Food Sovereignty: Getting to Know a Concept

souval11The 12th annual edition of Quebec’s International Solidarity conference took place this November and ran from the 12th to 23rd. During this event several specialists on agriculture and food supply were present to discuss the problems and potential solutions that currently surround the global food crisis. The central discussion of this conference dealt with the principle of food sovereignty, which is a concept first developed by the Via Campesina, an international farmers movement, at the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996. A former member of Via Campesina, José Bové, was present at Quebec’s International Solidarity Day to further explain the concept and to give recommendations.

Essentially, food sovereignty refers to the idea that countries should have the sovereign power to establish food policies that best suit the needs of their own people. They should not be forced to abide by international markets, which as many have pointed out, have only led to extreme inequality in the distribution of the wealth and food supply. Currently the World Trade Organization (WTO) heavily dictates the policies that surround agricultural markets. Unfortunately for many developing countries this means that their own policy makers are thus forced to follow the WTO’s lead, even if it hinders their development.

The concept of Food Sovereignty is viewed by many as a break from the current agricultural market structure because it would give much more power to local farmers, especially in developing nations. Under the current situation small, local producers often have a hard time buying or selling goods at prices that are set without their input and not feasible to them. Considering the fact that more than half of the world’s population, 52% approximately, are farmers, change certainly needs to be examined.

During the conference, several panelists, such as Andre Beaudoin, the general secretary of the Union of Agricultural Producers in Quebec (UPA), argued that the development of agriculture should first and foremost focus on local needs. Moreover, he suggests that we should put pressure on our governments to try to reduce the power of the large agribusiness corporations that currently dominate the agricultural market. Perhaps most importantly, in order to secure the success of Quebec agriculture, we must aim to establish equal prices for each producer, which would give them greater capability of exporting abroad.

souval21To conclude, one of the most important thing at the moment is to renew the promotion of the farmers work around the world and adjust their production plan in optics to be able to ensure food safety for all since it is already recognized that the current food production could be enough to supply the world needs, but that it is not the case due to the desires of the international market.

To get more information on the concept of food sovereignty or on the Quebec international solidarity days, you can visit the following links:

  • AQOCI, the agency of Quebec international development organizations.
  • Via Campesina, an international peasant movement.
  • UPA, the Union of agricultural producers of Quebec.
  • Food first, the institute for food and development research.

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