July 29, 2015

Food Sovereignty


I paraphrase the Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty as formulated by the global farmer movement Via Campesina:

1. Food Sovereignty affirms healthy food as a basic human right. This means 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. Access to our work and ability to do our work is the essence of freedom. This right to food can also be encoded as a formal constitutional right, wherever the people choose to do so.
2. Food Sovereignty affirms our human right to productively work the land, which means control of the land by those who productively steward it. Access to our work and ability to do our work is the essence of freedom.
3. Food Sovereignty recognizes the need for productive stewardship of all natural resources. This include the need, responsibility, and obligation to use our natural resources as sustainably and renewably as possible, in harmony with the nature which provides their foundation.
4. Food Sovereignty affirms that human economies are naturally demand-based, never supply-based. It rejects all top-down command economy measures. It therefore rejects globalization, commodification, corporate welfare, and corporatism as such. Trade must be of food only, never agricultural commodities.
5. Within the current globalization of food, Food Sovereignty especially rejects the financialization and commodification of food and other natural resources.
6. Food Sovereignty 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 freedom, happiness, well-being, and social peace instead of sublimated civil war. Food and agricultural policy must never be a “food weapon”, must never be part of economic warfare or civil war. There must be no use of food as politics by other means, war by other means.
7. Food Sovereignty affirms that political and economic organization must be democratic. Food producers and consumers must take the lead and exercise full control of everything we 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 true 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, breeds the best crops, 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 essence of Food Sovereignty is the proposition that agroecology and political and economic freedom are mutually reinforcing.
Positive democracy dispenses with all forms of coercive hierarchy in favor of the cooperative economies and societies which are natural to human beings. This is the culture which would end all tyranny and minimize violence. It’s the most favorable environment for all forms of autonomous and cooperative production, including the agroecology which already is the most productive of all forms of agriculture, and whose productivity advantage shall increase exponentially post-fossil fuels. Conversely, conditions of artificial scarcity and unemployment arise out of and are conducive to anti-democratic ideas and forms. Corporate Rule = Artificial Scarcity. Food Sovereignty/Agroecology/Community Food = Natural and Economic Abundance.
The Big Lie that industrial agriculture outproduces organic is based on simple accounting fraud. Corporate propagandists isolate one crop, for example corn, and then compare industrial vs. organic monocultures of that crop. But monoculture is antithetical to the organic framework. On the contrary, the right comparison is between the industrial monoculture and the integrated, diversified polycultural farm. When this correct account is tallied, we find that organic outproduces industrial in terms of calories and macronutrients, and vastly outproduces it in terms of vitamins and minerals.
But this mode of agroecological production – diversified, geared to local conditions, intensively using skilled labor, producing abundance, providing fulfilling work for all – cannot be concentrated into an assembly line. So it’s naturally resistant to hierarchy. It naturally resists power and wealth concentration.
Therefore agroecology is in the spirit of the original principle of the American Revolution, that concentrated power naturally assaults liberty, and that the responsibility of a citizen is to be vigilant toward power, or better yet not allow it to concentrate in the first place. Organic food production, by its very nature, presents a great hurdle to concentration, and therefore lessens the burden of vigilance. It also does this by providing local/regional food security. By training for self-reliance, it also affirmatively trains us to be the active citizens we need to be.
What is needful? If you believe industrial agriculture as such is sustainable, then all you need to do is stay the course with the predominantly non-GM conventional industrial system which produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, far more than will ever exist even by the most prodigious population projections. Even in that scenario GMOs are unnecessary and pointless.
But the fact is that industrial agriculture is not sustainable and, if left to continue on its current trajectory, shall inevitably fail and collapse, bringing unfathomable famine and disease with its failure. Again, since GMOs do nothing but double down on every trend and pathology of industrial agriculture, they can play no role in any constructive transformation. Their one and only purpose is to impose authoritarian regimentation on agriculture and food.
The agroecological transformation which is already underway is the only possible way forward for humanity’s future need and abundance. Small polyculture farms have always been far more productive than industrial plantations. Organic practices are already demonstrated to be enable humanity to produce food and fertility sufficient to sustain and exceed the world’s need. When industrial practice is no longer able to function as it runs out of the massive infusions of cheap fuel, aquifer water, and mined phosphorus it daily requires, the productivity margin shall become infinite. We know this is true, the science and history prove it. Across the board real science and rationality support the accomplishments and potential of agroecology and Food Sovereignty and condemn corporate agriculture’s failures, toxicity, and destructiveness.
Agroecology is the only agronomic way forward. Together with Food Sovereignty we find the great way forward for freedom, democracy, and human prosperity. The basis of a healthy economy, polity, and society is the ability of the productive class to procure everything it needs for a decent life. So given any social premise, including even the premises of modern civilization and the middle-class aspiration, agroecology is the most fruitful and healthful basis of agriculture. As always, where it comes to food issues the answer to any problem is along the same vector regardless of whether one’s a reformist or a revolutionary. Either way one must be an anti-corporatist.
The history of this movement has provided the right model for all social organization. Agroecological knowledge, the greatest achievement of the modern era and the achievement with by far the greatest potential for the future, was built from a combination of science and regionally adapted practical knowledge. Food production and distribution, more than any other endeavor, emphasize the importance of adaptive knowledge and require the mutual support of scientific theory and locally adapted application. Nowhere is this more true than with agriculture, and if we expand from science theory to philosophy in general, here agriculture also provides a template for all human endeavor. We already know it’s true in politics and political economy. Monoculture is death in general.
The key: agroecological science plus regionally adapted empirical knowledge and practice, toward food production primarily for the region. This can be applied right now, especially across the global South. It requires primarily the political will to reject Western globalization and its depredations. The Via Campesina principles of Food Sovereignty articulate best what’s necessary. This applies also to our critically endangered agricultural genetics, where our salvation lies in participatory plant breeding for regionally adapted agroecology. Centralized seed vaults like Svalbard represent in principle a crackpot “solution” of decadence, even leaving aside any likely corruption.
Participatory breeders can receive important assistance from formally trained scientific breeders if these latter commit to agroecology and Food Sovereignty. If they fail to do this (they’ve been increasingly corporatized since the 1980s), we can teach ourselves all that’s necessary. Farmers have already empirically selected and bred for thousands of years.
We’re already doing all of this. Organizations like Campesino a Campesino and the Asian Farmer Field Schools already exist to propagate the most cutting edge agroecological knowledge and techniques to smallholder farmers. This modern knowledge is really a refinement of and supplement to the age old techniques. But unlike fraudulent technologies like GMOs, these conceptual refinements and enhancements which require little in the way of expensive inputs and really do produce great gains in yield and nutritional quality.
Helped by this knowledge, which Southern farmers can largely propagate among themselves with perhaps some help from the organic movement in the West (and this help being only in the form of non-proprietary knowledge; and of course we in the West have at least as much to learn from the innovators of the South), Southern farmers can provide for themselves and their communities. Southern communities shall attain prosperity and security through their own resources efforts, if the assaults of the corporate West are stopped.
So the road to a human future is clear enough. Support and join the efforts of Southern farmer unions like these, and the efforts of the hundreds of farmer and citizen groups who have combined to form the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, and the efforts of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil and elsewhere across Latin America, and the efforts of La Via Campesina, the Peasant Way, and the efforts of those of us in the West who are trying to build such movements here.
If humanity is to have a future, this great movement must succeed. We must defend ourselves as farmers and citizens, we must preserve our ability to democratically produce and distribute the true crops and real food, and we must build this effort as a movement to ensure the future of humanity.
In all these ways, therefore, agroecology helps foster and strengthen democracy, just as democracy provides the most constructive environment for agroecology. Food Sovereignty is an essentially democratic philosophy and practice. It’s the most purely human philosophy, and it’s the practice most tending toward our human fulfillment.




  1. Russ,
    Thanks for the reply to my previous comment about Saletan. I didn’t realize he was an avowed eugenicist and racist, but I will read those great links when I have time.
    Now they are going after good old Neil Young, because of his anti-GMO album: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/neil-young-gmo-monsanto

    Go, Neil!

    Comment by publiusmaximus — July 30, 2015 @ 8:26 am

    • You’re welcome Publius. One of the links I gave you details some of Saletan’s “scientific” racism (“Bell Curve” type stuff, increasingly cherished among these scientism types). I like what I’ve heard about Neil Young’s album, which makes perfect sense given his long Farm Aid commitment. (Haven’t heard from the other allegedly pro-farmer rock stars, though. Except for Bono and Geldof, of course.) I haven’t subjected myself to the media commentary on Young. Are the cowards trying to handle him gently, they way some of them have been trying with Jane Goodall? (Hoping to peel her off, the way they did with Nye.) Or are they letting him have it the way they would with any non-beloved non-celebrity?

      Comment by Russ — July 30, 2015 @ 11:04 am

      • They are really letting him have it, even being catty and insulting about the music, not just the anti-GMO courage they hate. Example from article above: “Young joined the fight this summer with a new album, “The Monsanto Years,” and a short film, “Seeding Fear.” They are critical flops and intellectual failures, a case of good music, solid science and one man’s conscience running in opposite directions.

        Nevertheless, they are both popular.”

        “Again and again on Young’s album – dubbed “lazy” by the Los Angeles Times and “as though he simply cranked up the Current Events Rhyming Couplet Generator” by NPR “

        Comment by publiusmaximus — July 30, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

      • That’s funny. But, to these criminals’ chagrin and trepidation, the only important thing is: “they are both popular.”

        Comment by Russ — July 30, 2015 @ 3:47 pm

  2. […] beneficial, and just way, and the way most productive of knowledge. The key, as I described in my Food Sovereignty pamphlet, is to apply science to regionally developed and adapted empirical knowledge. No one who lacks this […]

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  3. […] left of science, the true science, are some fugitive, persecuted independent scientists, as well as the vastly greater range of empirical practitioners who increasingly infuse their work with agroecol…, albeit with almost no help, and plenty of hindrance and harm, from establishment sources. And yet […]

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  4. […] Indeed GMOs were developed in the first place to intensify corporate control and domination. But corporate control is antithetical to productive, food-based, sustainable agriculture. By definition corporate agriculture, producing commodities and poison instead of food, with food […]

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  5. […] of a misdirectional propaganda gambit. . Meanwhile agroecology, a fully developed and demonstrated science and set of practices ready for full deployment, conserves and cleans water. . Auden put it well: . It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Ah, water […]

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  6. […] economic ideology of modern times, but the nihilist mercenary ideology which has hijacked science. True science benefits and upholds health and freedom. We must redeem it for our […]

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  8. […] such as in Africa, resist the corporate onslaught and supplement and build upon their traditions by adapting agroecological science to their conditions and traditions, will survive and thrive. There’s no other way forward, for facing up to the climate crisis […]

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  9. […] biodiversity to climate change, is for humanity to abolish corporate industrial agriculture and transform civilization on the basis of agroecology and food sovereignty. This is easily possible and would be in accord with science, reason, morality, and spirit. It would […]

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  10. […] paths lead to the same death. The only possible goals then dictate the only possible actions. . We have everything we need for the affirmative work. The ideas are fully developed, the science is fully proven, the practices are fully demonstrated […]

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  11. […] system itself, if that evidence is propagated competently and relentlessly and in the context of the affirmative Food Sovereignty idea. On the other hand, without this work even a hundred times as much evidence would be of little use. […]

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  12. […] and conscience. . And real science, by the way, is also 100% on our side. So it follows that we Food Sovereignty campaigners, we who fight for the environment, food and water security, public health, democracy, […]

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  13. […] agroecological work on seed is done via participatory plant breeding, this embodies the essence of agroecological food sovereignty practice, the application of science to regional conditions and needs. This is the gold standard for seed, […]

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  14. […] know little and have little until we rebuild the Community Food sector and protect it, toward the great affirmative goal of Food Sovereignty. . We must lift our vision and expand our goal. We need the will to renew political life from the […]

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