It’s Food Sovereignty Month: Let’s Define Our Own Food System!

Subjects: Food sovereignty, Rural economies & communities

Food Sovereignty and the Pig Pledge campaign share many of the same values; here are the ways that taking the Pig Pledge can help work towards a fairer and more sustainable future of food production. Food sovereignty, a term coined by members of Via Campesina, is all about taking our food system out of the hands of the corporations and market institutions that hold an oligopoly over the global food system. The producers, distributors and consumers of food should be at the centre of decision-making in the food system, and should not be at the mercy of wider economic circuits or policy arenas.

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Food Sovereignty is an all-encompassing movement with many different iterations, but it generally has these 6 core ideas:

1.     Food for people

2.     Valuing food providers

3.     Localising food systems

4.     Local control

5.     Building knowledge and skills

6.     Working with nature

Food for people. This is the idea that everyone should have access to food that is healthy and culturally appropriate. It goes beyond the idea of food security, arguing that it is not enough that all individuals should have enough to eat each day, but that the food that they eat is healthy, appropriate to local diets and that consumers should have a say in where it comes from and how it is produced. The Pig Pledge wants consumers to be able to make informed decisions about how the pork that they buy is produced and where it comes from – it supports the labeling of meat products to show what standards the pork was reared under, the country of origin, whether or not it contained Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and where it has been processed.

Valuing food providers. An important part of our campaign is ensuring that rural communities, who play a huge part in the production of all food, and who are dependent on local agriculture, are valued. This means moving away from corporately owned operations that neglect local communities and businesses, and who replace generations of food producers with machinery. Valuing food providers also extends to agricultural workers who face exploitation on a daily basis, and who are marginalised by corporations and governments; corporate pork producers such as Smithsfields have an appalling record of abuse against their workers, as can be seen in the report Packaged With Abuse. The Pig Pledge is advocating a return to local industry that is more transparent and allows food providers to work in safe conditions.

Localising food systems. This is idea that food should be seen first as sustenance for the local community, and second as a commodity to be traded. Food systems should not stretch the globe, as is the case with our current livestock system where livestock in the UK is fed with animal feed manufactured with soy produced in Latin America. Foodstuffs produced in places like Brazil should be used to feed local populations rather than European livestock, and the pig industry in the UK should be able to function without being reliant on distant farms. Bringing food systems closer together also means that consumers can make decisions jointly with food producers – this is the fundamental aim of our campaign, where consumers can support farmers that are choosing to produce high welfare pork, and have control over things like GMO and hormones in food (see how TTIP, a new trade agreement, threatens this here).

Local control. All resources should be able to be used and shared by communities in whatever way they please. The privatisation of resources through mechanisms such as contracts and intellectual property acts makes small food producers powerless and puts them at the mercy of huge institutions, such as Monsanto. We support the bypassing of centralised systems as much as possible to give power and control to local producers and consumers – for example through food hubs who give farmers the infrastructure they need to reach consumers (as well as box schemes and farmers markets) and by giving more power to local authorities.

 

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Building Knowledge and Skills. Technology is undoubtedly important in ensuring that we can produce food sustainably and in sufficient quantities, but it should not undermine the traditional knowledge of farmers, who have practical experience and have local know-how. Innovation should be used to find sustainable ways of producing, rather than focusing on efficiency and yields. The Pig Pledge advocates the use of technology in conjunction with traditional, low-input methods of farming, in some respects harking back to traditional food systems. One such example is the revival of the use of rare breed pigs that can thrive on unproductive land, and require minimal artificial inputs from animal feed, hormones and antibiotics which are all too present in animal factories.

Works with nature. Food sovereignty seeks to produce food in a way that is harmonious with nature, thus conserving the integrity of land for future generations, and ensuring local resilience in the face of climate change. Switching to a livestock system that is not reliant on soy production in South America is an example of how the pig industry in the UK can be made locally resilient. In addition, animal factories have extremely adverse affects on the environment and due to being part of a supply chain, all of the produce has a significant distance to travel, racking up serious food miles. By purchasing good, locally produced pork that is reared in a low-impact way, the pork industry can be made to work with nature.

Food sovereignty might sound like a utopian dream, but it doesn’t have to be, indeed it is arguably a necessity – a holistic change in the way we think about food, farmers and policy. Support Food Sovereignty, Take the Pig Pledge!