Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, An international conference at Yale University
Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, September 14-15, 2013
Food Sovereignty Conference Papers # 12, # 13 and # 14:
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Conference Paper # 13: Historicizing Food Sovereignty: a Food Regime Perspective, by Philip McMichael
To historicize food sovereignty is to situate it: first, as a strategic countermovement in/of the food regime; and second, by historicizing the food regime itself to identify the shifting terrain of food sovereignty politics. While the global agrarian crisis of the late-twentieth century precipitated the movement, it was part of a continuing crisis accompanying the long-twentieth century food regime and its competitive assault on farming systems across the world. This assault, in the name of free trade, development and food security, has imposed a model of ‘agriculture without farmers’ in a world equating industrial efficiency with human progress. Food sovereignty is a culminating protective movement against the deceit of ‘feeding the world’ by undermining farming with the false economy of value relations of the food regime. At the same time, transformation of the current food regime poses new challenges with schemes to capitalize lands in the global South. Whereas in 2000 Vía Campesina claimed: “the massive movement of food around the world is forcing the increased movement of people,” now the massive movement of capital around the world increases the movement of people, and food. Beyond deepening this unsustainable scenario, the capitalization project aims to feed the world a new deceit by converting smallholders into value-chain ‘outgrowers’ for world markets. Such appropriation of food sovereignty claims for smallholder recognition nonetheless confronts smallholders with extractive market relations including a form of land grab. Fallout from the recent ‘food crisis’ indicates that neoliberal re-colonization has the potential to consolidate food sovereignty alliances around the politics of food grabbing.
Philip McMichael is a Professor of Development Sociology, Cornell University. He has authored Settlers and the Agrarian Question (1984), Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective (2012, 5th edition), and Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions (2013), and edited The Global Restructuring of Agro-Food Systems (1994), New Directions in the Sociology of Global Development (2005, with Fred Buttel), Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change (2010), and Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change (2011, with Jun Borras & Ian Scoones). He has worked with the FAO, UNRISD, La Vía Campesina, IPC for Food Sovereignty, and the Civil Society Mechanism (CFS). Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions, a volume in ‘Agrarian Change and Peasant Studies’ book series by the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and published by Fernwood, develops the methodological contributions of food regime analysis, re-examining the agrarian question historically.
Conference Paper # 12: Food sovereignty and safeguarding food security for everyone: Issues for scientific investigation, by Hugh Lacey
Hugh Lacey is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Swarthmore College; and Visiting Professor, Institute of Advanced Studies, and Research Fellow in the ‘Thematic Project’, “The origins and meaning of technoscience: Science, technology, values and society”, University of São Paulo, Brazil. He is the author of Values and Objectivity in Science (2005), and A Controvérsia sobre os Transgênicos: Questões científicas e éticas (2006).
Feast and Famine: The Growth of Corporate Wealth and Food Insecurity in Neoliberal Mexico, by Enrique C. Ochoa
This paper explores how recent Mexican food policies have spurred the growth of three large transnational food corporations while at the same time leaving more than 20 million Mexicans in nutritional poverty with little access to their traditional staples and ways of life. The paper sets this seemingly paradoxical situation within the broader context of Mexican food policies and neoliberal restructuring over the past few decades to underscore the contradictory nature of neoliberal capitalist development, the widening inequality that it encourages, and the efforts to erase the historic cultures of México Profundo. In the struggles for food sovereignty and food justice, the growth of corporate power and inequality must be underscored and workers all along the food chain need to be brought into the discussion.
Enrique C. Ochoa is Professor of Latin American Studies and History at California State University, Los Angeles. His publications include Agricultura y estado en México: Antecedentes e implicaciones de las reformas salinistas (co-editor,1994), Feeding Mexico: The Political Uses of Food Since 1910 (2000), Latina/o Los Angeles: Migrations, Communities, and Political Activism (co-editor, 2005), Water: History, Power, Crisis, a special issue of Radical History Review (co-editor, 2013), “The Political History of Food,” in The Oxford Handbook of Food History (2012), and “Food History” in Oxford University Bibliographies Online: Latin American Studies (2011).
The Food Sovereignty Conference:
A fundamentally contested concept, food sovereignty has — as a political project and campaign, an alternative, a social movement, and an analytical framework — barged into global agrarian discourse over the last two decades. Since then, it has inspired and mobilized diverse publics: workers, scholars and public intellectuals, farmers and peasant movements, NGOs and human rights activists in the North and global South. The term has become a challenging subject for social science research, and has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a variety of ways by various groups and individuals. Indeed, it is a concept that is broadly defined as the right of peoples to democratically control or determine the shape of their food system, and to produce sufficient and healthy food in culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable ways in and near their territory. As such it spans issues such as food politics, agroecology, land reform, biofuels, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), urban gardening, the patenting of life forms, labor migration, the feeding of volatile cities, ecological sustainability, and subsistence rights.
Sponsored by the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University and the Journal of Peasant Studies, and co-organized by Food First, Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Yale Sustainable Food Project, as well as the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI), the conference “Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue” will be held at Yale University onSeptember 14–15, 2013. The event will bring together leading scholars and political activists who are advocates of and sympathetic to the idea of food sovereignty, as well as those who are skeptical to the concept of food sovereignty to foster a critical and productive dialogue on the issue. The purpose of the meeting is to examine what food sovereignty might mean, how it might be variously construed, and what policies (e.g. of land use, commodity policy, and food subsidies) it implies. Moreover, such a dialogue aims at exploring whether the subject of food sovereignty has an “intellectual future” in critical agrarian studies and, if so, on what terms.