Food Sovereignty: How it turns the growing corporate global food system upside down

01 January 2013

This article first documents the forces that made necessary the development of the concept of Food Sovereignty and why it remains essential in the present world political economy.

Food Sovereignty as an ideology is a tool used by people (peasants, small and even medium size family farmers, small organic farmers, all kinds of local farmers (especially but not only in the US and EU) to fight a very wealthy organized attempt to take over the entire world food supply by the MNCs. I then discuss the “green revolution” approach, including a brief discussion of how it was introduced into India and the reactions of the South Indian farmers I knew at the time, and how it temporarily did lead to significant increases in crop yields in some areas (at the same time that the pesticides used were destroying the soil biota.) Successful alternatives to industrial agriculture are then discussed, especially SRI/SCI which do not need any artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, and use one-tenth the amount of seeds used by conventional farming in India. SRI/SCI is hardly known about in the US and EU. Methods for organizing grassroots farmers, both women and men in places like Andhra Pradesh, are also discussed. (India is now an exporter of rice, with world record yields from states previously considered backward, such as Bihar.) I conclude by noting the looming confrontation between the MNCs working to increase the profits of their investors, and the movements from the bottom up by people the world over. Control over food is control over people. And at no time in history have the wealthy voluntarily given up this or other powers.

Joan P. Mencher, Professor Emerita of Anthropology, City University of New York’s Graduate Center, and Lehman College of the City University of New York Professor Mencher is now the Chair of a small Foundation (TSCF), which works to support rural grassroots organizations in India working on sustainable agriculture. Currently she is primarily writing even though she still visits the rural areas in India when she can. She still presents papers annually at professional meetings. She has also worked as a consultant for various UN agencies.

Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.