ACTION: Statement of International Solidarity with Venezuela’s Seed Law

seedsSome of you may have heard about an important new seed law passed several months ago in Venezuela banning GMOs and protecting local seed varieties. That law is under attack.

A statement has been drafted and there has been a request for people and organizations to become endorsers.

To add your name and/or your organization to this list, please send an email no later than 20 May to cmsfoodsovereignty (@) Please include how you would like to be listed (name and affiliation).

Statement of International Solidarity with Venezuela’s Seed Law

On December 23 2015, Venezuela’s national assembly passed a new seed law banning the import, production, and planting of GMO seeds and protecting the production and free exchange of seed varieties of Venezuela’s farming communities (Indigenous, peasant, and Afro-descendant) among other provisions. The law is significant both for its content and for the process through which it was passed.

The banning of GMOs follows the precautionary principle in that the effects of transgenic technology are not yet fully understood and what has been documented thus far in terms of impacts on human health and the environment raises significant concerns. These are in addition to concerns over socio-economic and human rights impacts on the small-scale producers who make up the majority of the world’s hungry. Special protection for locally adapted seeds recognizes the importance of local conservation for maintaining maximum genetic diversity, increasingly important for building resiliency in the face of climate change. Additionally, the law is a product of bottom-up policy-making, resulting from a three-year process in which social movements opposed an industry-backed seed law. Instead they pushed for more transformative legislation, holding a series of participatory public consultations throughout the country to develop an alternative.

The passage of the law thus marks a historic win for agroecology and food sovereignty movements in Venezuela and beyond. It is perhaps one of the few national laws in the world which guarantees and protects the right of peasants to seeds. However, despite widespread domestic support and the international interest it has garnered, the law is under attack by industry representatives and their supporters for being “anti-scientific.” This places the seed law at risk of being overturned by the current national assembly, which has had an opposition majority since January of this year.

As scientists, practitioners and advocates involved in food and agriculture, we question the grounds for such attacks. The thrust of the law toward a prioritization of agroecological farming practices is in keeping with a mounting scientific consensus of the importance of a shift from conventional to ecologically-based agricultural systems that value the knowledge of local food producers and involve them in decision-making. This has been emphasized, for instance, in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) developed by 400 of the world’s leading experts and endorsed by 59 countries.

We are therefore following the emerging struggle over the law and its implementation with great interest, not only for its implications for Venezuela, but for its broader implications in the face of increasing corporate consolidation of the genetic resources critical for present and future food security and food sovereignty. We stand with the food producers, scientists, and grassroots movements in Venezuela urging the National Assembly to maintain the integrity of this law and to support its full implementation. Continue reading “ACTION: Statement of International Solidarity with Venezuela’s Seed Law”

Mapping the state of play on the global food landscape

I spent the last two days in Waterloo, Ontario at an incredible workshop called “Mapping the state of play on the global food landscape”.  It brought together academic and civil society experts on ten key themes:

  • State of the world food system
  • Progress on the right to food
  • Global food trade
  • Corporate role in food and agriculture
  • Food sovereignty
  • Genetic resources and agricultural biotechnology
  • Land grab and agrarian reform
  • Financialization in the food system
  • Sustainable food systems and global environmental change
  • Global food governance in an era of crisis.

Still buzzing from the great conversations and debate. This was my dream conference. Amazing people, lots of discussion lasting from morning to night and great food.

There was also a lot of work! Each of us (3 per theme)  was asked to develop a brief and presentation that answers 3 questions on the past, present and future of our themes. I presented on the final theme an ended up not using the PowerPoint presentation I had developed. I figured it would be good to share. So, here is the presentation that never was:Towards ecological food security

There will be an output from the workshop and I will certainly share that when it becomes available.


Pathways matter

Rethinking Food Systems

A few days ago I mentioned a new book was out: Rethinking Food Systems: Structural Challenges, New Strategies and the Law.

Today I was reading one of the chapters and one particular part resonated with me:

It is always tempting for the proponents of business-as-usual to dismiss as utopian proposals that are so far-reaching that they seem to be revolutionary in nature, and to dismiss other proposals as so minor and insignificant that they will not really make a difference. We must move beyond this false opposition. What matters is not each of the policy proposals considered in isolation, whether reformist or more revolutionary. It is the pathway that matters: the sequence of measures that, step by step, may lead to gradually moving beyond the existing fragmentation of international law and of global governance.

De Schutter, O.  (2014) The reform of the Committee on World Food Security: The quest for coherence in global governance.  pg 237


Full reference:

De Schutter, O. (2014). The Reform of the Committee on World Food Security: The Quest for Coherence in Global Governance. In N. C. S. Lambek, P. Claeys, A. Wong, & L. Brilmayer (Eds.), Rethinking Food Systems: Structural Challenges, New Strategies and the Law (pp. 219–238). New York: Springer.

Rethinking Food Systems: Structural Challenges, New Strategies and the Law

A new book,  Rethinking Food Systems: Structural Challenges, New Strategies and the Law, has just been released.  The book examines how law shapes global food systems and their ongoing transformations, using detailed case studies, historical mapping and legal analysis.

In it, Olivier De Schutter, Jun Borras and Jennifer Franco, Isabella Rae, Carmen Gonzalez, Hans Haugen, Lea Brilmayer and William Moon, Saulo Araújo and Wendy Godek, Priscilla Claeys and Nadia Lambek explore how various actors (farmers, civil society groups, government officials, international bodies) use or could use different legal tools (legislative, jurisprudential, norm-setting) on various scales (local, national, regional, global) to achieve structural changes in food systems.

Rethinking Food Systems also discusses the potential of right to food and food sovereignty legislation, the role of the state and the fragmentation of international law, ways to regulate land grabbing, and how to induce social change through law. It is edited by Nadia Lambek, Priscilla Claeys, Adrienna Wong and Lea Brilmayer.

Check it out!:

The transformative potential of the right to food

A new (and final) report from Oliver de Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, submitted to the Human Rights Council, draws the conclusions from his mandate, showing the connections between his various contributions.

Most stakeholders agree, in general terms, on the urgent need for reform. Measured 

against the requirement that they should contribute to the realization of the right to food, the food systems we have inherited from the twentieth century have failed. Of course,
significant progress has been achieved in boosting agricultural production over the past
fifty years.

Read the report here:

Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems

Media Release: Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems – final diagnosis from UN right to food expert

GENEVA (10 March 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, today called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democratically redesigned to ensure the human right to adequate food and freedom from hunger.

“The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is an achievable goal. However, it will not be enough to refine the logic of our food systems – it must instead be reversed,” Mr. De Schutter stressed during the presentation of his final report* to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur.

Continue reading “Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems”

The ECOWAS Zero Hunger Initiative goes live

From the FAO:

Accra, 24 February 2014 – The ECOWAS Zero Hunger Initiative has started its activities during its inception workshop in Accra, Ghana. The Initiative is a commitment of ECOWAS and its government and non-government partners in working towards a Hunger-free West Africa, by building on existing policies and programmes, increasing stakeholder engagement and amplifying the current political commitment in the region.

The vision of the Initiative is to eradicate hunger from the ECOWAS region by the year 2025. It is a holistic platform for government and non-government actors to achieve consensus and take concrete actions in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Continue reading “The ECOWAS Zero Hunger Initiative goes live”