On 14 May, the Nyéléni Food Sovereignty Movement in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) sent a letter to the Executive vice president of the European Commission (EC), Franz Timmermans, who is leading the European Green Deal.
A week before the release of the new Farm to Fork Strategy and EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the letter called on the EC to address the need to transform the food system. Sent with the letter was an Academic Brief written by Jessica Duncan, Marta Rivera-Ferre and Priscilla Claeys. The Brief reflects on insights from the recently published Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) and Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) reports on sustainable food system with a view towards key objectives of the Nyeleni ECA movement.
Academic Brief May 13, 2020
The importance of Food Sovereignty for the Farm to Fork strategy and the New Green Deal. Insights and limits of the SAM and SAPEA reports
Jessica Duncan,* Marta Rivera-Ferre,** Priscilla Claeys ***
* Assistant Professor, Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
** Director, Agroecology and Food Systems Chair, University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia (Spain)
*** Associate Professor, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry (UK)
This brief reflects on the key scientific contributions of the recent publication of the report ‘Towards a Sustainable Food System’ by the Chief Scientific Advisors (Scientific Advice Mechanism- SAM) 1 and the SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) Evidence Review Report on ‘Sustainable Food Systems for the EU’ 2 that informed it. This is done with a view towards advancing food sovereignty and agroecology in the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Context: Vulnerable food systems
Covid-19 has exposed even more limits and dysfunctions in our globalized food systems: from our reliance on under-paid farm and food sector workers operating in poor working conditions (most often women and migrants), the risks associated with intensive animal farming, including zoonoses, to barriers facing small-scale producers when trying to access local markets, to gender inequalities and the additional risks faced by people with pre-existing diet-related health conditions.
Covid-19 is also set to aggravate other shocks (e.g. crop failures or abrupt changes in food prices due to climate change and other extreme events), and threats (e.g. biocultural erosion, degrading soil fertility, ageing farm population, land concentration, lack of farm renewal). These shocks and threats reveal the fragility of the European food systems, which the SAPEA report makes clear is even more vulnerable due to its interdependent nature and the fact that the EU imports large quantities of food and feed from third countries, while also being a major exporter of food products.3
Food sovereignty as a solution
Small-scale food producers from across Europe have been advancing a positive and constructive strategy rooted in the principles of food sovereignty to address these problems. Food sovereignty presents a viable alternative to the economic policies which have led to current food crises and offers concrete tools and direction for democratic systemic change across our food systems.
Food sovereignty is grounded in 6 pillars: the right to food and nutrition, public policies that value and support small-scale food providers, localised food systems, local control over natural food producing resources, traditional knowledge, and agroecology. As the concept is being increasingly co-opted, it must be re-stated that food sovereignty is a democratic process focused on the rights of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and on their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.4
From this starting point, and with a view towards the new Farm to Fork Strategy, this short brief highlights the importance of: 1) Respecting complexity and changing the narrative from food as a commodity to ensuring the right to food and nutrition for all; 2) Supporting agroecology; and, 3) Ensuring territorial solidarity