There can be no food security without food sovereignty.
In 2007, about 500 delegates from more than 80 countries gathered at the Forum for Food Sovereignty in Sélingué, Mali, and adopted the “Declaration of Nyéléni“. It defines food sovereignty as
“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. (…) [Food sovereignty] offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime (…). Food sovereignty (…) 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.”
Unfortunately, local communities can’t always exercise their right to self-determination with regard to their food. Around the globe, corporate pressures and governments’ collusion with big private interests often leave people at the mercy of initiatives that cost them dearly. Americans themselves are not exempt from routine assaults on their food sovereignty. The contamination of fields by genetically-modified seeds, that ruins organic crops and typically leads farmers to fight charges from Monsanto, and government-sponsored raids on small family farms, are only some examples of undue corporate and government interference with people’s freedom to produce their food as they see fit.
At the same time, American investors and corporations play a significant role in the land-grabbing phenomenon that is affecting more and more poor nations around the world. Under the guise of supporting development projects, powerful interests get access to farmland for a pittance. About 200 million acres have already been snatched in Africa, Latin America and Asia for projects that spread the industrial agriculture model (monoculture, GM seeds, agro-chemicals, intensive mechanization that destroys life in the soil, etc.) in order to grow crops that are typically aimed for exports. In many cases, the absence of land titles means that the local population has no legal protection against such take-overs. For these people, the assault on their food sovereignty takes on the extreme form of loss of sovereignty over their farmland and its natural resources including agricultural biodiversity. Over the long term, the impact of such losses threatens all of us.