Posts Tagged 'alimento'

From Food Security to Food Sovereignty.


It’s an exciting time for the good food movement. Sometimes it can feel as though the efforts to make agriculture more sustainable are the most visible and active component of the broader environmental movement. This shouldn’t be surprising. Our relationship to food is visceral, emotional, and continues daily.

If you’ve seen Food, Inc. or read any Eric SchlosserMichael Pollan, or Rachel Carson, you know that the sustainable food movement is trying to address the social and environmental problems created by an industrial farming system in which convenience  and profit trump everything else.

The responses to industrial farming have included critiques like Silent Spring, the back-to-the-land and organic farming sparks of the late 1960s, the family farm movement that resisted bankruptcy and corporate consolidation in the 1980s, and now the urban farming movement that has burgeoned in the past 10 years.

Many elements of the sustainable food movement have been organized by (or for) the two most obvious sectors of the food system: Eaters and producers. In parts of the world where populations are still largely agrarian, eaters and producers are often the same people, but here in the United States (where the farming population hovers around one percent) consumers have been the dominant focus of food policy, at least for the past 40 years.

In the global North, much of the past 20 years of activism has framed the concept of “food security” as the right of all people to have enough food to avoid hunger and malnutrition. A new effort underway to deepen food activism focuses on a more radical idea: The concept of food sovereignty. The global food sovereignty movement is making the case that reform of the food system will be insufficient if it does not democratize and make more transparent the means of food production. We’ll never be able to resolve the environmental and social abuses of industrial agriculture without changing who controls the food system.

As Katherine Zavala, program manager of grassroots alliances at International Development Exchange (IDEX), a San Francisco-based organization that supports food justice in the Global South, explains it: “Food security might focus on hunger as a human rights issue, but it fails to consider many other facets of food like the ways it is produced, the social relationships it relies on, or the cultural importance it holds to communities.”

Having enough to eat is important, certainly, but what about the quality of that food? What about the way that people are treated in the process of producing that food? What about the cultural traditions of food that are left aside in a purely calorie-counting concept of “food security”? Zavala says that perhaps the biggest inadequacy of the food security concept is that it fails to address “who decides what the food system is. It doesn’t address who is driving or controlling the global food system or the lack of decision-making power among people to decide what food system they want.”

These deeper questions illustrate why the term “food sovereignty”–pioneered by the international peasant alliance La Via Campesina–is increasingly being adopted food movement activists across the globe. Ashoka Finley, who works for the Richmond, California urban farming organization Urban Tilth and has been closely involved in the Occupy the Farm effort at the University of California’s Gill Tract, considers himself a food sovereignty activist.

He says: “Food sovereignty, like food security, is about rights. But because food sovereignty as a concept argues that food systems are determined by political and economic conditions, it’s about the rights we as eaters, citizens, and communities should have to take part in effecting those conditions. It is also about how we can use food-based activism to transform the political and economic system we live in.”

That “taking part” is what distinguishes food security from food sovereignty, and what makes food sovereignty such a compelling and important idea. Yes, of course, providing food for people in need is essential, but a soup kitchen a food bank or a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card is not enough to create food sovereignty. Even planting gardens in urban areas (full disclosure: my area of employment!) doesn’t amount to food sovereignty.

Direct action approaches like Occupy the Farm may not be enough, because, Zavala reminds us, “Those that are in positions of government and economic power are restricting these alternative food system models. They’re not thinking about feeding people; they’re mostly thinking about the bottom line. And if we all created our own food systems, how would they profit?”

The entrenched corporate opposition to food systems change has pushed food sovereignty activists beyond the direct action approach to address the institutions of power. After a long period of focusing effort outside the political system, activists are now looking to the government for change. In the mid-2000s, for example, the federal Farm Bill finally became a top priority for many sustainable agriculture advocates. Long after the law was the main target of efforts to ensure food security (through SNAP). But, it has remained close to impossible to use the Farm Bill as a tool to promote food sovereignty.

“The current political climate is an extreme difficult one, the legislative process is complex, and that process can often be quite corrupt, as we have seen numerous times,” Finley says. “However, if we want food sovereignty, we can’t shy away from tough political battles, because there are certain political issues that underpin or undermine food sovereignty, like land ownership or agribusiness subsidies.”

Recent lobbying over the Farm Bill provides a clear example of the complexity and difficulty transitioning from a food security movement to a food sovereignty movement. Food security activists (often representing low income urban constituents) have been pitted against farm sustainability activists (more often rural-minded) over the funding that the bill controls. In an era of austerity, this can lead to Sophie’s-choice like dilemmas: Either cut food stamp funding or cut programs that provide support to farmers transitioning to organic methods of production.

Luckily, there’s an alternative to this false choice. That choice is to develop democratic spaces at the local and state level to craft collaborative solutions that benefit both consumers and producers. Across the country, Food Policy Councils(FPCs) are bringing together diverse constituencies to determine how local policy can be leveraged to achieve positive food system change. These local groups identify problems as a community and then seek to solve them through a process of consensus-building and pressuring local governments. Food Policy Councils have worked on things like institutional food procurement, the use of urban open space for agriculture, nutrition education and funding for food banks. More recently, FPCs are scaling up, coming together to affect policy on the state and federal levels.

The food movement’s shift from security to sovereignty can be instructive for the broader movements for environmental sanity and democratic governance. By asking the simple question, “Who’s in charge here?” food sovereignty elevates the importance that power has in our food systems. The concept expands our critical capacity beyond consumer choice to consider that we are all “co-producers” of the food system. “Sovereignty” is a frame that can be used to think about process in relation to natural resources, not just outcomes, and it can help encourage solidarity and cohesion amongst myriad movements and sectors within the food movement and outside of it.

Social movements focused on sovereignty can help build a more democratic and accountable political system. This, in turn, would allow for a more sustainable approach to natural resources, and a more egalitarian economic system. By talking “sovereignty” from the start, change-makers can pursue a mutual end goal from any number of individual struggles. When Paul Hawken described “the largest movement on Earth” in his book Blessed Unrest, he was clear that the millions of individual and NGO efforts to help were a movement, but just didn’t act like one.

Sovereignty, whether of food or fiber or healthcare, may the concept needed for these many struggles to become the movement that it could be.

San Francisco native Antonio Roman-Alcalá has been irrationally dedicated to urban sustainability since he decided that there wasn’t enough “land” for all dropouts to go “back to”. Since graduating from UC Berkeley, Antonio has been pursuing a life of meaningful enjoyment: teaching farming and permaculture at Alemany Farm and Texas Street Farm; playing drums and guitar in the band Future Twin; writing about the sustainable food movement as a perpetually critical insider; sharing his film In Search of Good Food; organizing the urban farm movement via the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, and writing an ambitious treatise on human nature, environmental sustainability, and social transformation.

Casi la mitad de la comida producida en el mundo, en la basura.

Casi la mitad de la comida producida en el mundo, en la basura.

Un estudio recientemente publicado por el Instituto de Ingenieros Mecánicos, con sede en el Reino Unido, descubre datos escandalosos sobre el desperdicio de alimentos a nivel mundial.

                  Anualmente se producen en el planeta aproximadamente 4 mil millones de toneladas de alimentos, sin embargo, entre el 30 y 50% de la producción -es decir, aproximadamente 2 mil millones de toneladas- se pierde o desperdicia antes de su consumo.

La publicación asegura que ésta pérdida es consecuencia de diferentes factores tales como prácticas agrícolas inadecuadas o infraestructuras y sistemas de transporte de los alimentos deficientes.

De acuerdo al estudio, un factor primordial del desperdicio de alimentos es la cultura consumista occidental. Con el objetivo de satisfacer las expectativas de los clientes, frecuentemente tanto productores como los grandes almacenes desechan cosechas en buen estado y que podrían ser consumidas; se desechan porque no cumplen con los estándares impuestos por las estrategias de mercadotecnia en el mundo occidental.

                  Cálculos hechos por las Naciones Unidas indican que para el año 2075 en el planeta seremos 9500 millones de seres humanos, lo cual implica que para final de éste siglo habrán aproximadamente 3000 millones de bocas más a alimentar. Este dato, sumado al anterior sobre la cantidad de alimento desperdiciado plantea un escenario malthusiano, que postula que la población mundial sería alcanzada por el hambre, plagas y una mortalidad generalizada.

                  Por otro lado, la escandalosa cantidad de alimento desperdiciado a nivel mundial implica la pérdida de recursos finitos tales como la tierra apropiada para la agricultura, el agua y los combustibles. Analicemos brevemente la situación de cada uno de estos recursos desde la perspectiva de la producción de alimentos.

                  Se dice que actualmente se está utilizando el 50% de la superficie disponible apta para la agricultura, lo cual implica que de cara al futuro y para abastecer la necesidad de alimentación en el mundo –principalmente en los llamados países en desarrollo-, se necesitará de un aumento drástico en la superficie de cultivo. Por otro lado la tierra apta para la agricultura ha perdido su capacidad productiva desde la llamada ‘Revolución verde’, que tuvo como filosofía inundar los campos de agroquímicos y fertilizantes para aumentar los rendimientos en la producción del campo.

Existe el llamado acaparamiento de tierras, el cual consiste en que algunos gobiernos de países del norte global o corporaciones transnacionales agro alimentarias compran o alquilan terrenos agrícolas en países del sur, para producir alimentos que serán exportados a los países de origen. Esta actividad implica el uso de los recursos de los países afectados y deriva en el despojo o desplazamiento de los habitantes originales, en muchos casos comunidades de campesinos e indígenas.

Actualmente corporaciones semilleras transnacionales están invadiendo los campos de muchos países del mundo (India, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Honduras, Paraguay y México) con semillas transgénicas de diferentes cultivos: maíz, soya, canola, algodón. Varios de estos cultivos son resistentes a agroquímicos que matan a plantas e insectos que normalmente se encuentran en los campos agrícolas y que son considerados ‘dañinos’ para el cultivo a comerciar. Los agroquímicos terminan haciendo estéril el suelo en el que fueron esparcidos.

En cuanto al agua, el estudio comenta un dato revelador: en el último siglo, el consumo de agua dulce ha aumentado más del doble, comparando con la tasa de incremento de la población mundial.

La urbanización salvaje en muchas regiones del mundo que ha tenido lugar a partir de la década de los años 70 del siglo pasado ha requerido de un mayor suministro de agua para las ciudades en continuo crecimiento, llevando al punto del colapso a urbes tales como la ciudad de México. Paralelamente, industrias tales como la minería y la papelera entre otras, utilizan cantidades ingentes de agua. Algunas de éstas industrias liberan los residuos de sus procesos a ríos, convirtiéndolos automáticamente en agentes envenenadores de comunidades ribereñas.

Es por todos sabido que uno de los efectos del cambio climático más inmediato será una disminución del agua dulce disponible; por otro lado, se puede adivinar un aumento en la necesidad del vital líquido en el futuro; a partir de aquí se presentan un par de datos: para producir un kilogramo de carne se necesitan entre 5000 y 20000 litros de agua. El consumo de carne, principalmente en los países en desarrollo ha aumentado sustancialmente en los últimos 20 años.

En cuanto al uso de energía para la producción de alimentos, el sistema de producción occidental no podría sobrevivir sin el uso de energéticos fósiles. La cadena de uso de energéticos comienza desde la misma siembra, ya sea ésta en invernaderos o a campo abierto tecnificado para la irrigación. El sistema de almacenamiento requiere de un sistema que conserve los alimentos cosechados. Hoy comemos alimentos que han viajado hasta 5000 kilómetros desde el lugar en el que fueron producidos, lo cual requiere un gran consumo de combustibles, aparte de preservar relaciones laborales injustas y precarias entre los lugares de origen y de consumo final de insumos alimenticios.

                  El Banco Mundial y la ONU han reconocido que el precio de los alimentos ha aumentado debido a la crisis mundial y los gobiernos no prevén una disminución en los precios en el futuro.

En este tipo de declaraciones no se contempla que al día de hoy las comunidades de campesinos e indígenas siguen alimentando a la mayoría de la población del mundo. Este sistema que es antiguo, pero tan eficiente que aún continúa siendo viable está basado en la producción y consumo locales de productos de la región y está sustentado en una economía real y no especulativa como la de los mercados occidentales del norte global. Sin embargo, debe mencionarse que éstas comunidades se encuentran en peligro de desaparecer debido a varios factores: la pérdida de sus territorios y medios de producción, los desplazamientos forzados de los habitantes por diferentes circunstancias, la criminalización de la milenaria actividad de guardar e intercambiar semillas y cosechas y la contaminación de sus cultivos con organismos transgénicos, entre otros.

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Book: “The great food robbery”

The global food system is in profound crisis. Over a billion people suffer from hunger each day, and this number is rising faster than the global population, even though there is more than enough food in the world feed everybody. Climate change, fuelled by a wasteful and polluting industrial food system, threatens to make things much worse. At the same time, corporations are grabbing millions of hectares of farmland and water systems in poor countries, and displacing rural communities.

The great food robbery” looks at the forces driving the world into this crisis. It focuses on corporations and the ways they organise and control food production and distribution and how this destroys local food systems. It provides information and analysis that will enable and inspire people to take the food system back from corporations and put it in the hands of local communities.

This book brings together much of GRAIN’s most recent research and writing and is divided into three sections: agribusiness, the climate crisis and land grabbing.

“This is the final wake-up call to take up the fight for our food future. If the control over food and nutrition security are a concern to you, this is the book.”
– Dr. Hans R. Herren, president, Millennium Institute

“For 20 years, GRAIN has fuelled anti-corporate campaigns with its groundbreaking research and biting analysis. Today, GRAIN is on the leading edge of the fight against land grabs, powered by its signature political clarity and deep roots in the social movements on the front lines. A must read.”
– Naomi Klein, author of “The shock doctrine”

“Everyone should read ‘The great food robbery’ – every citizen, every political leader – to understand how agribusiness, which has created hunger and disease, is now contributing to the biggest resource grab since Columbus.”
– Vandana Shiva, Navdanya and Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Ecology


September 2019
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