Food! We all need it to sustain ourselves. It's very much taken for granted by too many people, especially in so-called affluent Western nations. So, what is food sovereignty? Janine Jackson, the coordinator of Other Worlds, a women-led education and movement-building collaborative in the USA, explains in a Q & A on FAIR.
JJ: What I wanted to ask you first is how you introduce people to the idea of food sovereignty; how do you explain what that means?
BB: There are two concepts that your listeners will probably be aware of, and I’ll just state them briefly. The first concept is food security, which means that everyone has the right to adequate quantity of food, to quality of food and to have food on time, that is, when people are hungry and need it.
It’s a great concept in moments of dire emergency, but it is all too often used to justify what is, in fact, dumping of taxpayer-supported US agribusiness-grown foods. And I’m thinking particularly of rice growers, but also wheat and corn growers, who are then able to dump their food into low-income countries, creating situations of endless dependence, and putting farmers and local production completely out of business. So again, good concept, but how it is used is not helpful, and it’s often very, very harmful.
Then there is the concept of food justice that is increasingly growing, especially through youth- and people of color-led movements in the US, which looks at structural racism in the food system, and looks at the need for local community-controlled production for local consumption.
Food sovereignty takes both of those concepts at their core and builds upon it to say, we need to look at food as a global system, and we need to look at the structures behind it, which you referenced in your introduction, Janine.
Food sovereignty is about the right of all people and all nations to have access to their own food, grown domestically to support local production. Food that is agro-ecologically grown, that supports the environment — not undermines it, as industrial agriculture does. Food that looks at questions of inequity and ensures that small farmers and normally excluded communities actually have what they need to grow, which also means the right to land, the right to water, etc.
And looks even further at so-called free trade pacts. Looking at how the policies of the US and other industrialized nations, and the World Trade Organization, have undermined and destroyed local production all over the world.
I know that sounds like a lot; it could be stated very simply: It’s the right to grow, it is the right to live on the land by rural peoples, it is the right of everyone to be able to eat domestically grown food in a way that supports each nation’s economy and the sustenance of its culture. And it’s really, at its core, about citizens reclaiming food and agriculture system from the corporations."