Hijacking Our Food Systems

2021-09-10, 2:22pm Agriculture

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agriculture-countryside-cropland_-Credit- UNCCD

The UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) is scheduled to be held on 23 September 2021. The underlying purpose is to establish the paths that governments will choose to prioritise, promote and finance in the future – and what and who they will reject. Regretabbly, the summit apprears designed to promote the interlocking interests of agribusiness and philanthrocapitalist players, in effect, hijacking our food systems.

These concerns are highlighted in a report by the ETC Group, in particular over the ‘technofix’ approach of the FSS, which glaringly fails to draw attention to the fact that the industrial food system is the single largest factor driving both climate change and pandemics. Rather than changing the economic system at the root of current crises, its backers seek to entrench and expand it, with potential impacts that could be severe and irreversible.

Instead, the report calls for a genuine summit that would address the root causes of systemic hunger and challenge the industrial food system’s impact on food, health, climate and biodiversity. Such a summit would have, at its very core and foundation, the interests and meaningful participation of the peasants, smallholders, pastoralists, fishers, Indigenous peoples and urban gardeners that feed the overwhelming majority of the planet’s population.

We reproduce below the Summary of the report, which is available in its entirety at: https://etcgroup.org/sites/www.etcgroup.org/files/files/hijacking_fss_small_web_v2_copy.pdf

Summary

The Food Systems Summit (FSS) scheduled to be held in New York City in the fall of 2021 is the wrong kind of summit. It is not about changing food systems, but about spinning a story that props up and expands the industrial food chain at the expense of other food systems.

The FSS’s proponents argue that the “food system” is broken, that population growth and climate change mean that we will not be able to feed everyone, and that only new technological developments can save us. But this is a story that has been carefully constructed by those who stand to profit from it – it is intended to enable the expansion of the corporate-controlled industrial form of food production.

The summit is designed to create a specific political moment when that narrative can be significantly advanced – it is a stage on which corporations and supporting philanthropists can present themselves as heroes who can provide “game-changing” solutions that will “end hunger and malnutrition.” Miraculous promises are being made about the benefits of advancing intentionally vague concepts like “precision agriculture” and the “digital frontier”, “nature-positive production”, “climate smart agriculture”, the “blue economy”, and “de-risking” and “re-routing” farming and rural livelihoods.

The underlying purpose of this summit, which will not create policies or global agreements directly, is to establish parameters, the path that governments will choose to prioritise, promote and finance in the future – and what and who they will reject.

Careful analysis shows that the myths that the FSS architects have fabricated completely ignore fundamental elements of the real world that we currently live in. They intentionally distract attention from the hard fact that it is this same mechanistic cultural approach that has caused multiple climate and ecological crises. They obfuscate the impact that empire, colonialism and racism, and more recently neoliberal globalisation, have had and are still having on local and Indigenous food cultures around the world. The myths side-step the fact that it is peasant farmers and smallholders that feed 70 percent of the world’s people. And they ignore the known impact that the industrialised, homogenised food production system is having on people’s health. A detailed analysis also shows that the FSS synthesis papers are not as progressive as they claim to be.

The FSS’s backers have no intention to change the economic system at the root of current crises. Their intention is to entrench and expand it. The potential impacts of this trend could be severe and irreversible. In particular the digitalisation of agriculture across the world could rapidly erase traditional knowledge about food production, thereby eliminating food sovereignty, and the independence and agency of farmers, smallholders, fisherfolk and Indigenous people. This in turn could drive a process of agricultural de-skilling and aggravate rural-urban migration and associated societal woes. The colonisation of the oceans also spells trouble for the world’s marine ecosystems, as well as its fisherfolk.

Instead of this summit’s attempt to hijack global food systems, we need an entirely different summit. A genuine summit would challenge the industrial food system’s impact on food, health, climate and biodiversity and have, at its very core and foundation, the interests and meaningful participation of the peasants, smallholders, pastoralists, fishers, Indigenous peoples and urban gardeners that feed the overwhelming majority of the planet’s population. Its outcomes should be integrated into and help shape the deliberations of the UN’s Committee on Food Security, which is already tasked with addressing the concerns the FSS purports to resolve, and has well-established mechanisms concerning the participation of rights-holders and their rights to self-organise.

- Third World Network