Food sovereignty

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is a term coined by members of La Via Campesina in 1996 response to disillusion with “food security,” the dominant global discourse on food provisioning and policy focused on food supplies, the “corporate food regime,” and large-scale industrialized farming based on specialized production, land concentration and trade liberalization. Distinct from “food security,” food sovereignty involves a political economy analysis and a human rights approach to food as a basic human need and resource. Broadly defined, food sovereignty is “the right of nations and peoples to control their own food systems, including their own markets, modes of production, food culture and environments” and “restoring control over food access back to individual nations/tribes/peoples.” Six guiding principles emerged from La Via Campesina’s Nyéléni Forum for Food Sovereignty in 2007. These include: focusing on food for people; valuing food providers; localizing food systems; local control; building knowledge and skills; working with nature.

The concept of food sovereignty has evolved from the experiences of farming peoples who were affected by the changes in international and national agricultural policy that was introduced throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. These changes were brought on by the inclusion of agriculture in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, resulting in a “widespread loss of control over food markets, environments, land and rural cultures.”

Advocates of food sovereignty put the people who produce, distribute and consume food at the center of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations that they believe have come to dominate the global food system. This movement is advocated by farmer, peasant, pastoralist, fisherfolk, indigenous people, women, rural, youth and environment organizations.[1] (Note the distinction from Food security)


[1]   For the information contained here, and further reading on the topic of Food Sovereignty see: Nyéléni Newsletter, No. 13 (March 2013); Raj Patel, “Food sovereignty,” Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3 (July 2009), pp. 663–706; Christina Schiavoni, “The global struggle for food sovereignty: From Nyéléni to New York,” Journal of Peasant Studies Vol. 36, No. 1 (2009), pp. 682–89.