication. We know that true democracy is impossible in the form of “input” given to processes run by top-down elites. Rather, the process must run itself from the soil up and requires no special input, as it’s expressed and enacted naturally by the people on the ground. We also know that smallholder farmers need no levels above themselves to force them to farm a certain way, and do far better (all people do far better) in the absence of such hierarchy. So this Principle is really a call for Full, True Democratic Control.
For each of those I emphasized one or more of the movement criteria and imperatives, but I could have linked any of these with almost any other, they’re so interwound.
I avow the basic Food Sovereignty manifesto and these Seven Principles. I think we must avow and apply them not just in the Global South but in America and the West as well. To the extent that our future shall exist as an identity at all, we’re becoming these same beleaguered peasants. So I propose that food movement participants and supporters adopt this term, its concepts, and avow Via Campesina’s principles, although the strategy and tactics will have to be adapted to regional circumstances. We can formulate our own specifics out of what it directs and implies. This will be part of honing the sharpness of the so far often vague and conflict “global food movement”.