Olivier De Schutter Discusses the Right to Food and the Need to Unite Food Movements

By Jameson Spivack

In a video addressing the importance of uniting food movements, UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter emphasizes the “right to food.” According to De Schutter, the idea of a “right to food” is essential in transforming our broken food system into a sustainable, ethical institution.

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur, advocates reforming the current global food system. (Photo credit: Die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Acknowledging the right to food will help bridge the gap between the many food movements calling for a change in our broken system. De Schutter highlights four main objectives shared by all food movements—returning to localized food production, addressing imbalances in the food chain, transitioning to more sustainable and agro-ecological practices, and creating a stronger role for citizens in shaping and controlling the food they eat.

Re-localizing food systems, includes linking local producers to local consumers, which fosters a relationship between farmer and buyer. When local food ties are strengthened, the transportation of food becomes much simpler and resource strain is minimized. In poor areas that depend heavily on expensive food imports, a return to local production and consumption means not only more employment opportunities, but also cheaper food prices and greater availability.

Currently, agricultural production is controlled mainly by large agri-business corporations that have the leverage to bully local farmers into selling at lower prices. By prioritizing local markets, says De Schutter, and empowering farmers to organize cooperatives, a higher value is placed on producers, and a more ethical food system can be established.

Sustainable and agroecological practices can also help improve the right to food. Instead of replicating unnatural industrial processes, farming should mimic the processes by which food is actually grown. This is healthy both for the ecosystem in which the farming is taking place, and for the farmers, who can produce at a lower cost. Without the extensive use of chemical inputs, which are typically imported at high prices into poor countries, farmers are able to make more profit from their practices. This leads to healthier diets in the local communities that depend on the food grown by these farmers, since the food is more natural and organic.

Finally, according to De Schutter, by creating food policy councils and other civic groups dedicated to improving the quality and dignity of the food production system, citizens can gain more control over the food system.

Click here to see the full video.

Jameson Spivack is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. 

To read more about food movements and food systems, see: Citywatch: Occupy Movement Identifies Food Movement Common Inspiration and Options, Creating a local food movement and a subsistence plus plan, De Schutter calls for local agroecology and accountability in food systems, and New Book to Inspire a Redesigned, Fair Food System.

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