What is food sovereignty?

According to Vía Campesina, an international movement that coordinates farmer organizations from Asia, Africa, America and Europe, food sovereignty is the right of all peoples, their nations or unions of States to define their agricultural and food policies, without any dumping vis-à-vis third countries. Food sovereignty goes beyond the more common concept of food security, which merely seeks to ensure that a sufficient amount of safe food is produced without taking into account the kind of food produced and how, where and in what scale it is produced.

The concept of food sovereignty was developed by Vía Campesina and put forward for public debate on occasion of the World Food Summit of 1996, with the aim of providing an alternative to neoliberal policies. Since then, this concept has become a major issue of debate in the international agricultural agenda, even within the United Nations. It was the main subject of discussion in the forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that was held in parallel to the June 2002 World Food Summit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
See: http://www.choike.org/nuevo_eng/informes/1799.html

Here is what the farmers and farmworkers movement Via Campesina says:

Food sovereignty is the peoples', Countries' or State Unions' RIGHT to define their agricultural and food policy, without any dumping vis-à-vis third countries.
Food sovereignty includes :

  • prioritizing local agricultural production in order to feed the people, access of peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. Hence the need for land reforms, for fighting against GMOs ((Genetically Modified Organisms), for free access to seeds, and for safeguarding water as a public good to be sustainably distributed.
  • the right of farmers, peasants to produce food and the right of consumers to be able to decide what they consume, and how and by whom it is produced.
  • the right of Countries to protect themselves from too low priced agricultural and food imports.
  • agricultural prices linked to production costs : they can be achieved if the Countries or Unions of States are entitled to impose taxes on excessively cheap imports, if they commit themselves in favour of a sustainable farm production, and if they control production on the inner market so as to avoid structural surpluses.
  • the populations taking part in the agricultural policy choices.
  • the recognition of women farmers' rights, who play a major role in agricultural production and in food.

The Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program also defines 'food sovereignty':

"Food is a fundamental right to all peoples, in terms of distribution, production and availability of sufficient quantities of safe and healthy food. This serves as a foundation of healthy communities, cultures and environments..."