Food sovereignty is defined by La Via Campesina, the biggest international farmer led union in the world as ‘the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sounds and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. Food sovereignty puts those who produce, distribute and eat food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations’.
In order to guarantee a right to food we need food policies that future proof the food system based not on the pursuit of profit, but on the needs of people. Food sovereignty is a framework through which we can begin to map out and achieve this. We believe that putting the food sovereignty principles into practice will enable us to develop food policies which facilitate the transition to a just and sustainable food system based on the Right to Food.
People around the world are joining hands with other social movements, organisations and communities to develop radical social, economic and political transformations to take back control of the food system. Food sovereignty is a framework that emerged from the grassroots and there is no other food and farming governance framework which provides such a powerful alternative to the current food system. It has taken over twenty years of work, advocacy and campaigning for this framework and its foundations to gain the momentum and recognition they now have at both national and international levels.
Developing food policies based on the principles of food sovereignty and the right to food is a process that is gaining traction across Europe and globally. Nyeleni Europe, a thriving network of unions across the continent, is building the food sovereignty movement, developing campaigns to re-orientate national and European-wide public policies governing our food and agricultural systems towards a food sovereignty model. Food sovereignty has been referenced in national legislation in Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uruguay, Venezuela and Mali. Canada and Australia have already completed their own People’s Food Policy processes, Scotland is putting together a Good Food Nation Bill and IPES-Food is in the process of developing a Common Food Plan for Europe. The food sovereignty framework and civil society partition in food governance are both increasingly part of mainstream discourse in international institutions such as the UN Committee for World Food Security (CFS) through their Civil Society Mechanism (CSM).
We can use the frameworks of Food Sovereignty here in the UK as a foundation and set of principles through which we can look at how to democratise the governance of our food system by taking a rights based approach to food policy making and putting those that produce and eat at the heart of it. Putting the principles of food sovereignty into practice will enable us to develop food policies in England which facilitate the transition to a just and sustainable food system based on the right to food.
The food sovereignty framework comprises six key principles, which offer a map for what a truly democratic food system looks like. They can be adapted and developed to suit local and national food policy contexts, including here in England. In order to guide the transition to a just and sustainable food system we need to shift from a market-driven approach to a rights-based approach to food. In order for this to happen, the principles of food sovereignty need to be used as critical references points in the negotiations and development of a post-Brexit national food policy.