Archive for the 'Food Sovereignty/ Souveraineté alimentaire/ Soberanía alimentaria' Category

Rio +20: What is green economy?

Rio +20

From the advocacy of “sustainable development” at the Rio earth summit in 1992 to “green economy” at Rio +20 in 2012, the terms illustrate optimism yet fail to live up to expectations. This year’s summit is held in one of the most environmentally diverse countries in the world: Brazil. In fact, almost 50% of Brazilian territory is taken up by the earth’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon rainforest, home to nearly 50% of all the world’s biodiversity (The Guardian). As the world’s sixth largest economy, surrounded by plentiful natural resources, Brazil is a land of contradiction as environmental struggles remain to be addressed.

In fact, a new forest management law recently approved by the Brazilian congress goes against their pro-environmental mandate. The law was to give a “green card” to land owners who illegally invaded and deforested riparian areas, which are ecosystems that occur around watercourses or water bodies. In addition, this law allows the legalization of further deforestation. Now let’s look at the bigger picture.

As can be seen, twenty years after the first summit, which engendered hopes of actions destined to protect the planet, issues concerning the environment, society and economy prove otherwise. The increase in global warming, desertification and the destruction of biodiversity are a few consequences of the expansion of privatization and industrial agriculture. Moreover, populations are increasingly hungry, namely 1 out of 6 people are eating below their needs (Via Campesina). Expulsion from lands and territories are increasing due to new forms of monopoly control over land and water. All of these issues stem from an obsession with economic growth.

This economic growth goes alongside with the new term “green economy”. This term has been coined positively as the “valuing of ecosystem services and internalizing of environmental externalities” and negatively as a “further marketisation of nature’s services” (Via Campesina). The latter approach focuses on fixing a price for nature in order to protect it. This myth of “green economy” constructed by governments, organizations of the United Nations and business people is suspected to prone neoliberal policies and further push capitalism which rhymes with monopolization and privatization. Via Campesina denounces “green economy” by pointing out that large corporations can pursue environmental deterioration as a reasonable act and continue land-grabbing.

People’s Summit

In parallel with the Rio +20, the People’s Summit reflects the reunion of citizens all over Brazil in the discussion of issues such as their rights of determining their own food and energy systems in contrast to global markets taking over.

Focusing on food sovereignty, Via Campesina provides the voice to peasants and indigenous people who form over 90% of the rural population. The NGO calls for action as it “repudiates and denounces the green economy as a new mask to hide increasing levels of corporate greed and food imperialism in the world, and as a brutal “green washing” of capitalism that only implements false solutions, like carbon trading, REDD, geoengineering, GMOs, agrofuels, bio-char, and all of the market- based solutions to the environmental crisis” (Via Campesina).

One of Rio’s straplines is “The future we want”. Who is “we”? Corporations? Farmers? Children? In defining the word “we”, there must be compromise in considering the interests of different parties and how best to accommodate different needs (food, water, rights) and wants (money, growth, social cost).






Report from the Special Rapporteur of food in Canada

In an effort to dissect the issue of food security that is slowly on the rise in Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada jointly coordinated a visit for the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in Canada from May 6th to the 16th of 2012. The purpose of this visit was to assess the way in which the human right to adequate food was being realized in Canada. During the visit, the Special Rapporteur had met with provincial and municipal authorities ranging from the Department of Health and Social Services, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to Food and Rural Affairs.

In attempting to analyze exactly what is going on regarding the human right to food, the Special Rapporteur spoke to many groups, stakeholders, and individuals in order to fully grasp the extent of the situation. Canada has always been credited for its international participation in countless human rights efforts across the globe, at home on Canadian soil, there has increasingly been a divergence between implementation and policymaking in regards to the protection of economic and social rights.

It is safe to admit that Canadians faired a little better than their neighbors to the South during the economic crisis of 2008. Having said that, the crisis has affected a portion of the Canadian population quite gravely, in particular those we were already within the margins, specifically those on social assistance and Aboriginal communities.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur points out those governmental bodies, particularly the federal government whom must be held accountable for all its recent cutbacks. The cost of living is increasing while social assistance is dormant, thus leaving many on social assistance below the poverty line. Ultimately, those living in poverty cannot afford nutritious meals. It’s a vicious cycle, one that is slowly sucking in many portions of society.

Since the 1950s, Canada has been moving more and more towards large industrialized mechanisms of farming that support trade liberalization. While that may allow Canada to be a key player in the globalization field, it marginalizes and alienates small-scale farmers who are key players in the access to food. Canadian goods are cheaper than goods imported into the country, if the Canadian government were to support local food production and subsidize it instead of subsidizing import tariffs, more Canadian mouths would be fed and less people would be living in the margins.

Social protection of the vulnerable is a Canadian duty, a characteristic that many Canadians take to heart. Alarmingly while Canada is a welfare state that bolsters an image of protection and love for its citizens, 50% of those living on social assistance are food insecure.

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Canada has a duty to ensure that it dedicates the maximum amount of available resources to progressively achieve full economic, social and cultural rights, which include the right to food, for the most marginalized members of society. With Canada’s low deficit-to-GDP ratios, it is the ideal time according to the report, to be ensuring that robust measures are taken for social protection.

The report does shed a bright light on Canadian endeavors regarding the country’s contribution to global food security. Canada exceeded its minimum food aid commitments under the Food Aid Convention. With CIDA launching its Food Security Strategy in 2009, Canadians are becoming more aware that food security is a Canadian right, one that all Canadians are entitled to. The report illustrates that although Canada’s international commitments are still strong, domestic initiatives are faltering with very little accountability. It illustrates that there is still much work to be done, after all, it’s a shame that a country that prides itself on its Welfare approach is becoming less and less a welfare state and more and more a capital-driven machine.

World Bank and Land Grabs: Who are they helping?

Photo: International Livestock Research Institute

Farmlandgrab’s Joshua Pringle reports on the rise of the global land grabbing trend. Pringle suggests that the World Bank’s funding initiatives play a central role in maintaining detrimental foreign investment practices.

The World Bank claims that it works to help countries overcome inequality and ensure that new land investments offer benefits shared by local populations. Its Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI), a list of voluntary principles for investors in agriculture, specifically lays out principles that are meant to protect the food security and natural resources of the public. The World Bank not only fails to comply with its own principles regarding agricultural investment; the Bank’s policies actually accomplish the opposite of its stated goals, facilitating land deals that have deleterious effects on local populations.

Read full article here.

Free trade and global market failures call for serious implementation of food sovereignty measures

As world hunger continues to be a persistent problem, the food security model favoured by capitalist food systems has become a proven failure. The proposed alternative? Food sovereignty, which favours small scale, local food production.

LONDON Oct 17 (Reuters) – UK anti-poverty charity War on Want appealed on Monday for a new food system which favours small growers in the struggle against world hunger.

In a report entitled “Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the global food system”, it said it had formed partnerships with farmers’ groups across the world to promote “food sovereignty” as an alternative to an approach which it said had contributed to hunger among hundreds of millions of people.

Read full article here.

Food Sovereignty Now!

The international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina has launched a new video presenting its struggle for peasant’s agriculture and food sovereignty all around the world.

Letter to the editor in response to: Harper exits Honduras with new free-trade deal

As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signs a new trade deal with Honduras, he dismisses human rights issues as unrelated to the Honduran government and accuses human rights activists of being ”selfish and short-sighted.”

“We know there are significant problems of security and human rights in this country but we have no information to suggest those are in any way perpetrated by the government,” the Prime Minister said.

He has no patience, though, for opponents of free-trade deals, saying those that advocate blocking them on grounds of human rights are “selfish and short-sighted” protectionists who would deny Hondurans the gains of commerce.

Read full article in the Globe and Mail here.

In recent letters to the editor, Harper’s statements are considered insulting:

By accusing those of us opposed to the recently-signed trade deal with Honduras as “protectionist,” Stephen Harper has again demonstrated his ability to purposely obfuscate matters requiring a genuine response.

Canadians are rightfully concerned about the legitimacy this trade deal brings to a Honduran political and business elite busy repressing opponents to the coup d’état they orchestrated.

Unlawful arrests, torture, disappearances and political assassinations are all very real in Honduras today.

Our Prime Minister’s flippant comments are insulting to Canadians disturbed by the grave abuses rampant in Honduras, now our newest free trade partner.

René M. Guerra Salazar, Ottawa

Read more letters to the editor here.

Honduran Police Burn Community to the Ground

Homes, churches, schools, and crops all destroyed as the post-coup government continues to side with wealthy plantation owners over the country’s organized farmers.

Read more here.

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