Food Sovereignty: A skeptical view

01 January 2013
Paper

This paper attempts to identify and assess some of the key elements that ‘frame’ Food Sovereignty.

This paper attempts to identify and assess some of the key elements that ‘frame’ Food Sovereignty (FS) : (i) a comprehensive attack on corporate industrialised agriculture, and its ecological consequences, in the current moment of globalisation; (ii) advocacy of a (the) ‘peasant way’ as the basis of a sustainable and socially just food system; and (iii) a programme to realise that world-historical goal. While sympathetic to the first of these elements, I am much more sceptical about the second because of how FS conceives ‘peasants’, and its claim that small producers who practice agroecological farming - understood as low-(external) input and labour intensive - can feed the world. This connects with an argument that FS is incapable of constructing a feasible programme (the third element) to connect the activities of small farmers with the food needs of non-farmers, whose numbers are growing both absolutely and as a proportion of the world’s population.

Henry Bernstein is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies in the University of London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was editor, with Terence J Byres, of the Journal of Peasant Studies, for fifteen years (1985-2000), and founding editor, again with Terence J Byres, of the Journal of Agrarian Change (2001), of which he became Emeritus Editor in 2008. His book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change (2010) has been translated to various languages. He is Adjunct Professor at COHD, China Agricultural University, Beijing.

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

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