Agriculture and food sovereignty

The Government of Ghana anounced that it's studying tariff and non-tariff measures to restrict the importation of poultry products, after local analysts warned that those purchases are harming the national economy. "Imported chicken is being sold at below the cost of local chicken, and farmers in Ghana cannot simply compete, resulting in the collapse of dozens of farms and the loss of hundreds of jobs," said Yaw Graham, expert of the Third World Network-Africa (TWN-A), focal point of Social Watch. [see more]
According to Vía Campesina, an international movement that coordinates farmer organizations from Asia, Africa, America and Europe, food sovereignty is the right of all peoples, their nations or unions of States to define their agricultural and food policies, without dumping involving third-party countries. Food sovereignty goes beyond the more common concept of food security, which merely seeks to ensure that a sufficient amount of safe food is produced without taking into account the kind of food produced and how, where and on what scale it is produced.

The concept of food sovereignty was developed by Vía Campesina and introduced into the public debate on occasion of the World Food Summit in 1996, with the aim of providing an alternative to neo-liberal policies. Since then, this concept has become a major issue of debate on the international agricultural agenda, even within the United Nations. It was the main subject of discussion in the forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that was held in parallel to the June 2002 World Food Summit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food sovereignty involves:

- prioritizing local agricultural production to feed the population and the access of women and men farmers to land, water, seeds and credit. Hence the need for agrarian reform, to combat genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to guarantee free access to seeds, and to keep water a public good to be distributed in a sustainable way.

- the right of farmers to produce food and the right of consumers to be able to decide what they want to consume, and how and who produces it.

- the right of all nations to protect themselves from excessively cheap agricultural and food imports (dumping).

- linking agricultural prices to production costs; this will only be possible if countries or unions of countries have the right to impose duties on excessively cheap imports, if they commit themselves to promoting sustainable rural production, and if they control domestic market production to prevent structural surpluses.

- engaging the participation of people in the definition of agrarian policies.

- acknowledging the right of women farmers who play a key role in agricultural production and in food issues.

Vía Campesina believes that neo-liberal policies undermine food sovereignty, as they give precedence to international trade over peoples’ food rights. It further believes that these policies have done nothing at all to eradicate world hunger. On the contrary, they have increased peoples’ dependence on agricultural imports and intensified the industrialization of agriculture, thus endangering the earth’s genetic, cultural and environmental heritage, and putting the health of the world’s population at risk. Lastly, it has driven millions of women and men farmers to abandon their traditional agricultural practices, forcing them into rural exodus or migration.

International institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have applied these policies which are dictated by the interests of transnational corporations and the world powers. International agreements such as those of the WTO, other regional agreements like the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA), or bilateral ones stipulating “free” trade for agricultural products, enable these corporations to control the globalized food market. Peasant organizations see the WTO as a totally inappropriate institution to deal with food and agriculture-related issues, and have thus demanded that such issues be taken out of the WTO’s remit.

Food sovereignty advocates are not against trade in products, but against the priority given to exports. Access to international markets is not a solution for farmers, whose problem is above all the lack of access to their own local markets, which are flooded with products imported at low prices. At present, the United States and the European Union, in particular, abuse government aid to lower their prices in domestic markets and engage in dumping practices to place their surplus production on international markets, thus destroying peasant agriculture both in the North and the South. The self-immolation of the Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae during the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun (September 2003) became a tragic symbol of this desperate situation.

In November 2003, at the closing of the Second Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Rural Life, held in Panama, the Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas signed the Agro Plan 2003-2015 aimed at fostering the sector’s development until the year 2015. This programme of action emerged at a time when trade negotiations on the issue of agriculture were underway, both at the WTO (whose failure in Cancun was partly due to the discontent of developing countries over how the Ministerial Declaration dealt with agricultural issues), and in the FTAA and other regional free trade agreements.
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Food sovereignty

A response to the global food prices crisis: sustainable family farming can feed the world (La Vía Campesina)

Food's failed estates = Paris's hot cuisine... Food sovereignty – à la cartel? (ETC Group)

The profit behind your plate: critical issues in the processed food industry (SOMO – Centre for research on Multinational Corporations)

Agroecology and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty in the Americas (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies)

What is food sovereignty? (Via Campesina)

Food sovereignty: towards democracy in localized food systems (FIAN. ITDG Publishing)

Turning the global food system upside down (GRAIN)

Food is a human right (University of Hawai'i)

Food sovereignty: global rallying cry of farmer movements (Food First)

Neo-liberal mad cows and food sovereignty (IPS-Terra Viva)

The right to food

The road towards a declaration on peasants' rights in the framework of the right to food (UN-NGLS)

A question of governance: To protect agribusiness profits or the right to food? (Agribusiness Action Initiatives)

Bridging the divide: a human rights vision for global food trade (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

The Right to Food Information and Knowledge System (FAO)

Agriculture under the WTO

Agriculture and the WTO in Africa: understand to act (GRET)

Agriculture & NAMA negotiations: searching for the landing zone (Centre for Trade and Development (Centad))

Big fight on food security (Third World Network)

The enduring racket: why the rich won't budge on 'farm' subsidies (Panos Features)

Who reaps the fruit?: Critical issues in the fresh fruit and vegetable chain (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO))

Statement on agriculture after Cancun (Attac)

Third world agriculture faces unfair competition from first world (Third World Network)

Agriculture talks: empty promises to the South (Focus on the Global South)

Truth or consequences: why the EU and the USA must reform their subsidies, or pay the price (Oxfam)

Agriculture negotiations at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial 2005 (IATP)

Review of the status of WTO agriculture negotiations (Third World Network Features)

Planting the Rights Seed: A human rights perspective on agriculture trade and the WTO (3D and The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP))

Sustaining a Future for Agriculture (Trade Observatory)

WTO agreement on agriculture: a decade of dumping (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

G20 calls for review of Green Box provisions during WTO agriculture negotiations (Third World Network)

Entitled to subsidies! (India Together)

What do developing countries need from trade negotiations? (International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council)

Faulty frame, savage reality (India Together)

Agriculture framework, an asymmetric Doha-minus (Third World Network Features)

Twenty-five ways to improve the Derbez Draft on Agriculture (International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council)

WTO’s Agriculture Agreement (WTO)

NGOs call for rejection of WTO’s agriculture modailities paper (Third World Network)

Agreement on Agriculture and Food Sovereignty: Perspectives from Mesoamerica and Asia (IRC/Americas Program)

Agricultural trade (Institute of Development Studies)

The WTO and the World Food System: a trade union approach (International Union of Food, Agricultural, and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF))

Agricultural liberalization and its impact on South Asia (South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE))

Agriculture and trade liberalization

Imported chicken decimates Ghanaian poultry farms

Profits before people: The great African liquidation sale (Pambazuka)

Small farmers and the Doha Round: lessons from Mexico's NAFTA experience (CounterCurrents)

How to manufacture a global food crisis: lessons from the World Bank, IMF, and WTO (Focus on the Global South)

Liberalization and interactions with the market: a survey of some experiences of rural producers in developing countries (Third World Network)

Free trade vs. small farmers (Foreign Policy In Focus)

The end of farm-saved seed? - Industry's wish list for the next revision of UPOV (GRAIN)

A Row to Hoe: A study on the gendered impact of trade liberalization on our food system, on agricultural markets and on (Trade Observatory)

Sacrificing the right to food on the altar of free trade (Pambazuka)

Liberalisation of agricultural production and social injustice (Pambazuka)

Globalisation, liberalisation, and protectionism: the global framework affecting rural producers in developing countries (Third World Network)

Free market freefall: declining agricultural commodity prices and the ‘market access’ myth (Focus on the Global South)

Thailand: from the kitchen of the world to food sovereignty (Focus on the Global South)

Seed laws: imposing agricultural apartheid (GRAIN)

Global seed industry concentration 2005 (ETC group)

Impact of trade liberalization on agricultural biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD))

Inequity in international agricultural trade: The marginalization of developing countries and their small farmers (The Oakland Institute)

Implementing the Human Right to Food: Domestic Obligations and the International Trade in Agriculture (Rights & Democracy)

CAFTA: re-colonising Central America (Third World Network Features)

Making agricultural trade liberalization work for the poor (International Food Policy Research Institute)

The Mexican Farmers' Movement: exposing the myths of free trade (International Forum on Globalization)

A vision on trade alternatives (Aid Transparency)

Sustainable agriculture

The environmental food crisis (UNEP/GRID Arendal)

Ecological agriculture: climate change, food security and rural livelihoods in Africa (Third World Network)

A new era of agriculture begins today: International agriculture assessment calls for immediate radical changes (Third World Network)

Agriculture for sustainable economic development (International Food Policy Research Institute)

Small scale sustainable farmers are cooling down the earth (La Vía Campesina)

FAO promotes organic agriculture (Institute of Science in Society)

Building a future in the Mixteca (IRC – Americas Program)

Landless Workers Movement: the difficult construction of a new world (IRC – Americas Program)

Terminator seed battle begins: farmers face billions of dollars in potential costs (ETC Group)

Corporate hijack of sustainable agriculture (Institute of Science in Society)

Rural development is key to tackling global poverty (Third World Network Features)

Feeding the world under climate change (Institute of Science in Society)

Sustainable agriculture: critical ecological, social & economic Issues (Institute of Science in Society)

Civil society organizations

Transnational agrarian movements: struggling for land and citizenship rights (Transnational Institute - International Development Studies)

17th of April: International Day of Farmers' Struggle (Via Campesina)

Our World is not for Sale

Land Research Action Network (LRAN)

Via Campesina

Food First - Institute for Food and Development Policy

People's Food Sovereignty

Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN)

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)

Landless Workers Movement - Brazil

Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme

National Land Committee – South Africa

International Land Coalition

Surplus People Project – South Africa

Land grabbing

Africa: up for grabs (Friends of the Earth)

Hunger and food security

The state of food insecurity in the world 2009 (FAO)

Africa's unnatural disaster (Pambazuka)

Tsunami of hunger (Corriente Alterna)

The status of international food aid negotiations (The Oakland Institute)

Is Bill Gates good for Africa? (Pambazuka)

The future control of food (International Development Research Centre (IDRC))

Is Bill Gates trying to hijack Africa's food supply? (Counter Currents)

No real commitments in FAO's "Food Summit Plus 10" (SUNS)

The world needs its small farmers (IRC – Americas Program)

Sahel: A prisoner of starvation? (Oakland Institute)

Causing hunger: an overview of the food crisis in Africa (Oxfam)

Unequal Harvest: Farmers' Voices on International Trade and the Right to Food (Rights & Democracy)

Conflicts, rural development and food security in West Africa (FAO)

U.S. food aid needs major reform (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP))

U.S. food aid inefficient, wasteful & pro-business (IPS)

Agriculture, food security, nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals (International Food Policy Research Institute)

Implementing a human rights approach to food security (International Food Policy Research Institute)

5th Report on the World Nutrition Situation (United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition)

Copenhagen Consensus: hunger and malnutrition (Copenhagen Consensus)

Assuring food and nutrition security in Africa by 2020 (International Food Policy Research Institute)

Agriculture for Peace: promoting agricultural development in support of peace (United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU - IAS))

Agriculture in India (Infochange India)

Why half the planet is hungry (Centre for Civil Society)

The food crisis

The global food price crisis - a critique of orthodox perspectives (Transnational Institute)

The food crisis continues - In the form of a global scramble for lucrative farmlands (

Global food responsibility (IATP - CIDSE)

IMF policy on the global food crisis of 2008 (ActionAid USA)

Getting out of the food crisis (Grain)

A new era of world hunger? - The global food crisis analyzed (Global Policy Forum - Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

The principles of food sovereignty (Pambazuka)

Agribusiness vs. food security: the food crisis and the IFIs (The Bretton Woods Project)

Ensuring a food secure future (Panos London)

Food crisis, climate change and the importance of sustainable agriculture (Third World Network)

Behind Latin America's food crisis (Americas Program - Center for International Policy (CIP))

Rising food prices: drivers and implications for development (CRIN - Centre on International Cooperation)

Making a killing from hunger (GRAIN)

A time of high prices: an opportunity for the rural poor? (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

Food price crisis: a wake up call for new policies to eradicate hunger (The Oakland Institute)

Agriculture and the World Bank

World Bank report on land grabbing: beyond the smoke and mirrors (Grain)

Civil society groups denounce World Bank proposal for win-win land grabbing (GRAIN)

African agriculture and the World Bank: development or impoverishment? (Pambazuka)

Africa: neglecting agriculture, 1 (AfricaFocus)

Africa: neglecting agriculture, 2 (AfricaFocus)

Agriculture and gender

Gender and food security (FAO)

Case studies highlighting the gendered dynamic around agriculture, trade and food sovereignty (IGTN - IATP)

Agrarian reform

Seized: the 2008 landgrab for food and financial security (GRAIN)

The FAO and its work on land policy and agrarian reform (Transnational Institute)

La Vía Campesina and its Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform (Transnational Institute)

Policies and practices for securing and improving access to land (International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development)

Market-led agrarian reform: policies, performance and prospects (Transnational Institute - Third World Quarterly)

Promised land: competing visions of agrarian reform (Food First)

Market-based land reform policy (50 Years is enough)

Zimbabwe's land acquisition - a blunder that defies belief (Justice for Agriculture)

Commentary on land and rural development policies of the World Bank (CADTM)

Agrarian reform in the context of food sovereignty, the right to food and cultural diversity (International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD))

Ancestral land, food sovereignty and the right to self-determination: Indigenous peoples' perspectives on agrarian refor (Land Research Action Network)

Land tenure reform and gender equality (UNRISD)

New challenges and opportunities for revitalizing rural communities (FAO)

The World Bank’s contemporary agrarian policy: aims, logics and lines of action (Land Research Action Network)

Land reform policies in South Africa under the microscope (Terraviva)

Reforming land rights in Africa (International Food Policy Research Institute)

World Forum on Agrarian Reform (WFAR)

"The struggle for agrarian reform is a political struggle" (Choike)

The destructive agrarian reform policies of the World Bank (Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos)

Civil society statements

Civil society expresses concern on The Hague conference on Agriculture, Food security and Climate Change (Third World Network)

A welcome shift in United Nations views on food sovereignty (Friends of the Earth)

Surprise ending in Madrid! Final declaration of farmers and civil society organisations (Food Sovereignty)

Accelerating into disaster – when banks manage the food crisis (Food Sovereignty)

Open letter from Maputo: V International Conference of La Vía Campesina (La Via Campesina)

Small farmers feed the world Industrial agrofuels fuel hunger and poverty (La Vía Campesina)

An answer to the global food crisis: peasants and small farmers can feed the world! (La Vía Campesina)

Nepal: Defend food sovereignty, agrarian reform and peasants' rights! (La Vía Campesina)

Wilderswil Declaration on Livestock Diversity (La Via Campesina)

Towards the First Global Forum of Producers of Crops Declared to be Illicit (Transnational Institute)

Call for April 17: International Peasant's Struggle Day (Via Campesina)

Declaration of Nyéléni: Now is the time for food sovereignty! (Nyéléni 2007 - Forum for Food Sovereignty)

The Doha Round is dead! Time for food sovereignty (La Via Campesina)

Unity statement of the Peoples’ Street Conference

The Landless People’s Charter (Libération Afrique)

Declaration of the Via Campesina's IVth International Conference (Via Campesina)

For a new agrarian reform based on food sovereignty (ALAI)

Interview with young leaders of the Ecuadorian peasant movement (Choike)

Dakar Declaration - 2003 (Trade Observatory)

Call from Chapecó (Trade Observatory)

Conference report: sustaining a future for agriculture (Trade Observatory)

Stop food import, WTO out of agriculture, implement food sovereignty!

Agrarian reform and access to natural resources: a peoples’ demand (World Forum on Agrarian Reform)

Defending the South against distortions in farm trade (Third World Network Features)

Food Sovereignty: a Right For All

The Dakar Declaration (Pesticide Action Network (PAN))

Pretoria Statement on the Future of African Agriculture

Profit for few or food for all (Third World Network)

Official bodies

Statement of the Madrid high-level meeting on food security (Ransa 2009)

International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

World Food Summit (FAO)

World Food Summit: five years later (FAO)

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

World Food Programme

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