Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

Are We Hungry for Change for Genuinely Transforming Food Systems? (Last Part)

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Are We Hungry for Change for Genuinely  Transforming Food Systems? (Last Part)

According to Kuyek, “This massive acquisition of farmlands has a direct bearing on climate change also, as industrial agriculture contributes to at least 1/3 of global green house gas emissions and is a major contributor to climate crisis. However, corporations, which acquire farmlands on behalf of billionaires, are selling these farmland investments as green-using them as a punching fund to make their portfolio look more ‘green’ - like moving some funding from fossil-fuels investments to farmland acquisition as if that is helping reduce climate crisis. They are also positioning farmlands for carbon projects - through what they call regenerative agriculture - a sort of green washing that fossil fuel companies and agri-based food companies are deeply involved in.”
Moreover digitalisation of agricultural land records is making transnational farmland ownership easier and more open to profit. It allows foreign companies to easily identify and access farmlands that they can take over and then use satellite technology to keep an eye on the hired farm operators that they do not cheat them out of the harvest.
Neth Daño, Asia Director at the ETC Group, gives yet another example of usurping people’s food system by CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) - a global partnership that purports to unite international organizations engaged in research for a food-secured future. CGIAR was earlier hosted by World Bank, but now it is largely controlled by Gates Foundation- its top funder.
“Its annual budget is USD 850 million largely to provide salaries and support lab work of 1500 scientists and researchers. It has 11 international gene banks that are legally under the auspices of FAO. They contain about 773000 types of seeds collected from developing countries over the decades. So these seeds kept in the gene banks that are now owned by the company have actually been pirated from farmers (before the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD was formally adopted) without consent from the communities from whom they were taken. Moreover, all these gene banks that are under the mandate of CGIAR are now actually in the power of Gates Foundation. So you have this brazen interlinking between the two, with Gates Foundation creeping into publics institutions and shaping policies. Also transnational corporations have benefitted from researches conducted at CGIAR around seeds and agri-chemicals. CGIAR still holds substantial influence on food systems in many developing countries”, adds Neth.
Abbas Melhim, Executive Manager of Palestinian Farmers Union, rues that, “Military occupations are destroying the sovereignty of farmers. Small scale farmers must have sovereignty over their production to be able to produce the food they want and not become dependent on big corporations. For this they should have control over the resources - water and land - needed for food production. But in war-torn nations, like Palestine, these resources are under the control of occupation forces. So they are struggling to be able to produce food based on the demands of the people rather than those of big corporates for international markets.”
But even in many non-conflict countries, corporate grabbing of land and resources, and anti-farmer policies of governments are rampant and trying to push small farmers out of agriculture. Agricultural land is also often converted for non-agrarian purposes in the name of developing special economic zones.
However, farmers are now understanding how industry is trying to take over their livelihood for its own gains. A case in point is the farmers’ movement in India that has been going on for more than 7 months, against 3 contentious Farm Bills forced passed by the Indian government in September 2020. These three legislations, purportedly called reforms to help the farmers, would actually put them at the mercy of giant corporations. They will loosen government regulations on agriculture and allow the corporates to deal directly with the farmers, opening up the agriculture sector at both ends – production (through contract farming) and sale (through complete deregulation). Farmers see these neoliberal farm laws as a potential death blow and fear that they would throw all the marginal farmers, who form 85% of the total farming community, to the mercy of private players, and ruin their livelihood which is already under severe strain.
Small farmers who produce the vast majority of food on this planet own the least amount of land - less than 25% of global farmland is owned by small farmers. The fight for them is to take back control of water, land-they-till and other resources that are needed to produce food. Covid-19 has shown that if communities have even a small piece of cultivable land, they will have some food on their table and not die of hunger. Moreover, when almost the entire world went under lockdown it was these farm workers and farm labourers who continued to produce food which we are consuming in our homes and cities around the world.
We must continue to strengthen farmers’ movements at every level and support them in their struggles to take back and maintain control of the land-they-till and their food production.
Global People’s Summit on Food Systems
Keeping this in mind, many movements and alliances have come together to launch the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems as a rebuttal to the the UN Food Systems Summit. The Global People’s Summit puts the voices of the people - farmers, women, marginalised communities - at the forefront and demands just, equitable, healthy and sustainable food systems. It is not just about food security but also about food sovereignty in order to have a just, healthy and equitable food system for a world without hunger.

Shobha Shukla is the award-winning founding Managing Editor and Executive Director of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate. She is a former senior Physics faculty of prestigious Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Regional Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media). Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla

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