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Food sovereignty goal is a fight for the commons

For humans as for all living beings, nothing is more important than food. So the people who produce it fulfil a supremely important role in any society. They feed humanity and care for nature. Future generations depend on them to protect the earth.

But, they and the safety and nutrition of the food they produce and we all consume, are under attack. The system that exists exclusively to generate profit from every facet of human activity is the problem.

Now, La Via Campesina, a twenty-year-old international peasant movement, is calling rural and urban organisations and social movements to transform and build a new society based on food sovereignty and justice.

La Via Campesina gathers together more than 200 million peasants, small-scale producers, landless people, women, youth, indigenous, migrants, and farm and food workers, from 183 organisations and 88 countries. The Jakarta Call, issued by their sixth conference is as clear as could be:

We reject capitalism, which is currently characterised by aggressive flows of financial and speculative capital into industrial agriculture, land and nature. This is generating huge land grabs and a brutal displacement of people from their land, destroying communities, cultures and ecosystems. It creates masses of economic migrants, climate refugees and unemployed, increasing existing inequalities.

Transnational corporations, in complicity with governments and international institutions, are imposing under the pretext of green economy GM monocultures, mega mining, dams and fracking projects, large tree and bio-fuel plantations, or the privatisation of our seas, rivers, lakes and forests. Food sovereignty wrests control over our commons back into the hands of the people.

In place of the corporate takeover of the food chain by global companies like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Syngenta, Nestlé, and McDonalds they are fighting for a system of “agroecology”. This builds on peasant agriculture, artisanal fisheries and herding which still remain the source of most of our food. 

The Jakarta Call explains that peasant agroecology is a social and ecological system encompassing a great “diversity of technologies and practices” and removes “dependencies on agro-toxins, rejects confined industrial animal production”. It also uses renewable energies, and guarantees healthy food. "It enhances dignity, honours traditional knowledge and restores the health and integrity of the land. Food production in the future must be based on a growing number of people producing food in more resilient and diverse ways.” Campesina argues that agroecology defends biodiversity and also works towards reducing global warming.

"Our agricultural model not only can feed all of humanity”, they say, "but is also the way to stop the advance of the climate crisis through local production in harmony with our forests and waterways, enhancing diversity and returning organic matter to natural cycles”.

La Via Campesina is demanding a Comprehensive Agrarian Reform. It would include:

They insist that land is not a commodity, calling for existing laws and regulations to be reinforced, and new ones introduced to protect against speculation and land grabbing.
They oppose the misappropriation of seeds through various forms of intellectual property and the contamination of stocks with GM technology, insisting on sharing seed, implementing the principle of the Peoples’ Heritage Seeds Serving Humanity.

For this comprehensive programme of demands to be implemented, replacing the rule of capital is a priority. Replacing that with the social stewardship of nature and democratic control over sustainable production will enable us to halt the present destructive processes in their tracks.   

Gerry Gold
Economics editor
26 June 2013

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