The Role of US Consumers and Producers in Food Sovereignty

01 January 2013
Paper

Given food sovereignty’s origin as a movement by farmers in developing countries, its expansion to other actors in the food system and to other geographic regions is not straightforward. This paper explores how the concept of food sovereignty has been applied to date in the United States.

Given food sovereignty’s origin as a movement by farmers in developing countries, its expansion to other actors in the food system and to other geographic regions is not straightforward. This paper explores how the concept of food sovereignty has been applied to date in the United States. A case study describes how several towns in the state of Maine have passed “food sovereignty” ordinances that aim to enable small-scale farmers to sell their products directly to consumers, exempt from new food safety regulations. To date, 10 Maine towns have approved these food sovereignty ordinances; but state officials have contested them in at least one town. The ability to sell directly to one’s customers seems to be only a small portion of legitimate food sovereignty claims in the U.S. The paper presents seven additional claims that could gain wider public support for food sovereignty by promoting farmers’ and consumers’ rights and linking with other social movements or interest groups. In addition, food sovereignty entails particular responsibilities for US consumers, to become achieved worldwide. These responsibilities include solidarity with developing country producers and consumers, political participation to increase food justice and sustainable consumption to ensure that resources are shared equitably. Consumer support for food sovereignty is critical in the US to gain sufficient political leverage to enact food sovereignty laws and overturn regulations that act to its detriment, in international as well as domestic policy.

Partridge Chair in Food & Sustainable Agriculture Systems, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine. Molly Anderson teaches on hunger and food security, fixing food systems, sustainability and system dynamics. She is involved in food systems planning and sustainability metrics at the state and regional scales.

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