Posts Tagged 'hunger'

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

Globalised food system has failed the poor.

The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering is usually little more than a toast to the benefits of increasing global gross domestic product (GDP), trade and investment. But this year’s meeting comes at a time when economic expansion can no longer be taken for granted and when the uneven benefits of past growth are sparking mass social unrest.

So it is little wonder that doomsday scenarios about the “seeds of dystopia” and the risks of “rolling back the globalisation process” are being dangled in Davos. The world’s economic and political leaders stand warned: do globalisation better, or it will be derailed by the growing legions of the discontented.

Leaders would be unwise to ignore this warning. Discussions in Davos must go beyond how to rectify the imbalances in developed countries’ debt-to-GDP ratios. They must finally pay attention to the wider imbalances that are generated by unfettered globalisation.

Popular anger is directed not only at the bank bail-outs, soaring public debt and bleak employment prospects of recent years. All around the world, people have fallen afoul of a two-track economic process whereby whole industries have been sacrificed to cheaper imports, whole regions have been consigned to abandonment or degradation and whole populations have been frozen out of economic progress.

Nowhere are these imbalances more evident than in the global food system. Globalisation has been wholeheartedly embraced in the service of feeding the world: bilateral and multilateral trade agreements have been put in place to allow food to flow from food-surplus to food-deficit regions.

Yet this model has failed spectacularly. The food bills of the least-developed countries increased five-or sixfold between 1992 and 2008. Imports now account for about 25% of their current food consumption. The more they are told to rely on trade, the less they invest in domestic agriculture. And the less they support their own farmers, the more they have to rely on trade. Countries that fall into this vicious cycle leave their citizens vulnerable to historically volatile prices on international markets, which means increased hunger and insecurity.

Despite the persistent challenges of hunger and food inequality, people are told to embrace more open markets, more trade and more globalised economic processes. Yet open markets do not function as perfectly as many at Davos would like to think. Food moves where purchasing power is highest, not where the need for it is most urgent.

This blind embrace of globalisation from above means missing out on key opportunities that do not fit the dogma. If we were to support developing-world small landholders, who are often the poorest groups, we could enable them to move out of poverty and enable local food production to meet local needs. Trade would complement local production rather than justifying its abandonment.

Trade and investment agreements are the gateways through which globalisation passes on its way to redefining a country’s economic landscape and they are increasing at an impressive pace. There are 6092 bilateral investment agreements in force, with 56 concluded in 2010 alone.

That growth reflects the flawed economic model of the pre-crisis years, which relied on indifference to where growth came from, how sustainable it was and who was benefiting from it. If we are to learn anything from the crisis, it must be to start asking the right questions.

Every new bilateral agreement, every chapter of globalisation, should be measured against new criteria. How sustainable and how evenly spread will the macroeconomic benefits be? Will they facilitate genuine development and provide dignified opportunities to those who become economically displaced?

Globalisation involves winners and losers — that has been established.

But losing out, for a subsistence farmer, means sinking into dire poverty and hunger.

Is the denial of a vulnerable population’s right to food an acceptable byproduct of a trade deal? Should the goal be to multiply the interests of powerful multinationals? Are these the economic processes that we want, or need?

These are the questions leaders must ask at Davos. Globalisation can survive the crisis. But not as we know it. Globalisation must be taken back for the interests of the many. © Project Syndicate, 2012.

 • De Schutter is the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.

Food as a Commodity.

Food is one of the most basic of human needs. Routine access to a balanced diet is essential for both growth and development of the young, as well as for general health throughout one’s life. Although food is mostly plentiful, malnutrition is still common. The contradiction between plentiful global food supplies and widespread malnutrition and hunger arises primarily from food being considered a commodity, just like any other.

For many millennia following the origin of our species, humans were hunters and gatherers—an existence that one might think of as tenuous. However, judging from archeological evidence as well as recent examples, hunters and gatherers generally ate a diverse diet that supplied adequate nutrition. For example, studies in the 1960s and ‘70s of the !Kung of southern Africa, foragers for literally thousands of years, indicate that although they ate meat that they hunted, about two-thirds of their food was plant-based—nuts (supplying more than one-third of caloric intake), fruits, roots, and berries—and their diet provided approximately 2,400 calories a day. The groups of hunter-gatherers were egalitarian, with everyone participating in the provisioning of food.

Agriculture, which developed some seven to ten thousand years ago, provided surplus food that allowed the development of cities and the hierarchies and civilizations that went along with them—farmers, artisans, priests, kings, warriors, scribes, and other functionaries. But just because there was a surplus did not mean that people were better nourished than hunter-gatherers. In fact, the narrowing of available foods used from the wide variety in the hunter-gatherers’ diets, along with the reliance primarily on grains to provide calories, is thought to have caused a decrease in the health of early agriculturalists—as indicated by their decreased height compared that of hunter-gatherers. In these agricultural societies surplus food production was mainly appropriated for the use of the non-food producing classes. Most pre-capitalist agricultural societies had many producers relative to non-productive classes.

In some ancient empires imperial tribute took the form of food shipped long distances from the place of production. North Africa, for example, was the granary for Rome. Much of Chinese history involved constructing infrastructure to store and provide food far from its place of production. Nevertheless, in much of the world (including feudal Europe) food was produced either by peasant farmers and consumed by their families or else appropriated by landed aristocracies on a fairly local basis. What markets existed were often on a barter basis and trade in food was in kind, without becoming a commodity.

This changed with capitalism or generalized commodity production. The endless accumulation of profits, the motive force of the capitalist system, occurs through the production of commodities or services to sell at a price in excess of the production costs. Production for the purpose of sale and profit, instead of production for use, is a defining characteristic of capitalism and essentially all commodity exchanges take place in markets. During the early stages of capitalism, when most people still lived and worked on the land, a large portion of food was produced to be consumed locally in the rural areas and did not exist as a commodity. However, farmers near growing cities and/or near water transport shipped food to the industrializing urban centers.

The commodity nature of food became much more pronounced as capitalism grew and conquered most of the world’s societies. Imperial powers brought the peasants of their colonies into the money economy by extracting monetary rather than in-kind taxes. The need to obtain money to pay taxes began a process that converted a portion of the food produced into commodities.

The industrial phase of capitalism caused rural populations to decline in Europe, North America, and Japan. People were forced off the land and looked for work in the cities, moving to the growing industrial centers. (Many also migrated from Europe to North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and elsewhere.) The development of canals, railroads, and road systems allowed for long-distance transport of food within large landmasses. Advances in shipping by sea also greatly decreased the cost of global trade in food.

Almost all of the crops and animals raised using the scale and approach of industrial farming are sold as undifferentiated commodities. Farmers sell their crops to buyers who resell the raw commodities to be processed—or themselves process the raw commodity—with the semi-processed commodities then sold to final processors/packagers who sell to wholesalers who then sell to retailers who finally sell food to the public. Thus, the farmers producing the bulk of food in the wealthy countries have become greatly separated from the public that finally purchases their products—not just physically, but also by the long chain of intermediaries between farms and people’s tables. Farm mechanization has increased labor productivity, leading to fewer farmers and larger farms. As industrial methods were applied to raising crops and animals, the agriculture-input sector grew dramatically and became highly concentrated—with relatively few companies now producing and selling farm machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. Industrialized food systems also saw concentration and centralization of production and growing monopoly power. For example, large integrated “protein” (meat) firms now contract with farmers to produce poultry and hogs in large facilities under crowded and inhumane conditions. Because corporations mandate that their contractors be located near where they decide to build slaughtering facilities, this frequently means long distance transport of feed. Beef cows are increasingly raised in large feedlots.

Indeed farming, the actual raising of crops and animals, is only one part of the whole food system. The commodity nature of all parts of the agricultural/food system—farm inputs, actual farming, purchasing and processing raw agricultural goods, and wholesaling and retailing—means that many different types of commodities are produced and sold. Farming itself has been reduced to a component in a larger system of agribusiness, with many of the remaining small farmers in the United States increasingly becoming subcontractors to large corporations. The input side of agriculture was one of the last sectors of the economy to go through concentration of ownership, leading to fewer machinery companies, fewer “agrichemical” (fertilizer and pesticide) companies, and fewer seed companies. A few input and purchasing/processing corporations are able to exert near monopoly power. One of the most recent developments in the inputs sector has been the creation of transgenic (genetically modified, or GM) varieties of crops. Industry consolidation was stimulated by the greater control exerted on prices (and farmers), and today about 40 percent of the entire global seed market is controlled by three firms—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.

Globally there is still a significant portion of food produced on small landholdings for personal consumption or very local markets—in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. However, in the United States, Western Europe, and Australia (and now in Brazil, and even more recently, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia) crops are increasingly produced on large, highly mechanized farms for either national or international sale. Most of these countries actively promote large-scale production for export, to either obtain foreign exchange or to help their international balance of payments situation.


There are a number of important implications of the commodity nature of food production, processing, and consumption. In capitalist economies, as noted, nearly all enterprise is for the sake of producing commodities for sale—whether the “product” is an absolute necessity such as food and health care, or a luxury such as a private jet plane or a huge house. More and more of the natural world, including water supplies and the very genes of life, are being brought under private control with the aim of making profits, rather than to supply the needs of people.

However, there is a critical contradiction when any basic human need is produced and sold as a commodity, whether we are considering food, health care, drinking water, or shelter. Capitalism naturally produces a stratification of wealth that includes the unemployed, the working poor, a better-off working class, a middle class, and a relatively small group of very rich individuals. The bottom strata of society—encompassing the members of what Marx called the reserve army of labor—are absolutely essential to the smooth working of the system. It allows easy access to labor when the economy expands and helps keep wages down, as workers are aware that they can easily be replaced.1 Even in a wealthy country such as the United States the numerous unemployed and those in low-paying jobs cannot afford all of their basic living costs—rent, electricity, transportation (irrational patterns of development plus inadequate public transportation means that cars are frequently needed to get to work), clothes, medical care, food, etc.

Given that poverty in the United States is not absolute destitution, the poor sometimes have options: they may purchase more or less food of higher or lower nutritional value, skip meals, get food stamps (now called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program), or receive food assistance from charities. The poor commonly have little money left for food after rent and utilities are paid. In the summer of 2011, approximately 46 million people were receiving food assistance through Federal programs, inadequate as it is. Still, despite the abundance of food, a high average per capita income, and various forms of assistance available, some 50 million people in the United States are considered to be “food insecure.” Of these, over 12 million adults and 5 million children have “very low” food security, with one or more members of their households lowering their food intake.

In some parts of the global South, of course, conditions are far worse. The commodity nature of food results in food price levels far above many people’s meager means, producing a lack of adequate nutrition. The United Nations estimates that there are close to one billion people worldwide who suffer from malnutrition. This leads to severe health problems and death for millions. Food deprivation, though falling short of severe malnutrition, is still a very serious condition. Hence, a sense of injustice associated with rising food prices and unequal access to food was a major factor spurring revolts in the Arab world over the last year.

Because food products are commodities, and the whole point of the food/agriculture system is to sell more and make more profits, there is massive advertising surrounding food, especially the most profitable sector—processed foods. High caloric but low nutritional-value foods, such as sugary breakfast cereals, are pushed on children. And because these processed foods are relatively inexpensive and available at local convenience stores that often do not carry higher quality food like fruits and vegetables, the commodity nature of food is part of the explanation for the surge in obesity, especially among the poor.

Food crops have many different uses other than direct human consumption. They can be processed into a variety of forms—breads (pitas, tortillas), potato chips, frozen dinners, pasta, ice cream, etc. Corn is commonly processed to obtain industrial starch and sugars (high in fructose). A relatively high percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are used to feed poultry and hogs as well as beef and dairy cows (that, from an environmental point of view, should be eating grass and legume forages that the bacteria in their rumens convert into usable energy and protein for the animals). And with the push to lessen dependence on imported oil and to have a supposedly more “green” source of liquid fuels—corn, soy, rape, sugar cane, palm oil, and jatropha (a non-food crop raised only to make biofuel) are being grown to produce either ethanol or biodiesel.

In the United States and Europe, there are governmental mandates and subsidies encouraging production of both food and non-food crops, which are then used for biofuel feedstocks. This is an important part of the explanation for the tight markets and high prices for corn and oil crops. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report says: “By generating a new demand for food commodities that can outbid poor countries and food-insecure populations, industrial biofuels highlight the tension between a potentially unlimited demand (in this case for energy) and the constraints of a world with finite resources.”2 It was the search for another market for corn that induced Dwayne Andreas, CEO of the grain purchaser/processor and feed grain conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), to gain influence over politicians and spend lavishly on both Democrats and Republicans. ADM was the main backer for the corn-to-ethanol industry and might be considered the grandfather of the current mandate to mix a certain percent of ethanol with gasoline (in the process of increasing from 10 to 15 percent).

The commodity nature of food by itself limits access by the poor. Market pressures and incentives contribute to the interchangeability of key food crops that can also be used for animals or fuel production; the possibility to grow crops for strictly industrial use instead of food, if the price is right; and huge amounts of hoarding and speculation on agricultural commodities (see below). Land can be used to grow crops for a number of purposes: food for people, food crops that are also potentially feeds for animals, and industrial feedstocks (cotton, jatrohpa, corn to make sugar or other products, and crops like hay which are strictly for animals). Market prices guide farmers’ production. When ethanol prices increase, more land goes into corn for ethanol. If cotton prices increase, a portion of the land that would have gone to grow corn and soybeans will be planted with cotton. Market prices also guide the ultimate utilization of crops that have multiple uses. For example, should soybeans be used to make vegetable oil for human use, be feed to animals, or be converted into biodiesel fuel? The need to feed hungry people does not enter the calculation.

When a poor (so-called “developing”) country attempts to solve its food problem primarily by encouraging farmers to produce more, bumper crops tend to depress prices, thus helping the poor gain greater food access. However, depressed prices may be problematic for farmers, many of whom themselves are poor. This has happened recently in Zambia, where “massive production can send prices tumbling. The smallest farmers, who are the least productive, suffer doubly by producing little and getting paid a pittance for the crop.”3 Thus, bumper crops in capitalist agricultural tend to favor the larger farmers, especially those using inputs such as irrigation and fertilizers that help produce high yields. However, the resulting low prices may force large numbers of small farmers, many unable to protect their crops from the vagaries of nature and lacking the financial resources to weather hard times, into deeper poverty.

A new dimension has been added to the phenomena of food as a commodity—a new land grab, with private capital and sovereign wealth funds purchasing or leasing land in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to produce food and biofuels for markets for the home countries of the investors.4 As with food, the most basic input for its production, soil, becomes a commodity ripe for either speculation or to go to the highest bidder. In many countries of the global South, traditional land tenure systems are thrown aside as land is purchased or rented under long-term agreement by private capital or national sovereign wealth funds. The purpose is either to make money, or to produce food or fuel (jatropha or other fuel crops) for the “home” markets. This creates even more rapid “depeasantization” as more farmers are pushed off the land and into city slums that have no jobs for them. It is estimated that some 20 million hectares (50 million acres) have either been sold or are under long-term lease to foreign countries or foreign capital. “In Africa they are calling it the land grab, or the new colonialism. Countries hungry to secure their food supplies—including Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, South Korea (the world’s third largest importer of corn), China, India, Libya, and Egypt—are at the forefront of a frantic rush to gobble up farmland all around the world, but mainly in cash-starved Africa.”5

The “highest and best use” of any commodity is where it can get the best price, regardless of the social, ecological, or humanitarian consequences. One small example of the contradictions that arise from this is a result of the growing market in the North for quinoa, a grain grown in the Andes that is especially nutritious because of its balance of amino acids. This benefits farmers by increasing crop prices, but at the same time it means that this traditional and nutritious food is becoming too expensive for local people.6

Another implication of the commodity nature of food is that it is increasingly subject to speculative price movements. Raw commodities such as metals and food crops have become a prime target of speculators who want to bet on the price changes of tangible products, rather than completely relying on the complex bets embodied in many “financial instruments.” The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT, owned by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange), opening in 1848, is the oldest organized foodstuffs futures and options trading exchange. Throughout most of its history the CBOT and the other commodity exchanges were used primarily by those interested in hedging prices because they bought, sold, or used the physical products—farmers, buyers, and food processors. It was a sound way to protect your business against the vagaries of weather and competition. But with the financialization of the economy everything has become fair game for speculation, so food and other agricultural products (as well as other raw commodities) have become just more bets that can be made. With the so-called “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” commodity markets were deregulated in 2000 and “structured” financial products were developed to allow various types of speculation. In addition to straight bets on individual commodities, commodity index funds (pioneered by Goldman Sachs) begun to track prices of commodities. The amount of money in these funds increased from $13 billion in 2003 to $317 billion in 2008. As U.S. hedge fund manager Mike Masters explained: “Speculators today have about 70 percent of the open interest in commodity markets. Ten years ago, they controlled roughly 30 percent of the market.”7 With so much money flowing into the food commodity markets, prices are driven up in a speculative upswing. This, of course, does not mean that commodity prices will only keep going up—they fluctuate based on economic conditions, world food stock levels, crop yields, rumors, and fads. But speculation drives prices up and down further and faster, and as a result contributes to hunger for many—sometimes millions—when prices peak, and to the ruin of small producers when prices crash.

When food—a basic necessity for human health and survival that is currently produced in sufficient quantity to feed everyone in the world a basic nutritious diet—is a commodity, the results are routine hunger, malnutrition, premature deaths, and famines when tight supplies result in exceptionally high prices. There are examples of farmers and the public organizing alternative ways to grow food for people instead of the market—such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in which people purchase (frequently on a sliding scale according to ability to pay) a share of the produce during grown during the season. These types of arrangements between farmers and the public are encouraging because they demonstrate an alternate approach to food. However, the only way to guarantee that food reaches all people in sufficient quantity and quality is to develop a new system that considers food a human right and no longer considers it a commodity. Only then will we be able to fulfill the slogan, “Food for People, Not for Profit.”


↩ For a discussion of the reserve army see Fred Magdoff and Harry Magdoff, “Disposable Workers: Today’s Reserve Army of Labor,” Monthly Review 55, no. 11 (2004): 18–35.
↩ High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, “Price volatility and food security,” Committee on World Food Security, Rome, July 2011,
↩ Samuel Fromartz, “The Production Conundrum,” The Nation, October 3, 2011, 20–22.
↩ GRAIN, “The New Farm Owners: Corporate Investors and the Control of Overseas Farmland,” in Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar, eds., Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).
↩ Margareta Pagano, “Land Grab: The Race for the World’s Farmland,” The Independent, May 3, 2009,
↩ Simon Romero and Sarah Shahriari, “Quinoa’s Global Success Creates a Quandary at Home,” The New York Times, March 19, 2011,
↩ Deborah Doane, “As food speculators make money, the world’s poorest suffer,” CNN Opinion, June 22, 2011,

Policies and actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition

November 2009

We, small-scale farmers and fisher peoples, pastoralists, women, youth, indigenous peoples, other social movements and civil society organisations, have taken the challenge together to propose policies and actions that would lead to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in our world.
We strongly believe that the actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition must be based on a vision of a world where:

• food sovereignty is recognised and implemented by communities, peoples, states and international institutions;
• all peoples, societies and states determine their own food systems and have policies that ensure availability of sufficient, good quality, affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food;
• there is recognition and respect for women’s rights and their crucial contribution to food provision, and representation of women in all decision making bodies;
• terrestrial and aquatic environments and biodiversity are conserved and rehabilitated based on ecologically sustainable management of land, soils, water, seas, seeds, livestock and aquatic organisms;
• the diversity of traditional knowledge, food, language and culture, are all valued and respected;
• the way people organise and express themselves is accepted and peoples’ power to make decisions about their material, natural and spiritual heritage is defended;

We are proposing the policies and actions recognising that hunger and malnutrition have reached outrageous levels in the world today and that this is not accidental. When the prevalence of this scourge is seen in the context of the multiple crises in the world today, it is very clear that existing polices have compounded the problem and that there is a need for a new approach
We have also taken into consideration the known fact that this situation is not a result of a lack of food in the world, as enough food has consistently been produced for decades. Solutions have been, and are being, offered by states and international institutions, in the name of increasing food production and availability, without dealing with the root causes of the multiple crises. They are proposing solutions using the same framework that caused the problems in the first place.

Eradicating hunger and malnutrition requires mechanisms that incorporate social and environmental as well as economic measures. To implement these requires the decisive involvement of the organisations of small-scale food providers and consumers in any policies and programmes designed to address the problems
We welcome the working document, Policies and Actions to Eradicate Hunger and Malnutrition, which outlines our proposals for the needed changes and how these might be realised. The working document contains a number of polices and actions in the following areas:

• Sustainable, ecological food provision and access to territories and natural wealth
• Environment, climate change and agrofuels
• Market, trade, price polices and subsidies
• Ensuring access to adequate food
• Finance, debt and development aid
• Governance

We endorse the summary of the working document annexed to this letter with the conviction that it will be useful for governments and institutions and peoples and their organisations in efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition and to ensure the attainment of food sovereignty including the human right to adequate food.
The world does not need to stay locked up in a dead-end that only has the potential to lead us into deeper levels of problems. We therefore urge states and international institutions to work with us – the movements of small-scale farmers and fisher peoples, pastoralists, Indigenous Peoples, other social movements and civil society organisations – in a common endeavour to tackle and end the scourge of hunger and malnutrition.

(This letter and the summary as well as the working document are available online. To sign on, see the list of signatories and download the documents in English, French and Spanish, please go to

Summary of working document on policies and actions
to eradicate hunger and malnutrition

1. Background to the working document

The working document provides proposals for policies and actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. It is based on the experiences and political work of social movements, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and others from all over the world during past decades and currently. It is based largely on the food sovereignty framework that embraces the human right to adequate food.

These policies and actions have been prepared to inform governments, institutions and others, who are committed to eradicating hunger and malnutrition. They may also be helpful in discussions on these key issues within and between governments, institutions, social movements and NGOs. And they could be used by social movements, organisations and individuals in all regions as an input to their own proposals at local, national, regional and global levels.

2. Why change is needed

A billion people are hungry because they do not have the means to produce food for themselves or purchase it. The majority of these hungry people are rural small-scale food providers, workers and their families, who are unable to grow sufficient food or earn enough income from their production and labour to meet their food and health needs.

Women are especially hard hit. They are the principle providers of food for their families and communities, playing central roles in food production, processing and preparation. Yet they are subject to multiple forms of social, economic and cultural discrimination, which prevent them from having equality in access to food and control over productive resources and natural wealth.
Hunger and malnutrition are chronic structural problems and worsening in the wake of the food price, financial, energy and climate crises. The food price crisis has hit particularly hard those who depend on markets affected by global prices for their access to food.

Not only have most governments and international institutions failed to reduce hunger and poverty and build on the findings of international processes designed to find ways forward (e.g. the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development – IAASTD), but they have, instead, adopted and implemented policies that have exacerbated the problems.
There is an urgent need to change the power and economic structures and policies that have caused the current crises.

3. Vision

Actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition must be based on a vision of a world where:
• food sovereignty is recognised and implemented by communities, peoples, states and international institutions;
• all peoples, societies and states determine their own food systems and have policies that ensure availability of sufficient, good quality, affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food;
• there is recognition and respect for women’s rights and their crucial contribution to food provision, and representation of women in all decision making bodies;
• terrestrial and aquatic environments and biodiversity are conserved and rehabilitated based on ecologically sustainable management
of land, soils, water, seas, seeds, livestock and aquatic organisms;
• the diversity of traditional knowledge, food, language and culture, are all valued and respected;
• the way people organise and express themselves is accepted and peoples’ power to make decisions about their material, natural and spiritual heritage is defended;

To realise this vision, a series of policies and actions are proposed that address the key issues which are needed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. These are summarised below.

4. Sustainable food provision

There should be a shift from high input industrial agriculture and livestock production and industrial fisheries towards smaller-scale ecological food provision that secures local livelihoods and strengthens organisations and communities. Ecological food provision conserves nature, rehabilitates and values local and traditional knowledge and uses socially just and appropriate technologies, excluding GMOs. It maximises the contribution of ecosystems and improves resilience and adaptation of production

and harvesting systems, especially important in the face of climate change. Conversion towards smaller-scale ecological food provision requires support. Research systems need to be reframed and use inclusive and participatory methods. Losses post-harvest should be minimised.

Sustainable food provision also requires that gender equity is at the heart of genuine agrarian and aquatic reforms and that all local small-scale food providers – women and men and especially young people, small-scale farmers and fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and workers – have secure access to and control over territories, lands, water, fishing grounds, seed varieties, livestock breeds and fisheries resources. This access should be respected by state and societal actors, in accordance with customary laws, governance and benefits rights. On no account should access to hitherto common property resources be privatized for the benefits of a privileged minority.

5. Environment, climate change and agro fuels

The production of food is increasingly vulnerable due to climate change, ecosystem destruction, loss of biodiversity, land conversion and agrofuel production. Thus, the adaptive ecological systems outlined above, that are more resilient to environmental shocks must be the foundation for environmentally-sound food provision. These systems will better secure food supplies and will also regenerate soil carbon and restore natural and developed habitats for water security.
Production systems must minimise greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In all countries GHGs must be kept at or reduced to a sustainable level (about 1 tonne CO2 per capita per year). The most effective way to reduce GHGs in food provision is to localise production and consumption, reduce the use of chemical fertilisers, reduce fossil fuel use and increase energy efficiency, including use of decentralised, alternative energy technologies and systems. To enable people and communities to tackle climate change effectively and sustainably, countries in the North must pay compensation and reparations of at least 1% of annual GDP to countries in the South.

An immediate moratorium on the production, trade and consumption of agrofuels, is called for, together with an in-depth evaluation of their social and environmental costs. This is required because, in general, the use of industrial agrofuels does not reduce GHG emissions and the corporate driven, industrial-scale production of agrofuels is converting land from food production and displacing local communities.

6. Markets, trade and price policies and subsidies

New market, trade and price policies and redirected subsidies that prioritise local and national production and consumption and the needs of people for food, are needed. Government procurement systems, publicly owned and managed food stocks, supply management policies and sound market regulation are essential to guarantee good and stable prices for small-scale food providers and to avoid speculation, hoarding and food price escalation.

Governments and international institutions should not finance and facilitate the operations of agribusiness corporations but should formulate and enact laws to reduce their power and, in the short-term, make them socially, environmentally and economically accountable to the public.

New international trade rules are urgently needed. These should be based on the rights of peoples and their governments to determine their desired levels of self sufficiency, market protection and support for sustainable food provision for domestic consumption. The ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) should be stopped and all trade and investment agreements that impact negatively on local and national food systems should be revoked.

Equally urgent are the prevention of dumping of low priced imports and a ban on all direct and indirect export subsidies. If available, subsidies should be provided for localised ecological food provision that creates employment, protects the environment and strengthens local and national economies.

7. Ensuring access to adequate food

In addition to the measures outlined above, assuring decent work for all and universal social security nets, especially for those who are most vulnerable, are crucial. Urban food insecurity is also a serious problem that cannot be addressed in isolation from the crisis in the countryside. Hunger and malnutrition in urban areas can be reduced through sustainable food provision through urban and peri-urban farms and gardens, and building “urban-rural linkages” in which cities are fed through sustainable provision from surrounding regions. All these will also drastically reduce the need for emergency food aid and humanitarian actions.

Emergency food aid will, however, still be necessary in the short-term but resources needed must be made available in sufficient quantities and in ways that do not undermine local economies and structures.

Peace, based on justice, civil and political rights, is a precondition for any lasting solution to wars, occupations and conflicts. Special support to people in all areas of conflict is needed to help them to maintain food production and secure access to food.

8. Finance, debt and development aid

Speculation and derivatives trade in sensitive sectors, especially food, agriculture, fisheries, water, weather conditions and climate must be heavily penalised and banned. Equally important is preventing corporate concentration in the insurance, credit and banking sectors. Financial institutions and conglomerates should not be allowed to become “too big to fail.”
The unconditional cancellation of the external debts of countries in the South and immediate dismantling of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) and neoliberal policy regimes are crucial. Also important is repayment by countries in the North of their massive ecological debts and historical exploitation.

Aid donors must immediately fulfil their commitments to pay at least 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) in development assistance, without conditionalities other than programmes supported should be based on the priorities and plans of peoples and communities in the aid receiving countries, in ways that do not create aid dependency. The power of multilateral financial institutions and IFIs over development aid and credits must be removed, and aid programmes and arrangements must be subjected to national and sub-national democratic and public scrutiny.

9. Governance

The world’s food supplies and food producing natural wealth should be governed through transparent and accountable multilateral fora and regional and international agreements that are forged, implemented and monitored democratically with the full participation of people’s organisations and States.

States should promote policies and actions that actively support the measures outlined above that will realise food sovereignty and the progressive realisation of the human right to adequate food. Also, food providers, their communities and their organisations must have rights of access to information about policies, technologies, programmes, agreements, in appropriate and accessible forms.

All international institutions, and especially the Rome-based UN food and agriculture agencies, as well as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) must support states to formulate and implement the policies needed to effectively tackle hunger and realise food sovereignty. They should ensure that States have the policy space and political agency to limit and discipline the operations of corporations, as well as protect their domestic food and economic systems from international markets, and trade and investment agreements.

UN agencies, in particular, should actively: implement the recommendations of the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) and IAASTD; promote the adoption of the Covenant 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Indigenous Peoples; implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP); implement the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and support the formulation of international conventions that defend the rights of small-scale food providers, including fishing communities and pastoralists, along the lines of the UN DRIP and the proposed International Convention on the Rights of Peasants.


Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

January 2020
« Sep    

Join 727 other followers