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Food Sovereignty

June 29, 2012

From Caleb-The Space of Food


“Food sovereignty is the peoples’, Countries’ or State Unions’ RIGHT to define their agricultural and food policy, without any dumping vis-à-vis third countries.”

La Via Campesina


This is a concept that I just came across that makes food deeply spatial. Wikipedia actually defines the term in a slightly better way: “the claimed “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces.” Food in this scenario becomes highly rooted in local and national governance, and not subject to the predations of global finance that commodifies the basic necessity of life. It also links the growing of food to the specific ecology of place. Hunger globally is not an issue of failed harvests or poor crop management (though war and natural disaster do play their part). World food production is 3000 calories per person per day – 50% more than is needed. Hunger is about distribution. The most notorious recent case of compromised food sovereignty is post-NAFTA Mexico. Subsidized US corn flooded the Mexican market, obliterating the livelihoods of  hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers (who subsequently were forced to seek work in the notorious maquiladoras, displacing manufacturing jobs in the US). This is much like subsidized Chinese solar panels that are currently flooding the American market. This is an interesting symmetry (and rather ironic) – corn came from central American, and the US developed the first commercial solar panels. We live in a crazy world where we move things thousands of miles to sell a product already made in that place.


Interesting to note, that the first food sovereignty ordinance in the US was passed in Sedgewick, Maine – across the Penobscot Bay from our own beloved Belfast. Grown in the City has a series of interactive maps that explore food sovereignty, urban agriculture, and food policy. What I can’t find is any mapping of predatory market infringement. This would make for a really interesting Sankey diagram.


My friend, Chris Cosper, told me about going to college for the first time. His father was driving and was stuck behind a logging truck. He attempted to pass but had to duck back in; another logging truck was coming in the opposite direction. Chris’ dad muttered “those two need to talk.”

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