Food First's blog
When George Bush arrives tomorrow—International Women’s Day—in Sao Paulo, Brazil to clinch the US-Brazil ethanol mega-deal the New York Times billed as an “energy partnership plan to create jobs and decrease poverty and inequality,” he will have a surprise waiting for him: 900 poor peasant women from Via Campesina are occupying Cargill’s CEVASA sugar mill in Ribeirao Prieto in the Sao Paulo State.
They are not exactly a welcoming committee.
United Students for Fair Trade, a national network of more than 100 student activist groups, held its fourth annual convergence this month in Boston. More than 350 people came together to discuss and strategize for the future of the Fair Trade movement. Students were joined by farmers from Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador, and Thailand; as well as allies who work in fair trade companies, nonprofits, and academia.
Selingue, Mali, February 23-27, 2007--
“Who sets the agenda for Food Sovereignty? The people deprived of Food Sovereignty must take over the agenda. How do we take over our agenda? Some want to participate in “global partnerships”. If big powers—the creators of poverty—participate, they will never give up their power. Food Sovereignty demands that people set their own agenda! We must take over the right to set our agenda! We cannot form partnerships between the poor and those who create poverty!”
Nyelení delegate from Sri Lanka
Popular organizations in Mexico and Guatemala are asking their governments to take concrete and urgent measures to protect the majority of the population from the current dramatic rise in the price of corn on the international market. In Mexico the price of tortillas, the principal national food, has doubled in the past year and in Guatemala speculation in corn prices has begin.
At the recent World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, African civil society rejected the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa—AGRA.
by Mulugeta Handino
Indeed Another World is Possible
The problems that ensue from the expansion of our corporate-dominated food systems usually show up first among the poor—at home and abroad. The U.S. media has finally begun reporting on the explosion of tortilla prices in Mexico (“Nothing Flat about Tortilla Prices, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/13/07). Not only is this a serious political problem for the Mexican government, whose citizens eat an average of 10 tortillas a day, the United States is implicated. How? Let’s step back a moment.
Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared that the word “Hunger” will no longer be used to describe what happens when people don’t have enough food to eat.
Today there are more hungry people in the U.S. than there were five years ago. Yet the USDA has declared that people who go to bed hungry are no longer considered hungry unless they have other problems that result from chronic hunger. In an Orwellian twist, this is a convenient way to deny that Americans in the wealthiest nation on earth do not always have money to feed themselves and their families.
Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley and acclaimed author on food systems was among the speakers who kicked off the first day of the 17th annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California. Mr. Pollan began by talking about the virtues of farmer’s markets and argued passionately for people to become involved with the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill. Like many food justice activists, Mr. Pollen recognizes that the multi-billion dollar Farm Bill is also a Food Bill that profoundly affects the livelihoods and the diets of millions of people in the U.S. and the Global South.
The second day’s plenary session at the Bridging Borders Conference for Community Food Security opened with the Farmers’ Vision of Food Sovereignty. Kathy Oser, Executive Director of the National Family Farm Coalition introduced Dena Hoff of Montana (1), Alberto Gomez of Mexico (2), Carlos Marentes of Texas (3), and Karen Peterson from Saskatchewan, Canada.
The Bridging Borders Conference of the Community Food Security Coalition held in Vancouver, British Columbia, opened to a record-breaking 900 participants with a prayer from an indigenous elder. Fittingly, the three-day conference began on Canadian Thanksgiving. Ironically, it was also Columbus Day (US). One by one, during the first plenary session indigenous leaders from five nations both gave thanks to the land, but also shared lesson from their struggles to protect the land.
Colonizing the immigrant dream: The agri-foods industry’s deadly cycle of dispossession, appropriation and substitution
Just eight weeks before elections Congress is unable to agree on legislation regarding the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. Everything from conditional legalization and guest-worker programs, to massive deportations and a $2.2 billion 700-mile fence are being debated. Remarkably, not one single US lawmaker has addressed why an estimated 1.1 million people cross the border every year looking for work. This omission allows our politicians to divert public attention away from the way US policies cause massive migrations.
The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced their joint $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). According to Gary Toeneissen, interim president of AGRA and Director for Food Security at Rockefeller, the initiative will bring benefits to the continent’s impoverished farmers who have—until now—been bypassed by the Green Revolution.
A call for sustainable, equitable reconstruction-throughout the United States
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused up to $1.3 billion in damage to agriculture, fisheries and food systems throughout Southern Louisiana (Herrera 2006). The federal government's scandalously sluggish relief and reconstruction efforts are but one indication of the high levels of social, economic, environmental and political vulnerability of low-income communities and people of color across the United States.
Monsanto's announcement of their plans to purchase Seminis, the largest fruit and vegetable seed producer in the world, was quickly followed by a statement that Monsanto does not intend to apply biotech to develop these seeds-at least not yet. This is a curious assertion from a dominant biotech company.
Biotech crops and food remain unpopular throughout much of the world. In the United States, biotech corporations successfully fought labeling and slipped the foods into grocery stores, knowing that these products would likely have been rejected if consumers had a choice.