Last week Iowa and New York were honored by gatherings of farmers, consumers, scientists, medical health professionals, indigenous tribal representatives, and civil society activists, who came together to award the fifth annual Food Sovereignty Prize.
The Prize was first established by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), who hosted this year’s event in New York, in conjunction with Occupy the World Food Prize event in Des Moines, being held to protest a gala being held by the corporate establishment. This is an auspicious melding of the affirmative and negative imperatives of the Food Sovereignty movement, which must avow and assert itself even as it discredits and fights corporate agriculture and corporatism as such.
Food Sovereignty is a political and economic philosophy which affirms decentralized, democracy-based agroecology as the basis for food production and distribution, and for politics and the economy in general. It is a comprehensive world view.
As described by the global farmer movement Via Campesina, Food Sovereignty:
1. Affirms healthy food as a basic human right. (Meaning, we have a pre-political right to work the soil and enjoy the food we produce from it. This is because our creative and productive work is an essential part of our humanity, and any attempt to sunder us from control over our work is an elemental crime. This right to food can also be encoded as a formal constitutional right, wherever people choose to do so.)
2. Affirms our human right to productively work the land, which of course implies control of the land by those who productively steward it.
3. Recognizes the need for productive stewardship of all natural resources, including the need and obligation to use them as sustainably as possible, in harmony with the nature which provides their foundation.
4. Affirms that economies are naturally demand-based, never supply-based, and rejects all top-down command economy measures. It therefore rejects globalization, commodification, corporate welfare, corporatism as such.
5. Within the current globalization of food, it especially rejects the financialization of food and resource commodities.
6. Seeks modes of production and distribution based on natural human cooperation instead of artificial elite-imposed competition and mutual destruction. Food production and distribution, where done democratically and according to the natural rhythms of the economy, can be forces for social peace instead of sublimated civil war.
7. Affirms that political and economic organization must be democratic, with the food producers and consumers taking the lead and exercising control of everything which they create and consume. That means everything which exists within the bounds of polity and economy.
Food Sovereignty is the political complement to agroecology, the great body of agronomic science, knowledge, technology, and practice. Agroecology is about growing food in harmony with nature, in a way which provides the most wholesome food, with the highest amount of calories and nutritional value, builds the soil, uses less water, cleanses the water and air, grows the physically strongest crops, improves the genetic robustness of our crops, most effectively discourages weeds and pests, attracts beneficial insects and companion plants, provides wildlife habitat, enhances ecosystems in general, and provides a spiritually fulfilling human environment.
The Food Sovereignty Prize honors those who fight to advance food sovereignty and agroecology as bodies of knowledge and real world practices, and as general political ideas. Past honorees include Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement.
This year’s honorees are four Haitian peasant organizations, together calling themselves the G4/Dessalines Brigade. These four largest Haitian farmer groups are best known for organizing the rejection of Monsanto’s predatory attempt to dump GMO seed upon Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake. This was a cynical attempt to take advantage of people at their weakest, to force them onto the treadmill of GMO indenture they had previously rejected. In a brave show of self-confidence and self-respect, Haitian farmers vowed to continue on their path of seeking agricultural sustainability and independence.
That’s the much bigger affirmative context the corporate media wasn’t likely to provide when “reporting” on the rejection of the GMO seeds. The Haitian peasant movement, working with Via Campesina, has long been conducting a program of argoecological education, with technical and infrastructural support, including the help of experts from Brazil and elsewhere. This movement has slowly been improving the agricultural practice, economic position, and political perception of Haiti’s small farmers. That’s the context in which they rejected Monsanto’s try at taking advantage of a terrible moment to destroy all these farmers had been working toward. In doing so they put many other groups of farmers, including many in the US, to shame.
The Food Sovereignty prize is just one part of the growing good news from around the world. The tide is turning against GMOs. More and more people everywhere are taking up the fight. They resolve that we shall never give up until GMOs are abolished and we fully reclaim our food and our planet.